Dad’s Army: The Story Of The Missing Bits
Dad’s Army remains one of Britain’s best loved sitcoms. However in common with many other shows not all of the original material survived in the BBC archive. At the time of this post three out of the six episodes from series two and two of the four Christmas Sketches are missing. This is the story of three missing episodes and the various attempts to fill in the gap.
How Did The BBC Loose It’s Own Output ?
Until 1978, when the BBC Film and Videotape Library was created as a permanent archive for all its programmes, the BBC had no central archive. The videotapes and film recordings stored in the BBC’s various libraries were often either wiped or discarded for recording new programmes and to free storage space to reduce costs. This has resulted in gaps in the BBC’s archive.
The first two series of Dad’s Army were made in black and white. The first series was thought to have commercial potential overseas, and was offered for sale to foreign broadcasters by the BBC’s then commercial arm BBC Enterprises. Consequently 16mm film copies were made of the first six episodes by the BBC Engineering Department before the master videotapes were wiped, and these were retained by the Film Unit.
Sales of series one did not go the way the BBC had hoped and therefore BBC Enterprises showed no interest in trying to sell series two. As a result very few film copies of series two were made and consequently video tapes were wiped. From series three all episodes were made in colour and interest in the series from overseas picked up. This meant that BBC Enterprises resumed selling episodes meaning they were more likely to be retained.
In The Archive
Series two remains incomplete. Up until 2001 the BBC only held one episode:” Sgt Wilson’s Little Secret”.
In 1998 writer and producer of Dad’s Army made an appeal on BBC 2, asking people if they held an off air video copy of the 5 remaining episodes
In 2001 two episodes were returned to the BBC. “Operation Kilt” and “The Battle Of Godfrey’s Cottage”. This left three episodes still missing: “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Walker”, “A Stripe For Frazer” and “Under Fire” However these episodes were among 67 that were adapted for the Dad’s Army Radio Series and in radio form they still exist.
Recreating The Past
Interest in these missing three episodes has produced many attempts to recreate them, particularly on stage most notably a touring stage production “Dad’s Army Marches On”
This stage show recreated the classic Deadly Attachment Episode alongside A Stripe For Frazer and The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Walker. The soundtrack for A Stripe For Frazer was recovered in 2008. Digitally remastered by the BBC it formed part of an animated recreation of the episode released by BBC Worldwide in January 2016.
Room At The Bottom was an episode from series three, originally recorded in colour, that only survived as a black and white copy. It was restored to colour and broadcast in it’s original colour format for the first time in nearly 40 years in December 2008.
Without doubt and possibly the most ambitious project to recreate the three missing episodes was UKTV’s 2018 announcement that they intended to remake the missing episodes with a new cast using the original scripts.
The finished project “Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes” was broadcast to a hugely appreciative TV audience in 2019. A seperate post on the project will be published shortly.
Of the four sketches that aired as part of this annual festive variety show two are still missing. Santa On Patrol (1968) and Cornish Floral Dance (1970). However audio recordings for both have been recovered.