ITV joins the army

A new fortnightly sitcom starts on Granada

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 14 June 1957

THERE is nothing very special about the Nether Hopping transit camp and surplus ordnance depot. Motorists passing by as they speed along the arterial road never give it a second glance.

It is a ramshackle, miserable-looking hutment camp, three miles from the nearest village and 10 from the nearest town. A camp forgotten by the War Office, where life follows the same lazy routine.

This is the scene of Granada’s new fortnightly comedy, The Army Game.

The peace of Nether Hopping is, however, rudely shattered by the arrival of five newcomers.

“Fly” boy of the outfit is Cockney Cpl. Springer, played by Michael Medwin. He’s the type who sizes up the situation in his first three days in the Army and decides that the rest of the two years will be one long scrounge.

Only regular among them is Pte. Brisley (Alfie Bass) who is called “Bootsie” because he’s been excused boots for most of his Service life. He’s the pessimist of the group.

Then there’s Pte. Hatchett (Charles Hawtrey), who for obvious reasons is nicknamed “Professor.” He’s the barrack-room lawyer.

Pte. Popplewell (Bernard Bresslaw), better known as “Popeye,” is a giant who represents the brute strength of the quintet.

Finally there is Pte. Cook who, on the strength of all the parcels he receives from his fond mother, has the nickname “Cup Cake.”

Three men in uniform
The “fly” boy (Michael Medwin) is prepared for a jag in the arm while Officer Commanding (Geoffrey Sumner) inspects the “kit”. Assisting, with a firm grip, is the Company Sergeant-Major (William Hartnell)

Collectively, the five are a major threat to the smooth running of any camp – a quality which has kept them on the move. They are determined that their travels must end. But they haven’t counted on Company Sergeant-Major Bullimore (William Hartnell). He does his best to run Nether Hopping on service lines, but he is getting rather tired of the effort.

It is inevitable that a meeting between such a group and a man like Bullimore should be the start of a private war in which no quarter is given and none asked.

Quite happy to let the sergeant-major run the camp his own way is the O.C. Major Upshott-Bagley (Geoffrey Sumner) realised that when he was given the least responsible job the War Office could find for him he had reached the pinnacle of his career. He is content to vegetate until he is pensioned off.

The Army Game has been devised as a riotous comedy – but it is not a farce. The situations may be a little larger than life, but they are based on incidents that could happen in any Army camp.

In this all-male cast, Granada have found people who look the part and who can act the part from personal experience.

Geoffrey Sumner, for instance, joined the Army in 1939 as a second-lieutenant and finished up in New Delhi as a colonel.

Bernard Bresslaw feels quite in character as one of the inmates of Hut 29. He was a private in the RASC. And William Hartnell had a private’s-eye view of the war in the Tank Corps. His promotion didn’t come until he left the Army in 1943 and Carol Reed made him a sergeant for his part in The Way Ahead.

Alfie Bass was a dispatch rider. About the characters in The Army Game he says: They could be real people.”

Scriptwriter Sid Colin was in the RAF. To make sure he gets his technical facts right, Granada have appointed a military adviser, Major John Foley. And the War Office have provided a liaison officer and given him permission to visit any Army camp he likes in search of authentic material.

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