Military Wiki
Jimmy Perry
Perry in May 2011
Born (1923-09-20)20 September 1923
Barnes, Surrey, England
Died 23 October 2016(2016-10-23) (aged 93)
London, England
Nationality British
Occupation Scriptwriter, actor
Spouse(s) Gilda Neeltje
(m. 1956–2016)
Partner(s) Mary Husband (?-2016; his death)
Relatives Diane Holland (sister-in-law)

James Perry, OBE (20 September 1923 – 23 October 2016) was an English actor and scriptwriter, best known for devising and co-writing the BBC sitcoms Dad's Army (1968–77), It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–81), Hi-De-Hi (1980–88) and You Rang M'Lord? (1988–93), all with David Croft.

Perry received an Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors for "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr. Hitler?".[1]

Early life

Perry was born in Barnes, Surrey.[2] His father, Arthur, was an antiques dealer[3] and he was educated at two independent schools, Colet Court and St Paul's School, which at the time were both based in Hammersmith in West London (now in Barnes).[4]

Not academically inclined, he apprenticed at a furniture store. With the outbreak of the Second World War, his family moved to Watford just outside London, where he served in the Home Guard and became involved in amateur dramatics.[5]

Life and career

Perry is credited with the original idea for Dad's Army, which was based on his experiences in the Home Guard during World War II; he had originally conceived it with the role of Walker in mind for himself.[6][7][8] He also collaborated with Croft on It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M'Lord?[9]


Many of the sitcoms Perry co-wrote with Croft drew heavily on his personal experience: at 16 he joined the Watford Home Guard (Dad's Army);[10] two years later he was called up into the full-time forces, and was sent to Burma with the Royal Artillery, where he joined the Royal Artillery Concert Party and reached the rank of sergeant ("It Ain't Half Hot Mum").[11]

Demobbed and back in the UK, he trained as an actor at RADA, spending his holidays working as a Redcoat in Butlin's Holiday Camps ("Hi De Hi!").[12]

The Dad's Army mummy's boy character Private Pike was partly based upon the teenaged Jimmy Perry,[3] who said, "She didn't go so far as making me wear a scarf, but she came pretty near". In an interview with the journalist Neil Clark, Perry said: "It amazes me. I think it’s because it's the thing that all British people savour: we were on our own at that time and we didn’t turn away. Dad’s Army reminds us of our finest hour."[3]

Perry and Croft continued their collaboration with It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–81). Inspired by Perry's wartime experience in the Royal Artillery Concert Party, "it was David’s and my favourite", he told Clark who regrets that it "appears to have fallen victim to political correctness".[3] It is not repeated on the terrestrial channels, but was shown on UK Gold.[13][14] For Hi-de-Hi! (1980–88), Perry used his time working as a Butlin's Redcoat as an inspiration.[15]

A solo effort, Room Service, written without Croft for Thames Television in 1979, and High Street Blues (1989), co-written with Robin Carr, according to John Oliver writing for the BFI Screenonline website, "remain contenders for the title of worst British sitcom".[8][16][17]

At the end of the 1970s, Perry became involved as presenter in a BBC series called Turns, dedicated to films of nearly forgotten music hall acts of the 1930s and 1940s.[18] In the sixth episode of the first series of Dad's Army, "Shooting Pains", Perry makes a cameo appearance as the entertainer Charlie Cheeseman.[19]

You Rang, M'Lord? (1988–93) was his last collaboration with David Croft. Perry's grandfather had worked as a butler, and he heard many anecdotes about life "below stairs".[8] In 1994, he worked on a sitcom about the early years of the BBC in the 1920s, 2LO Calling, which was broadcast on radio for four episodes.[20]

Music and theatre

Although best known for his comedy writing, Perry also experienced musical success, composing the signature tunes to all of the above comedy series. The best known of these, the theme tune for Dad's Army, "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?", won the Ivor Novello Award in 1971 for Best TV Signature Tune.[21]

Starting in the late 1950s, Perry was actor-manager at the Watford Repertory Theatre, a role (perhaps intentionally) emphasised by his penchant for heavy checked tweeds, Inverness cape and deerstalker cap.[22][23]

Perry was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1978.[14] In 1982 he was initiated into the Grand Order of Water Rats fraternity.[24]

Personal life and death

In 1953, he married actress Gilda Neeltje (born July 1933),[25] younger sister of actress Diane Holland. Gilda collaborated with Perry in running the Watford Palace Theatre.[26][27]

