Open main menu

The Army Game is a British sitcom that was broadcast on ITV from 1957 to 1961. It was the very first ITV sitcom and was made by Granada, and created by Sid Colin. It follows the exploits of Hut 29, a dysfunctional group of soldiers and their National Service conscription into the British Army during the post war years.

The Army Game
The Army Game TV.jpg
Imagery from the board game
GenreSitcom
Created bySid Colin
StarringWilliam Hartnell
Michael Medwin
Geoffrey Sumner
Alfie Bass
Charles Hawtrey
Bernard Bresslaw
Norman Rossington
Bill Fraser
Ted Lune
Frank Williams
Harry Towb
Mario Fabrizi
Robert Desmond
Dick Emery
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series4
No. of episodes154
Production
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Granada
DistributorITV Studios
Release
Original networkITV
Original release19 June 1957 (1957-06-19) –
20 June 1961 (1961-06-20)

The original cast consisted of William Hartnell, Michael Medwin, Geoffrey Sumner, Alfie Bass, Charles Hawtrey, Bernard Bresslaw and Norman Rossington. The cast would change over the years with actors such as Bill Fraser, Ted Lune, Frank Williams, Harry Fowler and Dick Emery appearing in subsequent series.

The popularity of the series inspired a film spin-off, I Only Arsked! (1958), and a top ten hit. It also produced a successful sitcom Bootsie and Snudge starring the popular characters played by Bass and Fraser.

BackgroundEdit

The creator, Sid Colin, was inspired by a 1956 film, Private's Progress, that starred Ian Carmichael, Richard Attenborough and Terry-Thomas. William Hartnell had a supporting role similar to that of Sergeant-Major Bullimore in The Army Game.

Writers included Sid Colin, Larry Stephens, Maurice Wiltshire, Lew Schwarz, John Jowett, John Antrobus, John Foley, Marty Feldman, Barry Took, David Climie, David Cumming, Derek Collyer, Brad Ashton, John Junkin, Talbot Rothwell, Sidney Nelson, Stan Mars, Bob Perkins and Alan MacKinnon. At least three episodes are uncredited.

CastEdit

Character Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4
Maj. Upshot-Bagley Geoffrey Sumner Geoffrey Sumner
Sgt. Maj. Percy Bullimore William Hartnell William Hartnell
Cpl. Springer Michael Medwin
Pvt. Montague "Excused Boots" Bisley Alfie Bass
Pvt. "Cupcake" Cook Norman Rossington
Keith Banks (some episodes)
Pvt. "Professor" Hatchett Charles Hawtrey
Keith Smith (some episodes)
Pvt. "Popeye" Popplewell Bernard Bresslaw
Sgt. Maj. Claude Snudge Bill Fraser
Capt. Pilsworthy Bernard Hunter
Maj. "Fishy" Upshot-Bagley Jack Allen
Pvt. Leonard Bone Ted Lune
Cpl. "Flogger" Hoskins Harry Fowler
Capt. T.R. Pocket Frank Williams
Maj. Geoffrey Gervais Duckworth C.B. Poultney
Lcpl. Ernest "Moosh" Merryweather Mario Fabrizi
Pvt. Dooley Harry Towb
Pvt. Billy Baker Robert Desmond
Pvt. "Chubby" Catchpole Dick Emery

Plot and CharactersEdit

The show centres on a group of conscripts assigned to the Surplus Ordnance Department at Nether Hopping, Staffordshire. Billeted in Hut 29, the men are determined to work little and have fun.

Geoffrey Sumner played Major ‘Piggy’ Upshot-Bagley, the commanding officer, with William Hartnell as Company Sgt Major (CSM) Percy Bullimore, the bane of Hut 29's army life. Michael Medwin was the spiv-like Cpl Springer in charge of Hut 29, with the original conscripts consisting of Bernard Bresslaw's IQ deficient Pvt Popplewell, Alfie Bass's Pvt ‘Excussed Boots’ Bisley, Charles Hawtrey's Pvt ‘Professor’ Hatchett and Norman Rossington's Pvt ‘Cupcake’ Cook.

