Don't Tell Him Pike: The story behind Dad's Army's most iconic scene
5 February 2024, 13:22
Dad’s Army, the classic British sitcom about the Home Guard during World War II, is full of memorable moments and catchphrases.
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But perhaps none is more famous than the scene where Captain Mainwaring inadvertently reveals the name of Private Pike to a German U-boat captain.
The scene, which first aired 50 years ago, is from the episode 'The Deadly Attachment', written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. It is widely regarded as one of the funniest and most brilliant scenes in British comedy history.
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The plot of the episode revolves around the platoon of Walmington-on-Sea being assigned to guard a group of German prisoners, who turn out to be the crew of a sunken U-boat.
The U-boat captain, played by Philip Madoc, is a menacing and arrogant officer who tries to intimidate and humiliate his captors. He demands to know their names and ranks, and threatens to bring them to account after the war is won.
The platoon, led by the pompous and self-important Captain Mainwaring, played by Arthur Lowe, refuses to comply. They try to mock and defy the captain, but their attempts backfire. For example, when Sergeant Wilson, played by John Le Mesurier, tries to make a joke about the captain’s name sounding like a fish, he is met with a cold stare and a sarcastic reply.
The climax of the scene comes when Private Pike, played by Ian Lavender, sings a song in which Hitler is called a “twerp”. The captain says that his name will also go on the list, and asks what it is.
Mainwaring, in a moment of panic and protectiveness, blurts out “Don’t tell him, Pike!”, thus inadvertently revealing Pike’s name. The captain smirks and writes it down, while the rest of the platoon look on in disbelief and horror.
Don't Tell Em Pike! | Dad's Army
The scene is a perfect example of the comedy of Dad’s Army, which relies on the contrast between the seriousness of the war and the absurdity of the situations the characters find themselves in. It also showcases the talents of the actors, especially Lowe and Madoc, who deliver their lines with impeccable timing and expression. The scene has become a cultural reference point, and is often quoted or parodied in various media.
“Don’t tell him, Pike!” is now up there with the likes of Del Boy falling through the bar and The Two Ronnies' Four Candles when it comes to iconic British comedy moments.
Ian Lavender found the line so funny that he had to bite on the inside of his cheek to stop himself from laughing and falling off the ladder. Apparently, he bit his mouth so hard that his mouth started bleeding.
He asked David Croft to not put the camera on him after Lowe delivered his famous line, as he knew he'd laugh. In fact, you can see Lavender smirk slightly on screen.
Dad’s Army ran for nine series and 80 episodes from 1968 to 1977, and is still widely watched and loved by millions of fans. It has also spawned a radio series, a feature film, a stage show, and a recent remake. But for many, the scene where Mainwaring says “Don’t tell him, Pike!” remains the highlight of the show, and a masterpiece of comedy writing and acting.
Following Ian Lavender's death at the age of 77, and thus the last surviving member of the main cast of Dad's Army, the scene now feels even more heartwarming.