‘Flogger’ Hoskins – what a card!

Meet the exhausting Harry Fowler of The Army Game

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 10 April 1960

THE moment Harry Fowler takes off the uniform he wears as Cpl “Flogger” Hoskins, The Army Game‘s organising genius, he becomes a real-life organiser of practical jokes.

Says Harry: “I find people I meet go through life so seriously — except for the boys in the show. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner (he is a Cockney from Lambeth), but I can’t resist playing jokes.”

Tommy Steele has helped in some of Harry’s jokes. Last year they shared a flat for three months. “We borrowed a car without an engine from a car-dealer friend,” said Harry. “We got a push down hill, steered it into a garage and ordered two gallons of petrol. When I pulled the starter nothing happened, of course, so asked the man to look under the bonnet, while Tommy and I went to the office to pay.

“When we returned, the mechanic was gaping under the empty bonnet. ‘What have you done with our engine?’ I asked. ‘He’s stolen it,’ said Tommy. We spent several minutes insisting it was there when we drove in, and threatened to send for the police if it wasn’t put back!

“Finally we admitted it was a joke, but chap never fathomed how we got the car into the garage.”

Harry Fowler as a "joker" card

American film actor Keefe Brasselle, who starred in The Eddie Cantor Story, was another butt for Fowler’s fun.

Said Harry: “We were filming at Walton Studios, where The Adventures of Robin Hood series was made. Our dressing-room accommodation wasn’t so hot, and Keefe compared his room to the one he had in Hollywood.

“That gave me an idea. The Robin Hood unit was on holiday. I got one of the boys to take Richard Greene’s name off his dressing-room door and replace it with Harry Fowler.

“I went to Keefe’s room — we had to learn some lines together — looked amazed and said: ‘Is this your room? Well, I can’t believe it. It’s not a patch on mine … but then I suppose your status over here is a little different. Why don’t you come along to my room?’ It was three days before he caught on. I reckon they were the unhappiest he spent in England.”

Harry still doesn’t know what significance the US Navy placed on his top secret “code” message. “One of their crack submarines was visiting Britain, and I rang London HQ saying ‘I’m Lew-tenant Eagle’ and gave the sub’s name.

“I was put through to a lieutenant commander and gave him precise instructs to memorise this message for his chief. ‘Will have Big Ben blown-up by Two – Eagle.’ He said he would make sure it was passed on!”

Harry insists he doesn’t set out to harm anyone, though one of his jokes misfired with embarrassing results — for him.

“Gerald Campion and I were filming in Top of the Form at Pinewood. Gerry became sleepy and, of all places, chose the studio floor for a nap. While he slept, I got a small hammer and, as quietly as possible, nailed the edges of his coat to the floor.

“That was the day Rank’s managing director John Davis chose to visit the set. The first thing he saw was Gerry asleep — and when someone woke him up poor Gerry was stuck to the floor! I got a dressing-down after that one.”

Bill Fraser (CSM Snudge) comes in for some of “Floggers” Fowlerisms.

“Alfie Bass and I phoned him from a party at 3am, using Eastern accents, said we were calling from India, and would the CSM like a commission in the Indian Army?

“We’re all practical jokers at rehearsals. We bought Frank Williams, our OC, a trick telescope. He wondered why people kept staring at him, until he found he’d been walking round with a black eye.”

Harry even jokes with his fans.

“They stop me and say, ‘You’re “Flogger” Hoskins,’ so I switch from my usual accent and say in a lah-di-da voice: ‘About 14 people tell me that every day. Who is he?’

“Some of them aren’t convinced, but I hear a lot go away saying, ‘No, he can’t be: he speaks so differently.’”

It was Diana Dors’ first husband, Dennis Hamilton, who got further than anyone in giving Harry a dose of his own medicine.

“He phoned saying he was an agent and would I sing a new song over the phone for him. I was half-way through the chorus before I realised it was a gag.”

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