Later series saw Frank Williams as Capt T R Pockett take over the running of the camp, with Bill Fraser's Sgt Claude Snudge replacing Bullimore; although Sumner and Hartnell would return for the final series. Other popular characters included Harry Fowler's Cpl ‘Flogger’ Hoskins (a replacement for Medwin's Springer) and Ted Lune's Pvt Leonard Bone, a sort of northern England variation on Bresslaw's Popplewell.

Arguably the break-out character of the series were Bresslaw's Popplewell who would go on to be the lead of the film version, I Only Arsked! (1958), which used his catch-phrase as its title. On the back of the series Bresslaw became a star of the late fifties and would also use the Popplewell characteristics for other roles of the period, such as the 1959 films Too Many Crooks and The Ugly Duckling. After Bresslaw left, Bass and Fraser's Bootsie and Snudge would become the most popular characters, and would get their own spin-off series after The Army Game finished.

EpisodesEdit

Series One (1957–58)Edit

  1. "The Army Game" (19 Jun 1957)
  2. "The Misguided Missiles" (3 Jul 1957)
  3. "The Convicts Return" (17 Jul 1957)
  4. "Open Day" (31 Jul 1957)
  5. Episode 5 (14 Aug 1957)
  6. Episode 6 (28 Aug 1957)
  7. "The Mad Bull" (11 Sep 1957)
  8. "The Still" (25 Sep 1957)
  9. "The Volunteers" (9 Oct 1957)
  10. "The Civilian Clerk" (23 Oct 1957)
  11. "Security" (6 Nov 1957)
  12. "The Rise And Fall Of Private Popplewell" (20 Nov 1957)
  13. "The New Officer" (4 Dec 1957)
  14. "The Thing From Outer Space" (20 Dec 1957)
  15. "W.R.A.A.C.S." (27 Dec 1957)
  16. "Getting Shot Of" (3 Jan 1958)
  17. "The Quarrel" (10 Jan 1958)
  18. "Any Complaints" (17 Jan 1958)
  19. "To A Haggis" (24 Jan 1958)
  20. "The Marshall's Baton" (31 Jan 1958)
  21. "Brothers In Law" 8 (7 Feb 1958)
  22. "That's The Ticket" (14 Feb 1958)
  23. "The Kindest Man In Britain" (21 Feb 1958)
  24. "Brother Officers" (28 Feb 1958)
  25. "The Recruits" (7 Mar 1958)
  26. Episode 26 (14 Mar 1958)
  27. Episode 27 (21 Mar 1958)
  28. "Bring on the Dancing Girls" (28 Mar 1958)
  29. "Quiz Kids" (4 Apr 1958)
  30. "Guinea Pigs" (11 Apr 1958)
  31. "The Investigator" (18 Apr 1958)
  32. Episode 32 (25 Apr 1958)
  33. "Money To Burn" (2 May 1958)
  34. "The Initiative Test" (9 May 1958)
  35. "A Piece Of Cake" (16 May 1958)
  36. "Treasure Trove" (23 May 1958)
  37. "Derby Day" (30 May 1958)
  38. "Poetry Prize" (6 Jun 1958)
  39. "Insurance" (13 Jun 1958)

