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DECEMBER 1969 - APRIL 1970

DECEMBER 1969 – APRIL 1970
‘As long as you continue to laugh, we continue to eat,’ producer Alastair Scott Johnston informed
the audience at another recording for The Navy Lark as the unfortunate crew of the frigate
HMS Troutbridge sailed into their eleventh series. The sitcom was now one of the longestrunning BBC radio comedy series, although The Clitheroe Kid – which had debuted a few
months earlier in May 1958 – was also still on the air at this point. Over the summer of 1969,
Alastair had again worked with Lawrie Wyman, the creator and writer of The Navy Lark, on a
new radio sitcom with a similar style; this had been The Big Business Lark which focussed on
the managerial mishaps at British United Plastics and had starred Jimmy Edwards and Frank
Thornton (one of the stars of the earlier spin-off The Embassy Lark). He had also been working
on Just Perfick, an adaptation of the Larkin family novels by HE Bates which was to debut on
BBC Radio 2 from November.
Helping out Lawrie Wyman with some of the new scripts was Cardiff-born writer George
Evans who was an old friend of Jon Pertwee – one of The Navy Lark’s three stars. George had
written material for Jon to perform in shows like Starlight Rendezvous and London Lights over
the last decade as well as producing his 1962 LP Songs for Vulgar Boatmen. One of his earliest
credits had been the radio show We’re in Business and he soon formed a writing partnership
with Derek Collyer. As well as being a script associate on the BBC television sitcom The Rag
Trade, he contributed to TV series such as Pet Pals (featuring Richard Caldicot), Roy Hudd, The
Reluctant Romeo, The Dick Emery Show and The Jimmy Logan Show while on radio his work
featured in The Arthur Haynes Show, This Is Your Jim, It’s Mike and Bernie and Get Fell In as well
as series produced by Alastair Scott Johnston like Crowther’s Crowd in 1963 and 1966, The
Alfred Marks Show in 1964 and the 1964 Third Programme production Phony.
Of the three stars of The Navy Lark, during the autumn of 1969 Jon Pertwee had started
work on his new starring vehicle, the BBC One science fiction adventure series Doctor Who.
Leslie Phillips was also looking at further television work, recording a pilot episode for a


prospective BBC One sitcom entitled The Culture Vultures in which he would star as the easyliving anthropology lecturer Doctor Michael Cunningham of the University of Hampshire.
Stephen Murray’s serious acting career had continued with radio productions such as
Freedom Farewell for Radio 4’s Sunday Play slot and numerous readings for Radio 3. Along
with the rest of the regular cast – Heather Chasen, Richard Caldicot, Tenniel Evans and
Michael Bates – the three leads reassembled back at the Paris Theatre for the first recording
of Series Eleven on Sunday 19 October.
In 1968, Ronnie Barker – who had been with The Navy Lark since its inception – had
become unavailable because of his Sunday evening commitments to the new LWT sketch
show Frost on Sunday, since when he had enjoyed success with his own LWT series Hark at
Barker; as such, his television work meant that he would not be returning to radio. Because
of this, in the 1968 series, a new senior officer had been created for HMS Troutbridge in the
form of the seasick Commander Trotter, played by semi-regular cast member Alan ReeveJones. Trotter had been a replacement for the character of Commander Bell, one of Ronnie’s
characters, but was now felt to be redundant to the format. To dispense with the character
of Commander Trotter, it was simplest to finally promote Mr Murray to the rank of Lieutenant
Commander Murray and put him in charge of HMS Troutbridge where he would combine the
duties of both ship’s captain and Number One. Commander Trotter – it was revealed – had
been recalled to Whitehall for ‘special duties’. This new dynamic for the crew set up the fresh
situation of Murray no longer being able to enter the ship’s ward room without an invitation
from one of his subordinates. During the first show, which concerned Troutbridge being
occupied by a group of hippies akin to those which had come to prominence in recent years,
Mr Phillips also used the catchphrase ‘Sock it to me’ popularised by Judy Carne on the US
sketch comedy Laugh In which had been appearing on BBC Two since autumn 1968.
Although Jon Curle announced the first episode of the new series, from the second show
– recorded on Sunday 26 October – this role was taken on a regular basis by Michael de
Morgan as per the previous series and The Big Business Lark. Lawrie Wyman also rejoined the
cast on an irregular basis from this recording, resuming his frequent role of AB Tiddy, usually
phoning to the bridge from the W/T room.
The third show was recorded on Sunday 2 November when Heather Chasen soldiered
on despite suffering from a bad cold which was written into the script. There was another


variation on an existing character for the review board sequences which had been a popular
element since the eighth series. Originally comprising Michael Bates’ hay-fever-stricken Captain
Atcheson, Jon Pertwee’s stammering Lt-Commander Wetherby (a character which originated
during the 1940s in Waterlogged Spa) and Ronnie Barker’s blunt Northerner Commander
Hardcastle, following Ronnie Barker’s departure Hardcastle had been replaced by the near
identical Captain Ormanroyd, played by Lawrie Wyman. The writer continued to play this
character, now named Captain Titchwell.
Another replacement character was introduced for the fourth show, taped on Sunday 9
November. Since the sixth series, Troutbridge’s engineering officer had been the technically
ignorant Scotsman Lt Queeg, played by Ronnie Barker, who had always relied upon assistance
from ‘the lad’, a nameless subordinate with an unreliable stomach. Taking Queeg’s place now
was the well-brought-up and polite Lt Sharp – played by Tenniel Evans – who had joined the
Navy as an accountant and was every bit as reliant on ‘the lad’ as his predecessor. This show
also introduced the new fictional country of Forbodia, a revolution-torn land that would loom
large in forthcoming escapades … With the fifth edition, recorded on Sunday 16 November,
Heather Chasen developed a new character as Myrtle, another member of the vast Pertwee
family and the skinhead niece of Uncle Ebenezer (and therefore – as confirmed in the following
edition – CPO Pertwee’s sister).
No show was recorded on Sunday 23, with double recordings scheduled the following week.
In the seventh episode, a post-modern approach was taken with a plot which hinged on CPO
Pertwee being able to do perfect impersonations of both Lt-Commander Wetherby and ViceAdmiral Buttenshaw … all of which were of course voiced by Jon Pertwee! And in addition to
Mr Phillips’ continuing subscription to the fictitious children’s comic Noddy Weekly, there were
now various comments made about Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who, such as the game in Leslie’s
comic referred to in this seventh edition.
Unfortunately, Jon Pertwee was taken ill and unable to attend the recording of the eighth
show on Sunday 7 December. As a last-minute replacement, the script was rewritten so that
CPO Jon Pertwee was indisposed in sickbay with ‘there’s a lot of it about’ and as a replacement
Mr Murray was assigned CPO Nathaniel Pertwee … played by Frank Thornton who had
co-starred in the two spin-off series as well as HMS Paradise, an earlier attempt to transfer The
Navy Lark to television. Jon Pertwee was back for the ninth show on Sunday 14 which saw


the introduction of Murray’s new girlfriend, the horse-mad Rita Ffont-Bittocks (played by
Heather Chasen) who was soon revealed to be none other than the daughter of the Admiral.
This edition made reference to the one-time left-wing journalist and broadcaster Malcolm
Muggeridge and also the long-running BBC One series Dr Finlay’s Casebook with its gentle
period tales of a Scots GP. For the tenth and final edition taped on Sunday 21 (and scheduled
around requirements for Jon Pertwee to record sequences for Doctor Who), Mrs Ramona
Povey again inflicted her lack of singing skills on the world with renderings of both Ramona
– a 1921 song which had been a 1964 hit for The Bachelors – and Vera Lynn’s 1941 hit The
Anniversary Waltz.
The Navy Lark was scheduled to return as part of the 1970 New Year schedule, kicking
off the first weekend after Christmas 1969. As with the previous series, each new episode
made its debut on Radio 2 at 2pm on Sundays with a repeat on the combined wavelengths
of Radios 1 and 2 at 8.45pm the following evening, replacing The Ken Dodd Experience. The
Radio Times billings for the ‘chronicle of events aboard HMS Troutbridge’ emphasised the
continuing presence of Leslie Phillips in The Man Most Likely To … at the Vaudeville Theatre in
London, and a photo of Mr Phillips trying to speak in confidence to Mr Murray without being
overheard by Captain Povey appeared at the top of the quick overview of the Corporation’s
second week of programmes in the revamped Christmas double issue. The repeat of the
debut programme was even granted a longer than usual synopsis in the programme billing
section: ‘Whenever the crew of HMS Troutbridge return from leave, Portsmouth Dockyard
normally locks everything up and runs for cover. But not this time. Everyone from Admiral
downwards just doubles up with laughter. Something highly unpleasant is about to fall on them
from a very great height. But what?’ The Radio Times was now focussing far more heavily on
television than radio following a re-design in September 1969; the dedicated radio preview
pages for each day were gone which would mean a far lower profile in future for all sound
broadcasts. The jaunty introductions to each new series penned by Alastair Scott Johnston
would now be a thing of the past …
The opening broadcast of the eleventh series attracted a good reaction index score of
65, although audiences were down to just over two million listeners; during the 1960s,
radio listening figures had been on a continual decline as television had become even more
widespread. For the first full week of 1970, Jon Pertwee dominated the cover of the Radio


Times, but in his new role as Doctor Who with his first episode airing on Saturday 3 January.
The issue carried the short feature Welcome to 1970 – The Navy Lark, Emma, Does the Team
Think? and eight more new radio series … Readers were informed: ‘HMS Troutbridge has sailed
the seven seas in a remarkable number of directions for 11 years, but one of the chief problems
arises over leave: the Troutbridge crew has enormous difficulty in getting back to the ship …’
From the second week in January 1970, Leslie Phillips was filming Doctor in Trouble, the
seventh and final film in the sequence based on the books of Richard Gordon which was
shot at Pinewood through to February. For the week of Sunday 25 January, the presence
of The Navy Lark in Radio 2’s schedules was emphasised with a shot of Jon Pertwee in the
abbreviated listings at the front of the Radio Times. The following week, a feature on the
actor’s role in Doctor Who appeared in the magazine, and the text also encouraged readers
to catch his exploits aboard HMS Troutbridge that Sunday.
By the sixth episode, audiences had grown and peaked for the run at over three million
on Sunday 1 February. At the start of February, the cast were rebooked to record six more
shows in three double sessions from Sunday 15 February to 1 March. Around the same
time, Stephen Murray received great acclaim for his lead role in the dramatised BBC One
documentary: On Trial: J Robert Oppenheimer – Security Risk? and could also be heard in the
Radio 4 dramatisation of the epic novel War and Peace. Since the start of the year, Alastair
Scott Johnston had also been busy on a series of operettas recorded for Radio 2.
With the Cold War now well underway, the Forbodians made their first appearance as a
generic Eastern Bloc communist state in the eleventh show, while in the twelfth, Mr Murray
was married off to Rita and so became the Admiral’s son-in-law. As in the sixth series,
Murray was forced to reveal that his middle name was ‘Butterfield’ – the surname of his wife,
actress Joan Butterfield – when the Padre conducted the matrimonial ceremony. Murray’s
new married status then fuelled narratives for the next couple of episodes. The fourteenth
show saw references to Conservative Party leader Edward Heath and his yacht, Morning
Cloud, with which he had won the 1969 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race; a general election
was looming in June 1970 and it was felt unlikely that Labour would be ousted. Further
dialogue related to the impending decimalisation of Britain’s currency which would take
place in February 1971 (although the new coinage had been introduced since April 1968)
and also to John Stonehouse, the former Postmaster General and now Minister of Posts and


Telecommunications. The show also introduced another new character for Heather Chasen
to perform; this was Netta, the wife of Admiral Ffont-Bittocks. Recording then concluded
with a final pair of episodes taped on Sunday 1 March. At this point, Leslie Phillips left the
cast of The Man Most Likely To … so that he could concentrate on the recordings for the full
series of The Culture Vultures from Friday 6 March.
Stephen and Rita’s wedding on Sunday 15 March attracted a reaction index of 57 while
the tale of Pertwee’s sudden wealth a fortnight later fared better with an index of 61. While
the series was still on-air, Leslie Phillips was rushed to hospital at the start of April with an
internal haemorrhage; production on further editions of The Culture Vultures was immediately
suspended, and the truncated run of academic mishaps began on BBC One on Friday 24 April.
From Monday 6 April, the 8.45pm slot on Radios 1 and 2 was given over to music from
Edmundo Ros. Thus the final two repeats of The Navy Lark aired on Radio 4 at 6.15pm
instead, apart from the Welsh and Scottish services. When The Navy Lark came to an end
on Sunday 12 April with a broadcast to an audience of just under three million, the Sunday
afternoon and Monday evening slots were given over to the return of Kenneth Williams in
Stop Messing About!
March 1970 saw the end of the line for HMS Troubridge, the real Royal Navy frigate which
had inspired the name of the radio show’s sister vessel; she had been decommissioned in
March 1969 and now, after a year residing at a breaker’s yard in Chatham, was sold to Messrs
John Cashmore Ltd of Newport for scrap. And as time moved on, HMS Troutbridge was now
also under threat. After the final recording for the series on Sunday 1 March, Alastair Scott
Johnston informed the audience of recordings for a new sitcom, Blast of Spring, which was
being recorded from Wednesday 11 March and would air on Radio 4 from October 1971.
Aware that television was now an increasingly dominant medium, Lawrie Wyman also paid
tribute to the fine cast of his long-running senior service sitcom, telling the theatre audience:
‘With the horror of radio in the Seventies staring us in the face shortly, would you mind all writing
in and saying “For God’s sake bring [The Navy Lark] back”, otherwise I think we’ve had it and
you’re in for Mantovani for the rest of your life. Goodnight!’
Programme notes, episode synopses and cast
biographies researched and written by Andrew Pixley

The Navy Lark Appreciation Society can be contacted at:
The Navy Lark Appreciation Society, Honeysuckle Cottages,
Little Street, Yoxford, Suffolk IP17 3JQ
Web address:



DECEMBER 1969 – APRIL 1970
Episodes written by Lawrie Wyman
Incidental music for the series was by Tommy Reilly and James Moodie [16]
Announcers: Jon Curle [1], Michael de Morgan [2-16]
Produced by Alastair Scott Johnston
Regular cast unless indicated: Stephen Murray, Leslie Phillips and Jon Pertwee with Richard
Caldicot, Heather Chasen, Tenniel Evans and Michael Bates
Note: none of the episodes were originally given titles. The ones here have been adopted for easy
reference and are in line with previous commercial releases
Due to the age and, in some cases, the off-air source of these recordings, the sound quality may at times vary

EPISODE ONE: Commander Murray and the Squatters
Broadcast 28 December 1969 (recorded 19 October 1969)
Captain Povey has enjoyed a spell of low blood pressure which comes to an end as the crew of
HMS Troutbridge returns to Portsmouth. However, Mr Murray is amazed when, having been told to
report immediately to Povey’s office, Heather addresses him as ‘Sir’. He has been promoted to take
command of the luckless vessel – which is currently occupied by the Scruffies …

EPISODE TWO: What is the SSE?
Broadcast 4 January 1970 (recorded 26 October 1969)
With Lawrie Wyman
When Povey arrives in the office, he discovers that a Vice Admiral has tried to contact him from
the Ministry of … Ummm. He is to put to sea at once to meet somebody or other at sometime
or another at a location best described as somewhere. Troutbridge is the only ship available,
and their subject would appear to be Vice-Admiral Burlington-Grimshaw of the SSE aboard the
Mediterranean Fleet flagship …


EPISODE THREE: Pertwee Climbs Up the Promotion Ladder
Broadcast 11 January 1970 (recorded 2 November 1969)
With Lawrie Wyman
During a recruiting drive for the Royal Navy, the Admiral visits Povey to select potential officers
from lower decks. Impressed that CPO Pertwee carries a flask of booze on him, the Admiral orders
him transferred to the flagship as ‘real officer material’. While Pertwee mixes with the officers and
toadies to the Admiral, Murray and Phillips prepare for his review board …

Broadcast 18 January 1970 (recorded 9 November 1969)
Vice-Admiral Buttenshaw informs Povey that he will be the replacement Naval Attaché at the
British Embassy in the revolution-torn Forbodia for a month, and will be accompanied by WREN
Chasen. However, before Troutbridge can deliver him to his assignment, the ship runs aground on
a small island …

EPISODE FIVE: Sir Willoughby’s Party
Broadcast 25 January 1970 (recorded 16 November 1969)
With Lawrie Wyman
The Troutbridge crew notice that Mr Phillips is rather touchy. The reason for his mood is soon clear
– he is lovelorn. To get him over his ennui, his colleagues fix him up on a date with Uncle Ebenezer
Pertwee’s niece Myrtle so that they can both attend a party to celebrate the appointment of Sir
Willoughby Todhunter Brown as the new Naval Attaché (Docks Superintendent in Chief ) …

EPISODE SIX: The Fleet Initiative Test
Broadcast 1 February 1970 (recorded 30 November 1969)
Nunkie summons CPO Pertwee to his War Surplus Emporium on Gosport High Street to explain
that he is running a book on the new Navy initiative tests … and Troutbridge is at 100-1 so must
not win. Murray and Phillips collect their first clue from Povey, and cannot even leave port until
they have obtained a pair of lock-knit, double winceyette, fully reinforced, pale pink ladies’
bloomers …


EPISODE SEVEN: CPO Pertwee’s Long Service Medal
Broadcast 8 February 1970 (recorded 30 November 1969)
CPO Pertwee is looking forward to his Fifteen Years’ Service and Good Conduct medal … so that
he can pawn it and cop the £20 gratuity. And while Captain Povey cites numerous incidents of
Pertwee’s Bad Conduct since June 1959, he cannot produce any evidence. But to seal his award,
Pertwee decides to use his powers of impersonation …

EPISODE EIGHT: The Phenomenal Pertwee Tug
Broadcast 15 February 1970 (recorded 7 December 1969)
With Frank Thornton; without Jon Pertwee
Nunky is furious when Povey orders that he must maintain his tug, the Hortense, properly and make
it seaworthy … and not spend his Navy contract fee on brown ale! Meanwhile, Lt Phillips returns
from London delighted to have been promoted from a BOWWOW to a WOOFWOOF in the world of
psychic phenomena … and therefore very keen to investigate strange glowing objects reported by
the Needles lighthouse …

EPISODE NINE: The Security Clampdown
Broadcast 22 February 1970 (recorded 14 December 1969)
Lt-Commander Murray has a secret: he has been dating a horse-loving girl called Rita and spent
the evening at the Gosport and Havant Gasworks Gymkhana (G&HGG). He even agrees to go to
the cinema to watch all seven hours of a subtitled War and Peace. But Murray’s behaviour, his new
habits and the mysterious ‘Rita’ make him a prime suspect when naval engines are sabotaged …

EPISODE TEN: The Anniversary and the Washing
Broadcast 1 March 1970 (recorded 21 December 1969)
The pianist was Dennis Gomm
Murray aims to introduce ‘Get to know you’ sherry mornings (without sherry) during which the crew
can discuss their problems with him. But their main problem is that Mrs Povey has ‘requested’ the
presence of the crew at her wedding anniversary party. Even Povey himself is invited if he behaves
himself … although he has just broken the family washing machine …


EPISODE ELEVEN: The Forbodians Hijack Troutbridge
Broadcast 8 March 1970 (recorded 15 February 1970)
With Lawrie Wyman
Murray is still in his pyjamas when Admiral Ffont-Bittocks comes aboard with two senior officials
from the Forbodian Embassy, Igor Astrakhanovitch and Natasha Snogitov. The two visitors seem
very keen to take photographs of Mr Phillips in various parts of Troutbridge – particularly when he
is standing beside key pieces of equipment. Then they reveal their true colours …

EPISODE TWELVE: Number One Gets Married
Broadcast 15 March 1970 (recorded 15 February 1970)
The Admiral demands to know from Povey if Murray is a suitable character to marry his daughter,
the first stage of an engagement which everyone is aware of apart from Lt-Commander Murray
himself. To celebrate the wedding, the Admiral sends Troutbridge over to Calais to collect some
crates of champagne, while a private detective is hired by Rita to follow her intended …

EPISODE THIRTEEN: The Honeymooners Return
Broadcast 22 March 1970 (recorded 22 February 1970)
CPO Pertwee and Mr Phillips cannot resist smirking when Mr Murray and his blushing bride
return from their honeymoon abroad. In Murray’s absence, Commander Whitaker helmed a
trouble-free run to Portugal (from which Pertwee has smuggled some wine) and the crew believe
that now Murray is the Admiral’s son-in-law, their seafaring days are over …

EPISODE FOURTEEN: CPO Pertwee and the Lead Half Crowns
Broadcast 29 March 1970 (recorded 22 February 1970)
Murray and Phillips have a post-wedding drink at the Popple’s Head and are amazed to discover
that CPO Pertwee is buying all the drinks! Meanwhile, the newlyweds are living with the Admiral
and his wife, neither of whom are happy when the lead starts to go missing from their roof …


EPISODE FIFTEEN: Sub-Lt Phillips to Leave for Dartmouth
Broadcast 5 April 1970 (recorded 1 March 1970)
Troutbridge crashes back into dock yet again, so badly that it seems that Mr Phillips will have to
leave the service. However, Povey receives a visit from Rear Admiral Evans who recalls that Phillips
was his star pupil and the very man he wants to succeed him when he retires from running the
Naval School. Unfortunately, he recalls Phillips as being dark, six foot six, and fourteen stone …

EPISODE SIXTEEN: The Mark 31 Radar
Broadcast 12 April 1970 (recorded 1 March 1970)
CPO Pertwee and Mr Phillips are intrigued when a white saucer appears on top of Troutbridge’s
mast; this is a Mark 31 Radar scanning disc which is being trialled by the navy. However, HMS
Troutbridge is not scheduled to take part in the fleet exercise as it is ‘too dangerous’, and instead
they are detailed to take Rita for a trip around the harbour …

The Honeymooners Return/CPO Pertwee and the Lead Half Crowns
Alastair Scott Johnston’s introduction to the double recording on 22 February 1970 plus a retake
from the first show, four out-takes from the second show and the sign-off from the recording.

Sub-Lt Phillips to Leave for Dartmouth/The Mark 31 Radar
Alastair Scott Johnston’s introduction to the double recording on 1 March 1970 plus two outtakes from the first show, the link between the two programmes, three out-takes from the second
show and the sign-off from the recording with Alastair and writer Lawrie Wyman.


Lawrie Wyman
Rather than serving in the Royal Navy, Lawrie Wyman was actually a lance-corporal
in the Army. After the war, he started writing comedy for radio and television with
shows like Happy Go Lucky and The Lighter Side. Teaming up with Len Fincham, he
wrote for Morecambe and Wise, Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss. Concurrent with The
Navy Lark he wrote So I’ll Tell You and The Motor Way, and he transferred The Navy
Lark to TV as HMS Paradise. On radio he also wrote The Embassy Lark, The Big Business
Lark and Just the Job, the latter with his new co-writer, George Evans, with whom he
collaborated on scripts for Bless This House, Love Thy Neighbour and Carry On Dick.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray was born in Lincolnshire in September 1912, and he made
his professional acting debut in Much Ado About Nothing in Stratford in
1933. After working at Birmingham Rep, Westminster Theatre and at
the Old Vic, Stephen was commissioned as an Army officer during the
war. After 1945, Murray returned to the theatre and focused initially on
directing, touring Europe with his controversial interpretation of King
Lear. On stage, Stephen appeared in On the Rocks, School for Scandal and
Six Characters in Search of an Author, although his favourite performance was
as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in Edinburgh in 1965. On television,
he starred in plays such as Thunder Rock and Marriage Lines. Stephen died in April
1983 at the age of 70.


