The cavalry major doesn’t like horses

C.B. Poultney steps unto the breach in The Army Game

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 16 November 1958

LOVE of animals occupies a big part in the life of C. B. Poultney — alias Major Geoffrey Gervaise Duckworth, the fiercely-monocled CO of The Army Game.

But whereas, at Nether Hopping, the Major, as befits an old cavalry officer, is only happy when he is talking about horses, in private life Poultney excludes them from his affections. “I think they are silly creatures,” he told me. “They’ve got flat heads.”

I found “C.B.” in his London bachelor flat — a 67-year-old military-looking man whose constant companion is a four year old, irrepressible, floppy-looking spaniel called Buffin.

But before I could get one word out of Poultney about himself, I had to hear how Bulfin came to be there.

CB Poultney
C. B. Poultney – alias Major Duckworth

For years his master wrote animal stories in a national newspaper. Many of them were about his Scottie, Rhoderick Dhu, and, when “Roddy” died, the readers of the paper subscribed £200 [£4,000 in today’s money, allowing for inflation – Ed] to buy another dog. He chose Buffin — and also bought a guide dog for a blind person.

C.B.’s love of cats and dogs is shown by the photographs of them covering one wall of his sitting – room and the books and short stories he has written about them, many of which he has illustrated himself with pen and ink sketches. For C.B. is an artist as well as an actor and an author, and, in fact, started his career as a commercial artist in Birmingham, where his father was a newspaper editor. He is also a member of the governing committee of the People s Dispensary for Sick Animals.

Another difference is that “Major Duckworth” is married with a daughter, while C.B. is a bachelor. C.B. Poultney has some Army background to call on in building up the character of the Major. “I joined the Army as a private in 1914,” he says, “and, by the time the war ended, I was a captain in the Fusiliers, so I knew quite a lot of officers like the Major.”

C.B. never uses his Christian names, which are Clifford Blake. “I don’t like ’em,” he said. “Most people call me C B. or ‘Tibby.’”

I thought the latter might be a reference to his affection for cats, but I was wrong. “It’s because I once played the part of Captain Tibenham, VC, in a play with Marie Lohr. That was many years ago, but the name has stuck,” he said.

He has appeared in a wide variety of plays in his long career — everything from Shakespeare to comedy, but since playing in Charley’s Aunt at His Majesty’s Theatre in 1948, C.B. has devoted most of his time to writing and television.

C.B. likes his new role. “Major Duckworth is a character I can get my teeth into,” he said. “And as for keeping the ‘shower’ under control, well, my neighbour gave me a few tips on that.”

His neighbour? Jack Allen, the last CO at Nether Hopping.

The Army Game cast
The Major with CSM Claud Snudge (Bill Fraser) on his right flank – and the “awkward squad”

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