Series Two (1958–59)Edit

  1. "The Special Investigator" (19 Sep 1958)
  2. "A Soldier's Farewell" (26 Sep 1958)
  3. "The Invisible Soldier" (3 Oct 1958)
  4. "The Garden Fete" (10 Oct 1958)
  5. "Fit as a Fiddle" (17 Oct 1958)
  6. "The Bogus Sergeant Major" (24 Oct 1958)
  7. "Happy Birthday Major Duckworth" (31 Oct 1958)
  8. "The Phantom Strikes Again" (7 Nov 1958)
  9. "The Flying Visitors" (14 Nov 1958)
  10. "Dodging the Draft" (21 Nov 1958)
  11. "Amateur Talent" (28 Nov 1958)
  12. "Dinner is Served" (5 Dec 1958)
  13. "X Marks the Spot" (12 Dec 1958)
  14. "The Happy Couple" (19 Dec 1958)
  15. "Ebeneezer Scrooge" (26 Dec 1958)
  16. "The Desperate Hours" (2 Jan 1959)
  17. "Officer Material" (9 Jan 1959)
  18. "Grand Hotel" (16 Jan 1959)
  19. "Bootsie's Butler" (23 Jan 1959)
  20. "The C.O.'s Aunt" (30 Jan 1959)
  21. Episode 21 (6 Feb 1959)
  22. "St Valentine's Day" (13 Feb 1959)
  23. "That's the Ticket" (20 Feb 1959)
  24. "The Folk Singers" (27 Feb 1959)
  25. "The Initiative Test" (6 Mar 1959)
  26. "Friday the Thirteenth" (13 Mar 1959)
  27. "The Old Car" (20 Mar 1959)
  28. "The Separation" (27 Mar 1959)
  29. "I Was Snudge's Double" (3 Apr 1959)
  30. "The Military Mission" (10 Apr 1959)
  31. "All Quiet on the Western Front" (17 Apr 1959)
  32. "The System" (24 Apr 1959)
  33. "The Eating Contest" (1 May 1959)
  34. "The Siege" (8 May 1959)
  35. "The Soldier's Chorus" (15 May 1959)
  36. "The Fiddler's Return" (22 May 1959)
  37. "Bang You're Dead" (29 May 1959)
  38. "The Trouble with Bootsie" (5 Jun 1959)
  39. "Strength Through Day" (12 Jun 1959)

Series Three (1959–60)Edit

  1. "Snudge and Jimmy O'Goblin" (9 Oct 1959)
  2. "The Take-Over Bid" (16 Oct 1959)
  3. "Enter a Dark Stranger" (23 Oct 1959)
  4. "Snudge's Budgie" (30 Oct 1959)
  5. "Where There's Smoke" (30 Oct 1959)
  6. "The Camera Never Lies" (6 Nov 1959)
  7. "When the Poppies Bloom Again" (13 Nov 1959)
  8. "Miracle in Hut" 29 (20 Nov 1959)
  9. "Night Train to Itchwick" (27 Nov 1959)
  10. "Officers and Gentlemen" (27 Nov 1959)
  11. "Tiger Bisley" (4 Dec 1959)
  12. "The Bisley Court Martial" (11 Dec 1959)
  13. "The Long Walk" (18 Dec 1959)
  14. "Happy New Year" (1 Jan 1960)
  15. "The Invisible Man" (8 Jan 1960)
  16. "The Bowler Hatting of Pocket" (15 Jan 1960)
  17. "The Soft Life" (22 Jan 1960)
  18. "Son of Snudge" (29 Jan 1960)
  19. "A Rocket Called FRED" (5 Feb 1960)
  20. "Don't Send My Boy to Prison" (12 Feb 1960)
  21. "A Piece of Cake" (19 Feb 1960)
  22. "Never Volunteer" (26 Feb 1960)
  23. "A Marriage has been Arranged" (4 Mar 1960)
  24. "The Good Old Days" (11 Mar 1960)
  25. "A Question in the House" (18 Mar 1960)
  26. "The Claude Snudge Story" (25 Mar 1960)
  27. "April Fool" (1 Apr 1960)
  28. "Goodnight Ladies" (8 Apr 1960)
  29. "One of the Lads" (15 Apr 1960)
  30. "Holding the Baby" (22 Apr 1960)
  31. "Pen Pals Anonymous" (29 Apr 1960)
  32. "Are You Receiving Me" (6 May 1960)
  33. "The Efficiency Expert" (13 May 1960)
  34. "Bull by the Horn" (20 May 1960)
  35. "A Touch of the Other" (27 May 1960)
  36. "The Feud" (3 Jun 1960)
  37. "Out of this World" (10 Jun 1960)
  38. "Emergency Hut 29" (17 Jun 1960)

