Jimmy Perry: How Home Guard and Butlin's inspired comedy gold

Best known for creating TV sitcoms Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Jimmy Perry was considered one of the greats of British comedy.

Born James Perry on September 20, 1923 in Barnes, south-west London, he was too young to join the Army when the Second World War broke out and so instead joined his local Home Guard.

He later based many of the characters for Dad's Army - which he co-wrote with David Croft - on the soldiers he met at that time.

His partnership with Croft proved to be one of British television's most successful, producing the likes of Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M'Lord?.

Croft and Perry's Home Guard comedy, set in the fictional seaside town of Walmington-On-Sea, ran for 80 episodes over nine years from 1968 to 1977, also spawning a full length feature film, a radio series and a stage show.

Jimmy Perry and David Croft (Ian West/PA)
Jimmy Perry and David Croft (Ian West/PA)

Actress Vicki Michelle, who worked with Croft in 'Allo 'Allo, hailed the duo as being responsible for some of the best comedy she knew.

Writing about Croft after his death in 2011, she said: "Together with Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd, he was, in my opinion, largely responsible for the golden age of British Comedy."

After news of Perry's death, she tweeted: "So sad we have lost #JimmyPerry a brilliant comedy writer & true gentleman. He leaves us such a legacy."

In 1941, Perry was called up and sent to Burma where he became part of a Royal Artillery Concert Party, set up to entertain the troops.

After the war he started training as an actor at Rada, funding his passion by working as a Redcoat at Butlin's - a job which later inspired the holiday camp-set Hi-de-Hi!.

Jimmy Perry (Michael Stephens/PA)
Jimmy Perry (Michael Stephens/PA)

Dad's Army came about in 1968 and 10 years later he was awarded an OBE for services to comedy.

Being a music fan, as well as co-writing the script for the hit show, Perry penned the lyrics for the opening theme - Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler?.

The song won the 1971 Ivor Novello Award for best TV signature tune.

Perry credited the success of Dad's Army with reminding the British public "of their finest hour".

In 2014 he told the Radio Times: "It had wobbly back projection and cardboard scenery, but also the truth... and great artists that brought it to life."

But he regarded It Ain't Half Hot Mum, based on his experiences in the regular Army in Burma, as he and Croft's funniest sitcom. The 1970s show ran for seven years and attracted 15 million viewers at its peak, but it courted controversy for having Indian character Rangi Ram played by white actor Michael Bates.

Jimmy Perry (Ian West/PA)
Jimmy Perry (Ian West/PA)

Perry previously told the Guardian the show was considered racist "because of ignorance".

He said: "It's not the British Asians who call the show racist. They called - and still call it - 'our programme'. It was BBC executives who'd never been to India who thought it was racist."

In 1969, Perry went solo to write The Gnomes Of Dulwich, and in 1979 working alone again, he wrote Room Service.

Perry's final collaboration with Croft came with You Rang M'Lord?, inspired by stories from a relative about life as a butler.

In 2003, the pair received a lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards.

The 93-year-old, who is survived by his wife Gilda Perry whom he married in 1953, died at 10.30am on Sunday after a brief illness.

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