The Virus Crisis and Dad's Army

Some who know me well will know of my love for the antics of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon, who valiantly sought to protect the town against the threat of invasion by Nazi hordes. There is a stack of nostalgia here, but also the TV series gave birth to a bunch of finely-drawn characters, in story-lines that pointed up all the foibles of human nature.

Only those still alive and born in the 1930s will be able to relay some appreciation of what it was like to live during WW2. We baby boomers arrived in the world to witness a steady upswing in economic confidence, living standards...and public health.

In recognising the fragility today of our physical condition, we should not forget our mental condition - we have barely begun what could possibly be a horrible period for our sense of well-being.

During WW2 the country was cheered up by radio programmes such as ITMA. I have mused on how the Dad's Army team might respond to the current problems:

Captain Mainwaring: Possibly unfair to start with him. Faced with innumerable leadership challenges, he bumbled through, often not having a clue and adopting a hit and hope approach whilst pretending to be in control. Too early to say where Boris Johnson will stand.

Sergeant Wilson: At first sight, champion of the people Jeremy Corbyn does not slip easily into the role, but both Wilson and Corbyn benefited from public school education, and where there could be a near match is that Wilson unremittingly questioned Mainwaring's decisions but was utterly useless when occasionally put in charge. Of course there will be some who will still think that Corbyn should be our man to lead the country.

Corporal Jones: In running training for graduates newly in work, I have often used his example, the man who when faced with a crisis would run around like a blue-arsed fly, shouting "Don't panic!". Understandably, I usually got blank faces. Maybe his name will come up now, but hopefully we will not panic.

Private Fraser: Initially cast as a fisherman but later as an undertaker. Famed in any problem situation for crying out, "We're doomed, doomed!". Enough said. But the gloss to add on his character is that when by luck and sometimes ingenuity the Platoon came through a crisis then Fraser would declare immediately that he had always trusted Mainwaring's judgement. Gloomsters/doomsters/realists/ex post facto rationalisers. We can only wait and see.

Private Godfrey: Arnold Ridley was already a septuagenerian when he joined the cast for the first series in 1968. The chilling thing is that if intensive care demand were to exceed supply then the NHS would have to prioritise whom to treat, and it is pretty clear that those who would be let go first would be the oldest.

Private Walker: Black marketeer, who would probably be able to find you a source for toilet rolls, anti-bacterial handwash and hand-sanitising gel when all other avenues had been exhausted.

Private Pike: The wimpy junior member of the Platoon, often putting his foot in it and suffering as Mainwaring dismisses him as a "stupid boy". Yet Pike occasionally came up with good ideas grumpily acknowledged by Mainwaring. Cue for talk of the young being the future, but what a world to inherit if there will be more to worry about in virus pandemics than in world wars.

Mrs Pike: Ever concerned about her Frank and the harm that could come to him. In deciding how to respond to the virus, the emotional constantly battles with the rational. 

ARP Warden Hodges: Mainwaring's nemesis. Instead of being out telling people to put out their lights, he would be the one telling you to get off the street as you are too old to be out and should be self-isolating, He would no doubt be assisted in this by the busybody Verger Yeatman.

Reverend Farthing: The vicar of Walmington-on-Sea. What he could contribute, only God knows.


A last thought. Derided and sometimes downtrodden, the Platoon always came through in the end.