Tributes paid from Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford to actor Ian Lavender, who has died aged 77
Tributes have been paid to Suffolk actor Ian Lavender who was the last remaining main cast member of Dad’s Army following his death aged 77.
Ian, who was best known for playing Private Pike in Dad’s Army which was filmed in and around Thetford, died on Friday.
Dad’s Army, which tells the exploits of the fictional Walmington-on-sea Home Guard, was filmed between 1968 and 1977, using the town and surrounding area for many of its outside scenes.
Stuart Wright, chairman of the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford, said: “It is sad to hear of the passing of Ian. He visited the museum on a number of occasions and was always in great demand from visitors when he appeared.
“It was nice he was able to be part of the 2016 Dad’s Army film in which he featured as a brigadier.
“I recollect Ian being part of the programme’s 40th anniversary celebrations in Thetford in 2008 riding in the parade of vehicles.
“Ian has often been seen in one of the most famous comedy clips of all time and I suspect when St Peter is asking his name at the pearly gates the immortal line, “Don’t tell him, Pike!" will be resounding in his ears.”
Ian, who lived in Woolpit near Bury St Edmunds, not only appeared in episodes of TV shows such as Yes Minister, Keeping Up Appearances and EastEnders, he took on numerous stage roles including with Dustin Hoffman in The Merchant of Venice and in Sister Act: The Musical.
The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, which gave a star to Ian on its fund-raising trail in the town in 2019, said: “Ian will be missed dearly here at Theatre Royal. Ian was a huge supporter of the theatre – performing in fundraising events, galas and was an integral part of the Restoration Appeal 2005-2007.
“Ian, together with his wife Michele, was such a mighty supporter: he will be hugely missed and remembered so fondly.
“Our thoughts are with Michele and their family. How lucky we were in Suffolk, to be the home of such a wonderful and iconic actor.”
His work as Pike on Dad’s Army even got his face on a stamp in 2018 as Royal Mail celebrated the 50th anniversary of the show.
Asked about the role that made him a household name, Ian said to The Guardian in 2014: "If you asked me, 'Would you like to be in a sitcom that was watched by 18 million people, was on screen for 10 years, and will create lots of work for you and provide not just for you but for your children for the next 40-odd years'… I'd be a fool to have regrets.”
During his time as Private Frank Pike in the classic sitcom, Ian had many memorable moments.
Here is a round-up of his funniest scenes:
– ‘Hitler Is A Twerp!’
In the episode The Deadly Attachment, Captain Mainwaring is competing with a German U-boat captain over who will win the Second World War.
Pike chimes in with a reworked version of Whistle While You Work, rhyming about the Nazi leader: “Whistle while you work, Hitler is a twerp, he’s half-barmy, so’s his army, whistle while you work.”
When the German, played by Philip Madoc, then demands his name to add to a list of those who “will be brought to account” if Hitler is victorious, Captain Mainwaring says: “Don’t tell him, Pike.”
– ‘Stupid boy’
During the episode Turkey Dinner, Pike ends up staining Captain Mainwaring’s dinner jacket with gravy.
Reacting angrily, Captain Mainwaring deploys his catchphrase: “Stupid boy.”
– Pike signs up for the RAF
In the episode titled When You’ve Got To Go, after passing some tests, Pike tells his over-protective mother Mavis (Janet Davies) and her lover Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier) that he will be joining the Royal Air Force.
Captain Mainwaring organises a farewell during which Pike says “he likes fish and chips” and tells the platoon he has a “funny story”.
He tells them he cannot join the RAF due to having a rare blood type but that he delayed saying anything because of the dinner.
– Pike gets his head stuck in a gate
In the episode A Man of Action, during a routine patrol Pike gets his head stuck in a gate and, due to difficulties getting him out of the predicament, the platoon take him to the church hall where they are stationed.
Captain Mainwaring asks Pike to pass his helmet through the bars “sideways”, to which he replies: “How can I see which is sideways? I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, you know.”
Captain Mainwaring replies: “Don’t you use that tone of voice to me, Pike.”
– ‘We’ve forgotten the pole’
Often seen as the idiotic character in the series, occasionally Pike would land on what had gone wrong for the platoon.
When they had to set up a tarpaulin during an exercise, Pike realises they have “forgotten the pole” and are unable to set it up.