|Relatives|| Edmund Mainwaring (father) |
Barry Mainwaring (brother)
Elizabeth Mainwaring (wife)
|First Seen||The Man and the Hour|
|Last Seen||Never Too Old|
|Portrayer|| Arthur Lowe (TV series, radio series and 1971 film) |
Toby Jones (2016 film)
|List of Characters|
- "Don't tell him, Pike!"
- ―Captain Mainwaring
George Mainwaring was born in 1885. He is a pompous, blustering figure with overdeveloped sense of his importance, fuelled by his social status in Walmington-on-Sea as the bank manager, and his status as Captain and commander of the local Home Guard volunteer unit. He believes in following rules and orders to sometimes ludicrous degrees. He is class conscious and a snob, considering himself upper-middle class and looking down on anyone he considers beneath him, which may be because he struggled to rise above his working class background. His pretensions stand in contrast to Wilson, who is genuinely Upper Middle Class, Mainwaring is often bitter about Wilson's having attending public school, believing it made him 'wet', while his own state-school background is an attribute. Mainwaring and Wilson's relationship is mainly based on the fact that Mainwaring has always had to struggle and fight for everything in his life, whereas Wilson has just sat back and let it all come to him, (despite being a strong autocrat, Mainwaring fully believes that people should work and earn everything they get in life). Mainwaring is prudish and repressed, and can be judgemental about people who do not share his moral outlook.Mainwaring's pomposity and snobbery work against him, as he is frequently dependent on those he considers beneath him, and his arrogance is frequently punctured by circumstance and the people around him, such as Arthur Wilson, his chief clerk with whom he shares an antagonistic friendship, and Private Walker, a black-marketeer who interjects during Mainwaring's lectures with a quip or a sly revelation that Mainwaring is benefitting from underhanded deals. Mainwaring is particularly jealous of Wilson, who is more relaxed and charming and possesses combat experience that Mainwaring does not, and takes every opportunity to remind his sergeant who is the senior.
As a bank manager, he is efficient if ruthless and stingy; as a military commander he is barely competent, confused by the 24-hour clock, and his plans result in chaos. Mainwaring has no combat experience, which causes tension with the other members of the Home Guard, particularly Wilson, who was a decorated Captain of World War I. (In World War II, John Le Mesurier who played Wilson, had been a Captain while Arthur Lowe was a Sergeant Major). He did, however, serve in the army of occupation in France, "during the whole of 1919 — somebody had to clear up the mess." (He tried to enlist in 1914 but was rejected with poor eyesight; Arthur Lowe tried to enlist in the Merchant Navy prior to World War II but was also rejected with poor eyesight.)
Despite his shortcomings as a leader, Mainwaring considers himself an excellent military tactician. His height and background is frequently demonstrated to show a Napoleon Complex; he is frequently referred to as 'Napoleon' by his nemesis Hodges. In one episode, A Soldier's Farewell, Mainwaring dreams he is Napoleon Bonaparte, and is thwarted at the Waterloo by a Duke of Wellington looking like Wilson. His pomposity and conviction of his prowess see Mainwaring yearn to be in control of any situation, and he behaves in an arrogant manner; this is demonstrated by the first episode, in which he organised the Home Guard unit and appointed himself commanding officer despite lack of experience or qualifications (and had to wait until the episode Room at the Bottom before he received his commission).
In Command Decision he was prepared to relinquish control so the platoon could gain rifles, arguing defence of the country was more important than his ego. In addition he was prepared to "march in the ranks as Private Mainwaring" when he was briefly de-commissioned. This implied he was more overzealous than a control freak.
Mainwaring's patriotism can lead to xenophobia (he is not keen on the French because they are emotional, the Russians because their communism, and the Germans and the Italians because of them being such deadly enemies). Mainwaring often refers to Hitler and the Germans as if he is leading his own personal war, insisting that "In fact I do wish he'd have a go - I'm spoiling for a fight" in Asleep in the Deep, regarding his desire in an air raid to get out of a bunker and face the attacking Germans (who are in planes and beyond his reach). Mainwaring's patriotism and eagerness to see combat blind him to follies or any British failings; whenever Wilson points out a rational if somewhat defeatist outcome to a scenario, Mainwaring's response is "I don't want to hear any of that sort of talk, Wilson." Mainwaring sees all regular British servicemen, 'Our Boys', as exceptionally brave and resourceful, the Germans as inept and cowardly.
