Tuesday 7 January 2014

Arnold Ridley

Born on this day in 1896 was the actor and playwright Arnold Ridley, whose years playing the sweet-natured Private Godfrey in the Home Guard sitcom Dad's Army earned him a place among the comedy immortals. Ridley was one of those unfortunates who served in both world wars (and even did a spell in the Home Guard). He was initially turned down in August 1914 because of a broken toe, but the following year he was able to enlist. In 1916 he was discharged on medical grounds, shell-shocked, his legs riddled with shrapnel, his left hand virtually useless, and suffering from the effects of having been bayoneted in the groin and clubbed on the head with a German rifle butt. As if that wasn't more than enough, Ridley was commissioned for the second spot of bother in 1939 and again swiftly discharged on medical grounds, but mercifully without having suffered any more injuries.
  A bit of well deserved good luck came his way in 1923 when a night stranded at a remote railway station gave him the idea for his big hit play - The Ghost Train. This ran and ran, and was filmed twice, the second time with 'big-hearted' Arthur Askey. Ridley became for a while a famous and prolific playwright, until his kind of work fell out of fashion. He was getting by as a jobbing actor - one of his roles was as the baker Doughy Hood in The Archers (I remember him well) - when Dad's Army came along and made a star of him, in his 70s, and carried him on into his 80s, still working. 'Well done, Godfrey.'


  1. The episode where it emerges that Godfrey whilst a despised 'conchie' during the Great War nevertheless worked as a stretcher bearer and won a medal for bravery, is one of the most moving bits of television I've ever seen. Ridley somehow achieves a sort of saintly radiance.

  2. Absolutely - it was beautifully done.

  3. Here it is for the next few days: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00780gp/Dads_Army_Series_3_Branded/