Series Four (1960–61)Edit

  1. "The Return of the Pig" (27 Sep 1960)
  2. Episode 2 (4 Oct 1960)
  3. "The Do-Gooders" (11 Oct 1960)
  4. "The Marshal's Baton" (18 Oct 1960)
  5. "Insurance" (25 Oct 1960)
  6. "It's in the Book" (1 Nov 1960)
  7. "Waltzing Matilda" (8 Nov 1960)
  8. "The Kindest Man in Britain" (15 Nov 1960)
  9. "Say It With Flowers" (22 Nov 1960)
  10. "Music Hath Charms" (29 Nov 1960)
  11. "Suddenly This Write" (6 Dec 1960)
  12. "Quiz Kids" (13 Dec 1960)
  13. "The Artist" (20 Dec 1960)
  14. "Private Cinders" (27 Dec 1960)
  15. "Tunes Of Glory" (3 Jan 1961)
  16. "Now It Can Be Told" (10 Jan 1961)
  17. "Keep It Out of the Draught" (17 Jan 1961)
  18. "Outward Bound" (24 Jan 1961)
  19. "All At Sea" (31 Jan 1961)
  20. "Decline And Fall" (7 Feb 1961)
  21. "My Funny Valentine" (14 Feb 1961)
  22. "Any Complaints?" (21 Feb 1961)
  23. Episode 23 (28 Feb 1961)
  24. "The Beast Of Nether Hopping" (7 Mar 1961)
  25. "The Green Fingers" (14 Mar 1961)
  26. "Cold Cure" (21 Mar 1961)
  27. "The Man Who Never Was" (28 Mar 1961)
  28. "Poison Pen" (4 Apr 1961)
  29. "Into The Breach" (11 Apr 1961)
  30. Episode 30 (18 Apr 1961)
  31. "Vice Versa" (25 Apr 1961)
  32. "The Body in the Bath" (2 May 1961)
  33. Episode 33 (9 May 1961)
  34. "Fun And Adventure" (16 May 1961)
  35. "A Certain Thing" (23 May 1961)
  36. "Tea And Sympathy" (30 May 1961)
  37. "The D-Day Dodger" (6 Jun 1961)
  38. The Importance Of Being Eric (13 Jun 1961)
  39. Episode 39 (20 Jun 1961)

Other mediaEdit

A film based on the series, I Only Arsked!, appeared in 1958, made by Hammer Film Productions. The plot concentrated on Bernard Bresslaw's character and included Michael Medwin, Alfie Bass, Geoffrey Sumner, Charles Hawtrey and Norman Rossington playing their characters. "I Only Arsked" became Bresslaw's catchphrase.

A record was released sung by Michael Medwin, Bernard Bresslaw, Alfie Bass and Leslie Fyson. In June 1958, it reached number five in the UK singles chart. Bresslaw's song "Mad Passionate Love", sung in the style of Private Popplewell, also did well in the charts.

A paperback was produced, and Granada brought out a board game in 1959.

Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser's characters turned up in a spin-off, Bootsie and Snudge, between 1960 and 1963 and in 1974. Bootsie and Sundge also appeared in the 1964 sitcom Foreign Affairs.

A year after the series debuted saw the first Carry On film, the very similar Carry on Sergeant (1958), which also featured Hartnell, Hawtrey and Rossington.

Royal Variety PerformanceEdit

In June 1959, Michael Medwin, Alfie Bass, Norman Rossington, Bill Fraser and Ted Lune and performed a short The Army Game scene at the Royal Variety Performance in front of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. This was the last Royal Variety Performance not to be televised, although highlights were broadcast on BBC radio on 29 June 1959.

DVD releasesEdit

Of the 154 episodes made, only 52 are thought to survive. On 6 June 2005, Network released the first 26 episodes from series 3 under the title The Army Game – Volume 1. On 14 August 2006, the remaining twenty-four episodes (including three surviving episodes from the first series) were released under the title The Army Game – Volume 2. An episode of Bootsie and Snudge was included. The Army Game Collection, containing every surviving episode, was released on 13 August 2008.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit