|The Two and a Half Feathers|
|Series 4, Episode 8|
|Air Date||13th November 1970|
|Written by||Jimmy Perry and David Croft|
|Original Audience Figures||Unknown|
|Previous episode||Put That Light Out!|
|Next episode||Mum's Army|
|List of episodes|
The Two and a Half Feathers is the eighth episode of the fourth series of Dad's Army. It was originally transmitted on Friday 13th November, 1970.
It is lunchtime in Walmington-on-Sea. Mainwaring, Wilson and Pike are in the British Restaurant, ordering their lunch; Wilson orders toad-in-the-hole while Mainwaring and Pike opt for fish and potato pie, but when they find out that the fish is snoek they soon change their minds, frustrating the lady serving them—who complains that Wilson "always leaves his dirties" (aka his plate and cutlery) at the table when he eats there. Walker enters and gives the dinner ladies some knicker elastic, collecting a steak he had brought in earlier, which they cooked for him.
As they sit, Jones enters in his old Sudanese uniform, and informs Mainwaring that he is off to the 42nd annual reunion for the veterans of the Battle of Omdurman. He gives Mainwaring and Wilson a gory account of the battle, putting Wilson and Mainwaring off their food and spreading mothballs from his uniform everywhere. Mainwaring excuses himself hurriedly when he eats one of the mothballs, which landed in Walker's jar of pickle.
That evening, Frazer brings in a new recruit for the platoon—a man named George Clarke. According to Frazer, Clark is very loyal and trustworthy... because he stood Frazer several pints in the bar at The Anchor last Thursday. Clarke tells Mainwaring that he joined the army in 1897 and, like Jones, served at the Battle of Omdurman. Wilson and Mainwaring are shocked at the coincidence, especially when Clarke mentions that he was in the Warwickshire Regiment (the same regiment as Jones). Clarke then proceeds to give an accurate description of Jones' drill habit, and denies that the Jones he knew was a Lance-Corporal—much to Frazer's glee. Mainwaring decides to wait until tomorrow to see if it is the same man.
Jones arrives, tired, the next evening, and Frazer, Pike and Walker follow him into the office, where Godfrey is fitting Clarke with his uniform. Clarke immediately recognises Jones, and before long Jones has remembered him, greeting him with "Hello, Nobby!" Clarke seems very civil... until his tone of voice turns hostile, saying bitterly with emphasis on each word "I remember you very, very well". Mainwaring quickly organises the parade, and Frazer announces his suspicions about Jones and Clarke's shared past.
Later, Frazer contacts an unseen someone on the telephone, and tells them that (after a couple of pints), Clarke told him that back in the Sudan, Jones and Clarke were captured by the Fuzzy Wuzzies. According to Clarke, Jones managed to escape, but left Clarke to die. The rumour soon spreads, and Walker is torn between the fact that Jones would not even deny the rumours, and the fact that he does not believe Jones would be capable of such a thing—much to the disgruntlement of his girlfriend Edith, who just wants a kiss. Walker eventually obliges her.
Jones, meanwhile, is in his butchers' shop, and has received malicious letters which contain two white feathers—accusations of cowardice—and another half-feather (because the sender did not feel he even deserved a whole one), saying that he should not have left Clarke in the desert. Jones has had enough, and leaves on a mysterious errand.
At the next parade, Mainwaring is determined to get to the bottom of the incident. Clarke tells Mainwaring that after Jones allegedly left him in the desert, a native rescued him. He remarks the native must have saved his life, even if he did pinch his wallet. Jones then appears in the office, apologises for acting so oddly for the past few days, and says that he can now finally tell his side of the story...
He tells the story of a patrol he and Private Clarke were part of in the Sudan who were dispatched to gauge the strength of the Mahdi's army. It was led by Colonel Smythe (who looks extraordinarily like Wilson), with another officer, a 2nd Lieutenant (Pike's equivalent), who was the Colonel's nephew. The NCO was Sergeant Ironside (Mainwaring), a rough, coarse man who kept giving the men the rough side of his tongue (his swearwords are thankfully obscured on-screen by raspberry-blowing sound effects), while one of the other privates was a cockney, Private Green (Walker), who kept the men's spirits high with quips and jokes. As they travel through the desert (in Jones' story), the patrol meet an old fakir (Godfrey), who warns them that when the sun sets, they will all be dead. When Ironside gives him a mouthful of coarse abuse, the fakir curses them all.
Suddenly, a fusillade of shots rings out, and the patrol are quick to respond. Unfortunately for the Lieutenant, he is not quick enough, and is shot, falling from his horse. Jones cradles the fallen man in his arms, and the young officer praises Jones and asks him, if he (the 2nd Lieutenant) does not make it, to tell his mother that he could not help falling off his horse. With the patrol pinned down by what appears to be thousands of enemy gunmen, Colonel Smythe suggests that two men should go for help. Jones volunteers, and Smythe asks him to take Private Clarke with him. By morning, however, their water bottles are empty. They stop for a rest, and are captured by two Dervishes (Frazer and Hodges). They peg Clarke out in the desert after he grovels for mercy and take Jones with them.
When the Dervishes start to cook a meal, they suddenly begin to scuffle with each other, giving Jones the chance to free himself. One of the Dervishes runs off, and the other (Hodges) is scared by the burning branch thrust in his face by Jones; as a result the Dervish tells him, in Arabic, to "put that light out". Jones takes the man's robes and rides back to rescue Private Clarke on the Dervish's horse. When he rescues a near-unconscious Clarke, he notices a photograph of the Colonel's wife in the man's wallet, and realises that the two had been having an affair. Carrying the now fully-unconscious Clarke on his back, Jones strides away to meet up with a relief column...
Finishing his story, Jones tells Mainwaring and the others that he could not have told them this before for fear of slurring the Colonel's name. He has recently been in London at Somerset House (which is why he has been acting mysteriously lately), and he now knows that both the Colonel and his wife are dead (or, as Jones puts it, "up on that great parade ground somewhere in the sky..."), so he can tell them his story and burn the letters that she and Clarke sent to each other. Mainwaring apologises to Jones for doubting him and decides to confront Clarke, but the platoon notice that he has slipped out. Bursting out of the door in pursuit, the men come face-to-face with Hodges, who tells him Clarke has left by train, resigned his position and will post his uniform back. Mainwaring still wants to pursue the man, but Jones urges him to let Clarke go, and proceeds to burn the letters, leaving Hodges to get himself more and more worked up as his repeated orders of "put that light out!" are ignored and the burning letters are thrust in his face.
- Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Ironside
- John Le Mesurier as Sergeant Wilson and Colonel Smythe
- Clive Dunn as Lance Corporal Jones
- John Laurie as Private Frazer and Dervish warrior
- James Beck as Private Walker and Private Green
- Arnold Ridley as Private Godfrey and Fakir
- Ian Lavender as Private Pike and Second Lieutenant
- Bill Pertwee as ARP Warden Hodges and Dervish warrior
- John Cater as Private Clarke
- Wendy Richard as Edith
- Queenie Watts as Edna
- Gilda Perry as Doreen
- Linda James as Betty
- Parnell McGarry as Elizabeth
- John Ash as Raymond
- The title is a play on the novel and subsequent films entitled The Four Feathers, in which a member of the British Army in the Sudan is accused of cowardice (hence the white feathers Jones received; such feathers were often given to men, particularly in the First World War, as an accusation of cowardice). In the 1939 film version of The Four Feathers, the Khalifa is played by none other than John Laurie, who portrays Frazer.
- The historical flashback scenes were filmed using a disused Norfolk quarry, rigged up to look like the Sudan desert, interspersed with archive footage from the 1939 version of The Four Feathers.
- This was one of two episodes where the Dad's Army characters were rather whimsically shown in a historical setting; the other was A Soldier's Farewell.
- During the flashback, there is a rare opportunity to see Clive Dunn without the makeup that he usually donned during the series to made him look like the much older version of Jones.