Perry died on 23 October 2016 in London after a short illness, aged 93. He and his wife had one son, Jimmy, who predeceased his parents. He died at age 19 in 1977 in a motorcycle accident.[21]

He was survived by his wife Gilda (from whom he was separated) and his long-term partner, costume designer Mary Husband.[21][28]

On 27 October British Labour politician Valerie Vaz paid tribute to Perry in the House of Commons and was joined, with references to Perry's best known comedy lines, by a number of other Members of Parliament.[29]

BBC Two repeated two episodes from Series 9 of Dad's Army and also one episode of Hi-de-Hi in Perry's honour. The series continues to be shown regularly on Saturday nights on BBC2, regularly garnering two million viewers.


  • Perry, Jimmy (2002). A Stupid Boy: The Autobiography of the Creator of Dad's Army. New York: Century. ISBN 978-0712-6233-84. [14]


  1. "The Ivors 1971",; retrieved 2 January 2018.
  2. Morgan-Russell, Simon (1 January 2004). "Jimmy Perry and David Croft". Manchester University Press. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Clark, Neil (20 September 2013). "Jimmy Perry turns 90: a tribute to the genius behind Dad's Army". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  4. Simon Morgan-Russell (2004). Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Manchester University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7190-6556-9. 
  5. Simon Morgan-Russell (2004). Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Manchester University Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-7190-6556-9. 
  6. Whiteley, Sheila (28 January 2013). Popular Music And Television In Britain. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. pp. 123–136. ISBN 978-1-4094-9417-1. 
  7. Peniston-Bird, Corinna (13 September 2013). Reconstructing the Past: History in the Mass Media 1890–2005. Routledge. pp. 63–78. ISBN 978-1-317-99684-2. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Barker, Dennis. "Jimmy Perry obituary". Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  9. Christopher Perry (1 December 2015). The British Television Pilot Episodes Research Guide 1936-2015. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-900203-62-3. 
  10. Kevin Gordon (24 May 2007). "Don't panic! It's only Walmington's finest". Sussex Express. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  11. Don Estelle Obituary,; retrieved 29 November 2014.
  12. "Jimmy Perry, co-creator of Dad's Army – obituary". Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  13. Clark, Neil (1 September 2005). "Listen and repeat after me ...". The Times. Retrieved 16 February 2018.  (subscription required)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Jeffries, Stuart (3 February 2003). "Some like it hot". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  15. Robin Turner (24 January 2009). "TV hit inspired by writer's days as a redcoat". Wales Online. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  16. Oliver, John. "David Croft and Jimmy Perry". Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  17. Jem Roberts (25 September 2014). The Frood: The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Random House. pp. 91–2. ISBN 978-1-4090-5235-7. 
  18. Bill Pertwee (3 November 2009). Dad's Army: The Making of a TV Legend. Bloomsbury USA. pp. 11–17. ISBN 978-1-84486-105-7. 
  19. Croft, David; Perry, Jimmy; Webber, Richard (2000). The Complete A-Z of Dad's Army. Orion. pp. 193–94. ISBN 0-7528-4637-X. 
  20. Braxton, Mark. "Jimmy Perry on his Dad’s Army heroes, a life in showbiz, and the one that got away…". Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 BBC News (23 October 2016). "Dad's Army creator Jimmy Perry dies". Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  22. Mark McCaighey (3 March 2015). The Dad's Army Movie Dossier: The Making of Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Classic Film. Andrews UK Limited. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-78538-143-0. 
  23. Graham McCann (18 December 2015). Dad’s Army: The Story of a Very British Comedy (Text Only). HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 23–4. ISBN 978-0-00-738942-1. 
  24. "Biography of a Water Rat". Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  25. "Gilda PERRY - Personal Appointments (free information from Companies House)". Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  26. Scleater, Ian (2008). The Story of the Palace Theatre Watford. Rickmansworth: Atlantic Publishing. pp. 92–110. ISBN 978-0-9558298-4-0. 
  27. Frank Williams; Chris Gidney (2003). Vicar to Dad's Army: The Frank Williams Story. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. pp. 73–74, 116. ISBN 978-1-85311-543-1. 
  28. Braxton, Mark. "There is a light that never goes out - and its name is Jimmy Perry". Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  29. "Business of the House - Hansard Online". Retrieved 28 July 2018. 

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