Godfrey’s Ghost, From Father to Son / Nicolas Ridley
Actor Arnold Ridley will forever be associated with his role as Private Godfrey, the oldest member of the Dad’s Army platoon. Although he died 25 years ago he is warmly remembered as one of Britain’s best-loved actors for his nine years spent in the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard, a role that came to him at the age of 72. But, his life before the popular comedy series remains largely unknown. Who was the man behind the gentle, fumbling, endearing Godfrey of the small screen?
In Godfrey’s Ghost the actor’s son, Nicolas, aims to free his father from frailty and old age. He paints a portrait of an admirable man who not only served gallantly in two World Wars but was, for a time, a celebrated West End playwright whose long-running production, The Ghost Train, became a classic that is still performed today.
For part of the book Nicolas draws on Arnold Ridley’s unpublished autobiography to relate the events that shaped his father’s life. The account of his experiences of the First World War is particularly poignant. When Arnold was cast in the role of Godfrey, he was deeply grateful although at the time he didn’t realise the wonderful difference Dad’s Army would make to his life.