SOUTH Birmingham actor Ian Lavender has launched a collection of eight stamps created by the Royal Mail to celebrate the classic TV sitcom Dad’s Army.
Mr Lavender, who grew up in Longbridge and went to Bournville Technical College, played Pte Pike in the show which spanned nine series between 1968 and 1977.
There were also three Christmas specials and the programme, written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, regularly attracted an audience of more than 18million.
It was set in the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea on the south coast of England and centred on a group of residents who formed a Local Defence Volunteers group in the event that the Germans made it onto British soil.
The Home Guard platoon was commanded by pompous bank manager Cptn Mainwaring, played by Arthur Lowe, and he was assisted by his mild-mannered chief clerk, Sgt Wilson (John Le Mesurier).
Mr Lavender, the only surviving member of the Home Guard actors, said: “It’s not something anyone aspires to, but when it happens it’s overwhelming.
“When you’re young you may dream of many things but one never thinks there is a possibility of being on a stamp.”
Philip Parker, from Royal Mail, said: “Few TV comedies have inspired as much affection, or given us as many catchphrases, as Dad’s Army. On its 50th birthday we hope these new stamps will raise plenty of smiles.”
The stamps feature eight of the main characters, including Pte Pike, Cptn Mainwaring, Sgt Wilson and Lnce Cpl Jones (Clive Dunn).
The others are Pte Walker, played by James Beck, Pte Frazer (John Laurie), Pte Godfrey (Arnold Ridley) and Chief Warden Hodges (Bill Pertwee).
The stamps and other souvenir products go on sale on June 26.
They will be available from 7,000 Post Offices nationwide and are available to be pre-ordered from www.royalmail.com/dadsarmy .
Mr Lavender was born in the Second City in 1946 and was Dad’s Army’s youngest cast member. He had only recently made his TV debut before ‘joining up’ with the show.
Following his success in that, he went on to appear on stage in a variety of shows from the Merchant of Venice to The Rocky Horror Show and Sister Act: The Musical.
And he made an extensive number of TV appearances, including Goodnight Sweetheart and Eastenders.
An interview with Ian Lavender:
Q. “What was your reaction when you found out about the stamps?”
A. “It was more not of disbelief but a case of ‘what?!’ I didn’t believe you could have someone still alive on a stamp apart from the Queen!
“Being on a stamp is not something you hope for simply because it is so unlikely.
“You can hope for an OBE or a Bafta – those are things that happen.
“But to be on a stamp, well it really is so nice. What a lovely surprise.”
Q. “Will you be sending more letters now you are on a stamp?”
A. “There might be a lot of Christmas cards going out with second-class stamps on them!
“Funnily enough, we live in the old Post Office in our village and although it has been closed and stamps are now sold in our local grocery store, people still knock on the door to buy stamps despite the fact we have changed it into a house!
“The shop windows have gone and we have ordinary windows but we still have the post box outside and notices on the wall saying ‘telegraphic office’.
“You can, however, tell it is no longer a shop. I have been given a big version of the stamp and once they are released, I might put it up
Q. Did you know Dad’s Army would become this big?”
A. “At the start, nothing happened very quickly.
“It took two or three years before they talked about it and then it was so gratifying. It was not like a rocket going to
the moon but more like a rocket going rather slowly somewhere.
“It was very pleasing that its success happened at a nice speed and there was no great shock of being catapulted everywhere.
“People still want to watch the repeats. At first, it was ‘oh we made these 20 or 30 years ago’ and now we are up to 50 years ago! I enjoy it still.
“There is a great charm about Dad’s Army even though technically it is a bit primitive.
“But it’s lovely to see bits of mistakes.”
Q. “What are your own favourite memories of Dad’s Army?”
A, “I think one of my favourite episodes was when my character played his drunken brother at the same time.
“I also loved the episode where we dressed up as German soldiers.
“It was great fun to do. By chance, I came to do a play in Bury St Edmunds (where Dad’s Army was shot) and we ended up finding a nice house we loved and we moved in.
“People go ‘oh we know why you have moved here’ but actually we didn’t know where we were filming.
“We got in the coach and arrived at the location.
“The pubs are now covered in wisteria and we live about a mile from the windmills where we filmed but they don’t look now like they did at the time.
“Everything grows up.”
Q, “What did you love about your character, Private Pike?”
A. “I never thought he was an idiot or stupid. I thought he was naïve but most of the time he was right when Captain Mainwaring was coming up with suggestions.
“As he was 50 years younger than the others, he was a very useful foil with the other older characters. It was great fun working with all those people.”
Q, “You are the last surviving actor from the platoon. Do you stay in touch with their families?”
A. “Bill’s son is down in Devon and John Le Mesurier was God Father to my children but I am sad to say lots of their families have now gone.
“I have said that if I am not here for them not to forget to send the repeat fee to my sons!”
Q, “Do you think there is an appetite for a modern day Dad’s Army?”
A, “I think leave it to rest now. There was a film made a couple of years ago and I was perfectly happy they made it. “The film made money and it was a pretty good cast.
“People wanted to goad me to say ‘don’t do the film’ but nobody says ‘you can’t do Hamlet again’.
“People are possessive about Dad’s Army as it went into their living rooms.”
Q. “Would you say Dad’s Army shaped your career?”
A. “Absolutely yes and I am very proud of it. I am glad to be remembered for it.
“18million people sat down to watch it together in those days.
“It’s a very satisfying and warming feeling that people liked it so much. I have never understood why people say ‘it’s not the only thing I have done’.
“I am sorry but if millions saw you in that, they are likely to remember you for it rather than a wonderful performance you gave in a play where only 800 people sat down to watch. So many actors moan about that. Well don’t take the job.
“If you didn’t want it to be a success, don’t take it!”
Q, “And finally, where is the strangest place you’ve been recognised?”
A, “John and I were filming in Spain years ago and we were on a day off.
“We were sitting by the pool eating a sandwich.
“Suddenly, ten Swedes surrounded us by the pool and they then followed us wherever we went.
“There we were in Spain and we couldn’t speak a word of the language.
“We did not even look like our characters!
“Another time my wife and I were staying in Bruges.
“We had been walking all day and when we got back to our hotel, we turned the Belgian TV on to find an episode of Dad’s Army on in subtitles!”