Jon Pertwee
The son of playwright Roland Pertwee, Jon was born John Devon Roland
Pertwee in Chelsea in July 1919. A keen performer, he trained at RADA in
the 1930s and was soon in demand on stage for his versatile character
work. After wartime Naval service, Jon entered radio by accident where
his vocal talents made him a star in The Waterlogged Spa and
Up the Pole amongst others. His film career included movies like
Murder at the Windmill, Will Any Gentleman? and several of the Carry
On... films while on television he was best known as the third Doctor
Who, scarecrow Worzel Gummidge and as the host of Whodunnit?
A showman all his life, Jon died in New York in May 1996.

Leslie Phillips
Despite his famous well-bred ladies’ man persona, Leslie Phillips was born
in the working class environs of Tottenham in April 1924. A child actor at
the Italia Conti School, he made his debut in Peter Pan at the Palladium.
Picking up his cultured tones from officers in the Durham Light Infantry,
Leslie appeared in comedy movies including The Smallest Show on Earth,
early Carry On films and taking over the Doctor series. On television,
he starred in Our Man at St Marks and Casanova ‘73 while his film work
includes Out of Africa and Empire of the Sun. Awarded an OBE in 1998, he
recently achieved acclaim with his one-man show On the Whole Life’s Been
Pretty Good.


Richard Caldicot
Born October 1908 in London, Richard Caldicot enjoyed a long acting
career, often playing irritable authority figures. In demand in both comic
and serious roles, his movies included The Million Pound Note, Room at
the Top and The VIPs, while on television he was seen in If the Crown Fits,
Moody in ..., Steptoe and Son, Pet Pals, The Beverly Hillbillies, Vanity Fair,
Coronation Street, Fawlty Towers, Minder, Bergerac, Lord Peter Wimsey and
Casualty. He was the only cast member of The Navy Lark to appear in the
short-lived television version, HMS Paradise, and on radio he also featured
in The Motorway Men. Working to the end of his life, Richard died in
October 1995.

Heather Chasen
Born July 1927 in Singapore, Heather Chasen and her mother escaped on
the last ship to leave before the Japanese occupation. Trained at RADA,
she did a lot of stage work including a tour with Frankie Howerd in
Hotel Paradiso, appearing with Dame Sybil Thorndyke in Call Me
Jackie and receiving a Tony nomination as the New York lead of A
Severed Head. On television she appeared as Caroline Kerr in The
Newcomers and as Valerie Pollard in Crossroads. On stage, she has
enjoyed seasons at Chichester, done open-air Shakespeare at Regent’s
Park and appeared in The Mountain Women at the Royal Court.


Michael Bates
Born in December 1920 in Jhansi in what was British India, Michael Bates was
versed in many languages and dialects which made him much in demand
as a character actor. Entering films in the 1940s he appeared in I’m All Right
Jack, Bedazzled, Oh! What a Lovely War, A Clockwork Orange and No Sex Please
– We’re British amongst others. On television, his first starring sitcom was
Turnbull’s Finest Half-Hour, followed rapidly by the role of Cyril Blamire in Last
of the Summer Wine. Diagnosed with cancer in 1975, Michael continued to
work, appearing as Rangi Ran in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum through to his death in
January 1978.

Tenniel Evans
Born in May 1926 in Nairobi, Welshman Tenniel Evans spent his
childhood in Kenya before settling in England. His great-uncle was the
illustrator Sir John Tenniel and his great-great-aunt was Marian Evans
(George Eliot). On television, he appeared in series such as The Plane
Makers, Budgie, War and Peace, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Yes
Minister, The Citadel, Inspector Morse, Casualty and Heartbeat, as well as
featuring regularly in Shine on Harvey Moon, The Two of Us and One by
One. Tenniel also performed on stage across England in everything from
Shakespeare to modern drama. Before his death in June 2009, Tenniel spent
his later years as a clergyman, writing an autobiography about his childhood
called Don’t Walk in the Long Grass.


