DCSIMG

Don't panic! It's only Walmington's finest

IT is grey and wet on Seaford Head but nevertheless the stalwart men of the Home Guard are on duty keeping watch over the Channel.

Being a seaside company this odd selection of men not only has to keep a constant watch for enemy parachutists but also invasion from the sea.

Strangely, however, this is not a description of Seaford during the Second World War as the date is not the 1940s but 1970! The men of the Home Guard are none other than the actors from the popular BBC TV series Dad's Army.

Following the success of the first three series of the programme in the late 1960s, a film was made and some of this was shot at Seaford. The whole crew, including Captain Mainwairing, Corporal Jones and Private Pike, came to Seaford for three days of filming in September.

Just like the plot of one of their programmes, the move from the small screen to the cinema was not all straightforward; the American producers wanted many changes made to the original screenplay by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. The outdoor scenes of Walmington on Sea were filmed at Chalfont St Giles in Bucks rather than Thetford in Norfolk where the TV series was shot and there were arguments over the plot.

Jimmy Perry wrote Dad's Army following his own experiences in the Home Guard. He joined up aged 16 years in Watford, his home town, and many of the characters he wrote about were people in his company including the nervous Private Pike who was based on himself. His setting for the series was Walmington on Sea which was a seaside town near Eastbourne.

The film opens with a German general surveying the English coast with binoculars. High on the cliffs is a small hut and as the general zooms in he sees Private Godfrey emerging from what is obviously a lavatory. Godfrey joins the rest of the cast who are defiantly waving a large Union Jack. This part was filmed by a helicopter hovering off the cliffs at Hope Gap.

A marquee was erected for the actors and crew on Seaford Head at the barn car park but the autumn weather when they filmed was atrocious and many of the cast stayed at the Mercury Motor Inn (later the Abbots Lodge Motel) near Bishopstone Station. It was here that a reporter from the magazine Film Review interviewed them for an article which appeared in the January 1971 edition. Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier and Clive Dunn where happy to take a break from filming to chat to the reporter and talk about their careers. Quite what they thought of the weather in Seaford however was unreported!

I wonder if any local people recall the filming in autumn 1970? If you remember seeing the actors or took some photographs I would be very pleased to see them. I would also be interested if you have any information or photographs about the real Home Guard who protected Seaford and the bay during the Second World War.

KEVIN GORDON

 
 
 

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