Windsor Davies (28 August 1930 – 17 January 2019) was a British actor whose career in film and television spanned forty years. He is best remembered for playing Battery Sergeant Major Williams in the sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–1981) over its entire run. The show's popularity resulted in Davies and his co-star Don Estelle achieving a UK number one hit with a version of "Whispering Grass" in 1975. He later starred with Donald Sinden in Never the Twain (1981–1991), and his deep Welsh-accented voice was heard extensively in advertising voice-overs.
|Born||28 August 1930|
|Died||17 January 2019(aged 88)|
(m. 1957; died 2018)
Davies was born in Canning Town, East London, to Welsh parents. In 1940 they returned to their native village of Nant-y-moel, Bridgend. Davies studied at Ogmore Grammar School and worked as a coal miner. He performed his National Service in Libya and Egypt, with the East Surrey Regiment, between 1950 and 1952. Following teacher training at Bangor Teacher Training College, he taught English and Maths at Leek in Staffordshire, and at a school in Elephant and Castle, south London.
Davies had become active in amateur dramatics and took a short drama course with a Kew theatre company. He became a professional actor at the age of 31 and began working at the Cheltenham Rep in 1961.
Davies' best known role was as Battery Sergeant Major Williams in the British sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–1981). Modelled on similar individuals Davies had met as a soldier during his National Service. "Bastards, real bastards some of them were. They knew it too, and took pride in it," he once said. Among his character's catchphrases was "Shut Up!!", delivered as an eardrum-shattering military scream. Another phrase was "Oh dear, how sad, never mind", delivered in a dry, ironic manner, and used when others around him had problems. Davies and co-star Don Estelle had a number one hit in the UK with a semi-comic version of "Whispering Grass" in 1975. Journalist Neil Clark, contributing to The Times in 2005, described his performance as the "definitive portrayal of a bullying and uneducated sergeant-major" and reported Spike Milligan was of the opinion that Davies' role was "the funniest comic performance he had ever" watched.
Other television roles included the sailor Taffy in the first of the BBC-series The Onedin Line (1971), a special branch detective in Callan (1972) and the antique dealer Oliver Smallbridge in Never the Twain (1981–1991), with Donald Sinden. In the field of science fiction television, Davies appeared in the 1967 Doctor Who story The Evil of the Daleks as Toby; and was the voice of Sergeant Major Zero (a spherical robotic soldier in charge of 100 other spherical robotic soldiers) in the 1983 Gerry Anderson-Christopher Burr production Terrahawks.
In September–October 1985, Davies played the lead role of George Vance – a museum custodian elevated to the peerage – in the six-part BBC2 comedy series The New Statesman. This was based on the play by Douglas Watkinson and is not to be confused with the later sitcom of the same name. (Colin Blakely played the role of Vance in a pilot episode transmitted on BBC2 in December 1984.)
In the cinema, Davies played major roles in two Carry On films, Behind (1975) and England (1976) – in the latter again as a sergeant major. He played Mog in the Welsh rugby film Grand Slam (1978). He played a sergeant in the Highland Regiment in Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1973) with Jim Dale and Spike Milligan. In 1989 he revived the role of Sergeant Major Williams in a 30 minute Royal Air Force training film, Hazardous Ops.
Davies appeared in the following films:
- The Pot Carriers (1962) - Police Constable
- Murder Most Foul (1964) - Sergeant Brick
- The Alphabet Murders (1965) - Dragbot
- Arabesque (1965) - Policeman in Car Crash (uncredited)
- The Family Way (1966) - Man in Crowd (uncredited)
- Drop Dead Darling (1966) - Radio Engineer
- Assignment K (1968) - Bill (uncredited)
- Hammerhead (1968) - Police Sergeant
- Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) - Police Sergeant
- Clinic Exclusive (1971) - Geoffrey Carter
- Endless Night (1972) - Sgt. Keene
- Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1973) - Sgt. MacKay
- Soft Beds, Hard Battles (1974) - Bisset (uncredited)
- Mister Quilp (1975) - George
- Carry On Behind (1975) - Fred Ramsden
- Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976) - Mr. Truscott
- Carry On England (1976) - Sergeant-Major 'Tiger' Bloomer
- Not Now, Comrade (1976) - Constable Pulford
- Grand Slam (1978, TV Movie) - Mog Jones
- The Playbirds (1978) - Assistant Police Commissioner
- Gabrielle and the Doodleman (1984) - Ringmaster / Black Knight / Ugly Sister
- Rupert and the Frog Song (1985, Short) - Rupert's Father / Father Frog (voice)
- Old Scores (1991) - Evan Price
- The Thief and the Cobbler (1993) - Chief Roofless (voice)
- The Willows in Winter (1996, TV Movie) - Commissioner of Police (voice)
Davies' distinctive voice was heard in commercials for New Zealand's Pink Batts house insulations and confectionery ads for Cadbury's Wispa and for Heinz Curried (Baked) Beans. He also appeared alongside New Zealand rugby union coach Alex Wyllie in New Zealand advertisements for Mitre 10 hardware stores in the early 1990s. Davies and Wyllie had worked together previously on the rugby-themed film Old Scores in 1991.
In the 1970s, he read an edition of BBC Radio 4's Morning Story programme, and also narrated the audiobook for the Ladybird children's classic Treasure Island. He sang and voiced many characters in the Paul McCartney film Rupert and the Frog Song in 1984 and appeared that year in the children's film Gabrielle and the Doodleman as three different characters (the Ringmaster, the Black Knight and an Ugly Sister). Also in 1984 he auditioned to be the voice of the UK's speaking clock.
He died on 17 January 2019, aged 88, four months after the death of his wife, Eluned.
- "Stage and screen: Windsor Davies". BBC WalesArts. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- Stephens, Meic (20 January 2019). "Windsor Davies obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- Bevan, Nathan (27 February 2016). "Why Windsor Davies is a Welsh icon (even if he's really English)". Walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- Pratt, Vic (2003–14). "Davies, Windsor (1930-) Biography". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
- "Comedy actor Windsor Davies dies". BBC News. 19 January 2019.
- "Windsor Davies obituary". The Times. 21 January 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2020. (subscription required)
- "It Ain't Half Hot Mum". BBC. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
- Clark, Neil (1 September 2005). "Listen and repeat after me . . ". The Times. Retrieved 14 October 2018. (subscription required)
- "Windsor Davies". British Film Institute. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "The Evil of the Daleks". BBC. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "Windsor Davies". Bigredbook.info. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
- "The New Statesman". BBC. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
- "The New Statesman (1985)". BFI. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
- "The New Statesman". BBC Genome. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
- "Windsor Davies". British Film Institute. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "HAZARDOUS OPS [MAIN TITLE]". Imperial War Museum.
- Donohue, Alex (20 August 2007). "Cadbury to resurrect Wispa after social network pressure". Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "Curried Beans Commercial: Windsor Davies". History of Advertising Trust. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "NZ Ad – Mitre 10 with Alex "Grizz" Wyllie". YouTube. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
- "Gabrielle and the Doodleman (1984)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "Davies, Windsor (1930-)". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- Busby, Mattha (20 January 2019). "Windsor Davies, It Ain't Half Hot Mum actor, dies aged 88". The Guardian.
- "Windsor Davies: It Ain't Half Hot Mum actor dies aged 88". BBC News. BBC. 19 January 2019. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
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