In March 1969, producer Alastair Scott Johnston had made a final attempt to have
The Embassy Lark – the spin-off from The Navy Lark which had been running since 1966 –
revived for a fourth series, suggesting to Douglas Muggeridge, who had recently become
the Controller of BBC Radios 1 and 2, that it could be aired in the Sunday 2.30pm slot on
Radio 2 from July. As it transpired, it was felt that The Embassy Lark had runs its course with
smaller audiences and lower appreciation scores than its previous series. Nevertheless,
it was felt that there was room for another show in the same vein of humour from writer
Lawrie Wyman in the form of a different form of Lark.
The new format was entitled The Big Business Lark, and stemmed from the desire to
drive ahead with British technological development, manufacture and export which had
been inspired by Harold Wilson’s speech at the Labour Party Conference in September
1963 in which he stated that ‘the Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this
revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated measures on either side of
industry’. Then the leader of the Labour party, Wilson became Prime Minister in 1964 and
recent years had seen Britain establish itself as a leading manufacturer in various fields,
boosted slightly by 1968’s I’m Backing Britain economic campaign.
Lawrie Wyman’s drive in big business would be centred on the firm of British United
Plastics whose main creation was an indestructible new plastic, polystumer, which was
manufactured from a secret process from fields of rotting old … ahem! Chairman and
managing director was Sir Charles Bonniface, a rather old-fashioned, bombastic, pompous
and rotund figure used to getting his own way in life … and who had a frighteningly
unshakable belief that any woman’s posterior was fair game for his wandering hands.
Sir Charles thought nothing of a bit of casual smuggling on international business trips,
reckless gambling, and would happily evade his responsibilities of reporting to the
board of directors. Much of the time in his penthouse office overlooking the Thames


Embankment was spent watching cricket or children’s television programmes – such as
BBC One’s Andy Pandy, Thames’ The Sooty Show or BBC Two’s Play School.
Bringing a new energy and modern thinking to the company as a recently appointed
director was his son, Frank Bonniface, whose interest in women was every bit as potent
but conducted in a generally more subtle and suave manner. Completing the main line-up
of characters would be Mrs Edith Chambers, Sir Charles’ long-suffering secretary of twelve
years who was often on the receiving end of Sir Charles’ goosings.
Cast as Sir Charles was Jimmy Edwards, a popular comedy actor who had been a
distinguished RAF pilot during the war. Having established himself at the Windmill Theatre
in London in 1946, he appeared in Navy Mixture on the BBC Light Programme delivering
‘light hearted lectures’ as ‘Professor’ Jimmy Edwards and by 1948 was enjoying success in
the radio sketch show Take It From Here; this was written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
who then crafted the star’s television hit Whack-o! from 1956. In 1957, Jimmy Edwards
devised the long-running radio panel game Does the Team Think? and in the coming years
would see his career flourish on television with shows like The Seven Faces of Jim and
its sequels, Bold as Brass and most recently The Fosset Saga – in which he played James
Fosset, Victorian writer of the penny dreadful The Green Dwarf – for London Weekend
Television. On stage, he had enjoyed particular success with a farce entitled Big Bad Mouse
which opened in 1967; in this, Jimmy Edwards played Mr Price-Hargreaves, the pompous
boss of a factory called Chunkibix Ltd.
Playing Frank Bonniface was Frank Thornton who had previously featured as the quickthinking and girl-fancying first secretary Henry ‘Sexpot’ Pettigrew across all three series of
The Embassy Lark, and who before that had starred in HMS Paradise, a short-lived attempt
to bring The Navy Lark to television by Associated-Rediffusion. Since the last run of The
Embassy Lark, Frank had been appearing in Spike Milligan’s BBC Two series The World
of Beachcomber and in December 1968 had opened in the musical The Young Visitors at
Piccadilly in which he played a doddering old butler. Rounding off the starring cast was
Gwen Cherrell, an actress who had appeared regularly on radio since the war and was also
a writer; her previous radio credits included A Life of Bliss.
Also appearing in the projected run of thirteen shows would be Elizabeth Morgan,
Nigel Graham and Alexander John, each of whom would take on whatever subsidiary


roles were needed to drive the plot in the given week. Elizabeth Morgan had featured in
the previous run of The Navy Lark having worked with Alastair Scott Johnston since One
Man’s Meat in 1964; she was also then working on projects such as Chaucer’s Troilus and
Criseyde for Radio 3. Nigel Graham had similarly been in the most recent series of The Navy
Lark, having featured in Alastair’s 1967 series of Sexton Blake adventures. Also from Sexton
Blake came Alexander John, an actor and narrator who had also worked with Alastair on
Story Time for the BBC Home Service in 1966 and more recently on his production of Ivor
Novello’s Careless Rapture for Radio 4 in late 1968.
Recording for The Big Business Lark took place on Sundays from 15 June 1969, running
three weeks ahead of transmission at this point. The announcer was Michael de Morgan
who had worked on the final run of The Embassy Lark in 1967/8 and who had taken over as
the main voice heard at the start of the most recent editions of The Navy Lark during 1968.
The show’s signature tune was a piece called New Era composed by Ivor Slaney and Alan
Lewis and taken from the library music album Commercial Themes published by Conroy in
1969 (BMLP 066). Many other links for the series – such as New Town or Common Purpose –
also hailed from this disk, or from other Conroy LPs, augmented by cues composed by Van
Phillips for the Impress library or by Bruce Campbell from other Conroy discs.
The first show established that British United Plastics had a New York office run by an
American cousin called Halpacker. Another director who would regularly feature was
Mr Benson, while the debut edition also saw the departure of the rather snide director
in charge of overseas trade, Mr ‘Orrible’ Holroyd who would join the rival firm of Anglo
Amalgamated Plastics and return to plague Sir Charles in a later show as part of American
Chemical Industries. Regular references were also made to Coggins, an unheard and
elderly employee who was forever catching the wrong train or aeroplane and ending up in
entirely the wrong destination. The second episode saw the first appearance of Mr Stokes
from the Board of Trade – or BOT – who would regularly be approached by British United
Plastics regarding their various polystumer products. The dialogue also made numerous
topical references to Prime Minister Harold Wilson as well as other key members of the
government such as Secretary of State for Employment Barbara Castle, Chancellor of the
Exchequer Roy Jenkins and Deputy Labour Party Leader George Brown.
Described by the Radio Times as ‘A chronicle of life in and around the higher echelons of


