Private Godfrey

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Private Godfrey
Dad's Army character
Private Godfrey Dads Army.jpg
First appearanceThe Man and the Hour
Last appearanceNever Too Old
Portrayed byArnold Ridley
Michael Gambon (2016 film)
Timothy West (2019 series)
OccupationRetired shop assistant/tailor
FamilyLavinia (aunt)
Elsie (aunt)
Cissy Godfrey (sister)
Dolly Godfrey (sister)
Affiliated withHome Guard

Private Charles Godfrey MM is a fictional Home Guard platoon member and variously retired assistant in the sports department of the Civil Service Stores (TV) or tailor and assistant in the Army & Navy Stores (radio) portrayed by Arnold Ridley on the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army.[1] and in the 1971 Dad's Army film.


Godfrey was born in 1871, and is a gentle, mild-mannered and kindly old gentleman, though more complex than at first evident. He is the only member of the platoon who has retired. In the episode "Branded" it is revealed that he was a conscientious objector in the First World War. This revelation initially makes him a pariah. However, during a training exercise, he risks his life to rescue Captain Mainwaring. Later, his sister reveals to the platoon that, far from avoiding service, he earned the Military Medal during the Battle of the Somme, where he served with distinction as a stretcher bearer with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and heroically saved several men's lives while under fire, an accomplishment he plays down modestly. This earns him the respect of the platoon, and leads to him being appointed as First Aid supervisor.[2] Arnold Ridley actually served during the First World War with the Somerset Light Infantry, and fought in the Battle of the Somme, where he was severely wounded.[3] These injuries gave a practical reason for his role: it was much easier for Ridley to carry the first aid bag than a heavy rifle.

Godfrey is a long-standing friend of Sergeant Wilson, and in the episode "High Finance" he lends Wilson a large sum of money when Mrs Pike is blackmailed by Hodges. He lives in picturesque Cherry Tree Cottage with his hard-of-hearing spinster sisters, Dolly and Cissy. He is clearly very fond of them, and often brings them up in conversation. When provisions are needed, his sister Dolly often provides upside-down cakes.[4]

He is immensely loyal to Captain Mainwaring, who often feels quite guilty whenever he has criticised Godfrey:

Mainwaring: "If you're not fit for active service, perhaps you shouldn't come at all."
Godfrey: "I didn't want to disappoint you, sir."
Mainwaring: "Well done Godfrey."
from the episode "Everybody's Trucking".

He served for 35 years either as an assistant in the sports department of the Civil Service Stores (TV) or tailor and assistant in the Army & Navy Stores (radio).

Mainwaring: "Occupation?"
Godfrey: "I'm retired, but I was 25 years in the Civil Service."
Mainwaring: "Really? Indian or British?"
Godfrey: "Civil Service Stores."
Mainwaring: "Any previous military experience?"
Godfrey: "I was several years in the sports department. That meant archery and air guns."
from the pilot episode "The Man and the Hour".

An aspect of his old age is his weak bladder, which lets him down and postpones all platoon activity, hence his catchphrase, "May I be excused, sir?", and his tendency to fall asleep can be similarly categorised: "I must have dropped off!".[5]


Although Private Godfrey rarely wore his ribbons,[6] he was awarded the usual trilogy of First World War campaign medals (commonly known as "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred"),[Note 1] in addition to his Military Medal for bravery.

UK Military Medal ribbon.svg 1914 Star BAR.svg British War Medal BAR.svg World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg

Other portrayals[edit]

Private Godfrey is portrayed by Michael Gambon in the 2016 Dad's Army film.

Bernard Cribbins was set to portray him in a series of re-enactments of otherwise lost episodes of Dad's Army.,[7] but had to step away from the project for personal reasons, and has been replaced by Timothy West[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 1914–15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, nicknamed Pip, Squeak and Wilfred after a trio of popular cartoon characters of the period.


  1. ^ Webber, Richard; Perry, Jimmy; David, Croft (2000), The Complete A–Z of Dad's Army, London: Orion Books, pp. 80–81, 288, ISBN 0-7528-4637-X
  2. ^ Webber, Perry, Croft, p.36
  3. ^ Webber, Perry, Croft, p.179
  4. ^ Webber, Perry, Croft, p.81
  5. ^ Webber, Perry, Croft, p.81.
  6. ^ Only in episodes Battle of the Giants! and Never Too Old.
  7. ^ "Bernard Cribbins, the new Private Godfrey". The Oldie. 12 November 2018.
  8. ^ Timothy West joins Dad’s Army remake after Bernard Cribbins leaves production
  • Webber, Richard; Perry, Jimmy; Croft, David (2000). The Complete A–Z of Dad’s Army. London: Orion. ISBN 0-7528-4637-X.