Mainwaring is not entirely unlikeable or unsympathetic; it is apparent several times that he devotes his energies to his Home Guard unit for a sense of comradeship and purpose lacking in other parts of his life, such as his career and marriage. On one occasion when his men spurned a parade to play darts against the ARPs he expressed bewilderment, saying coming to the platoon is "the highlight of my day." It is frequently implied that he is trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage to Elizabeth, his unseen wife, who is domineering, neurotic and withholding of affection. For example, in the 5th series episode If the Cap Fits... Mainwaring reveals he learned the bagpipes on his honeymoon in Scotland because "there was nothing else to do".
His bravery and courage cannot be denied: he is willing to endanger himself for his country and platoon, and is willing to take the risks that he will order his men to undertake. In The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage, the platoon thought the Germans had invaded and Mainwaring, with the rest of the platoon, fought what they thought was the German army but turned out to be other members of the platoon. He also cleared bricks from of a bombed-out corridor which could fall at any moment. Mainwaring insisted he work in the most dangerous position even though in drawing lots he had picked the safest (Asleep in the Deep).
In A Man of Action, Walmington-on-Sea is cut off when a bomb damages the railway and waterworks. Mainwaring imposes martial law and takes power from the Mayor. Under his law people need permits to take a bath, and looters will be shot. He changed position when this power was taken from him by an official from GHQ. Mainwaring described such the act and martial law as "monstrous".
He is also an excellent shot with handguns, as shown in Battle of the Giants where he shoots an ascending balloon at an exceedingly long range, whilst holding his handgun with one hand. Both he, and Wilson, respond to this with Good heavens! indicating that Mainwaring isn't even aware of his own skill.
Mainwaring is proven almost immediately wrong after making a statement. He claims to know something only to be proven wrong. Men under him, however, are mostly devoted to him. There are scenes in which Mainwaring is shown as kind-hearted, notably in his "brief encounter" with Mrs Gray in Mum's Army.
Dad's Army ends with the Second World War still in progress, Mainwaring giving Mrs. Fox away as she marries Corporal Jones because her own father is dead. There is hint as to Mainwaring's fortunes after the war. However, a proposed radio sequel, It Sticks Out Half a Mile, was to have featured Mainwaring returning to England having spent two years in Switzerland manufacturing cuckoo clocks, intending to renovate a decrepit pier, only to have to negotiate a loan with the local bank manager - Arthur Wilson (Arthur Lowe was to have starred, but only recorded a pilot episode before his death). The first episode of Dad's Army also shines light on Mainwaring's future; briefly set in the then-present day 1968, it features Mainwaring as guest-of-honour to the launch of Walmington-on-Sea's 'I'm Backing Britain' campaign, where he is referred to by Wilson as an alderman and chairman of the Rotary Club.
- "You stupid boy" - his most famous line, to Pike, on average a couple of times an episode.
- "Hullo....Elizabeth?" - whenever his wife phones him whilst he is on duty.
- "I think you're getting into the realms of fantasy here, Jones" - Often his response to some of Corporal Jones' more fanciful plans or ideas
- "Ah, I was just waiting to see who'd be the first one to spot that" - whenever a member of the platoon makes a good suggestion that he's missed, or spots an obvious flaw in one of his plans
- "Oh, there's no time for that sort of thing" Usually to Wilson if his deputy is pointing out that permission ought to be obtained first.
- "Don't be absurd" - Usually in response to a statement that contradicts Mainwaring's delicate British sensibilities.
- "Come away Wilson" - Always in response to one of Hodge's tantrums.
- "Let's not have any of that sort of talk here" - Whenever a member of the platoon makes a comment even slightly criticising the British or a positive comment about the Germans.
- "Good, good" - When told some bad or distressing news which he, at first, does not recognise or comprehend.
- "This is war, not etc.!" - Usually spoken to a platoon member (usually Wilson or Godfrey) whenever an aspect about the war is trivialised.
- "That's a typical shabby Nazi trick!"
- "We're not savages you know."
- "Stop talking in the ranks! - said when Mainwaring wants silence.