British United Plastics Ltd’, The Big Business Lark debuted to very little fanfare on Sunday 6
July 1969, running at 2pm on Sunday afternoons on Radio 2 and with a repeat at 8.45pm
the following evening on the combined channels of Radios 1 and 2; it was a replacement
for the Kenneth Williams vehicle Stop Messing About! For the first week on air, the Radio
Times promoted the new series with a short article from Alastair Scott Johnston, illustrated
by a cartoon of Sir Charles, Frank and Mrs Chalmers. ‘This week the ‘Lark’ saga enters a new
phase,’ wrote the producer, ‘The Navy Lark, which will return some time next winter (repeats
of nine past programmes begin this Saturday on Radio 4 at 1.15), remains consistently popular,
and The Embassy Lark had many loyal fans. So here’s a new one. All Larks are, in some way,
an exercise in personal survival in an unkind world, and all their characters are students of
that indispensable little volume, The Prince by Machiavelli. This is certainly true of Sir Charles
Bonniface (Jimmy Edwards), Chairman and Managing Director of British United Plastics Ltd.,
a multi-million-pound concern upon which a large part of the British export drive depends.
Sir Charles is a wicked old devil, impish, ruthless, mischievous — and clever. Assisted by his
secretary, Mrs Chalmers (Gwen Cherrell), he not only has to make a profit, but he has to fend
off the younger generation, and particularly his son Frank (Frank Thornton),who wants his job
and his ‘perks’. In government circles a three-million-pound clanger can be comfortably ‘lost’
in the accounts, but in business there’ll always be some clot of a shareholder asking short sharp
questions to which there are only dodgy old answers. Sir Charles does survive and the business
does make a profit—and through it all, somehow, the old man remains likeable, as long as one
remembers that, to him, honesty is the best policy only when no other course of action is open.
We hope you enjoy this new saga.’
There was no recording on Sunday 6 July, and so a double recording took place the
following weekend for the fourth and fifth shows; the fifth episode introduced the
character of Stanley, the liftman from Birmingham. Again, there was no recording on
Sunday 20 July, and when production resumed on Sunday 27 it was without Alastair
Scott Johnston who was now on leave for just over a month. While Alastair would retain
the credit for setting up the show, scripts and casts, for the next few weeks the actual
Sunday recordings would be supervised by veteran comedy producer Peter Titheradge
who had championed fresh humour at the BBC since the 1950s and had recently returned
to producing in an advisory capacity on I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again and the panel game


Many a Slip. This sixth edition also featured a comment from Sir Charles about Apollo
missions to the moon; Neil Armstrong had stepped out onto the lunar surface in the first
manned landing on Monday 21 July.
The sixth show was promoted in the Radio Times with the short article The Sunday
Afternoon Lark which established the show’s format along with a photograph of Jimmy
Edwards, Frank Thornton and Gwen Cherrell. A fortnight later, the billing for the eighth
edition was emphasised by a reprint of the cartoon from the launch article.
After another week’s gap in recording for Sunday 17 August, the recording of Sunday
24 was also supervised by Peter Titheradge. However, for the tenth recording on Sunday
31 – in which the company technical expert Miss Short was introduced – the deputising
producer at the recording was John Browell who had started producing variety shows in
1954 and had gone on to helm The Goon Show, Benny Hill Time, Down With ..., A Life of Bliss,
The Morecambe and Wise Show and The Likely Lads amongst others. Alastair returned from
leave in mid-September to take over recordings from the penultimate edition on Sunday
14 September. The final show – recording on Sunday 21 September – tackled the subject
of advertising, with topical references to commercials of the time such as the Daz soap
powder two-for-one swap, not being able to tell the difference between Stork Margarine
and butter, and driving sports cars along beaches to join the Getaway people using Super
National petrol.
The final edition of The Big Business Lark aired on Sunday 28 September with a repeat
on Monday 29 September; the following week it was replaced by the return of The Al Read
Show. The executives and employees of British United Plastics were destined never to
return to the airwaves … nor to receive any visits from the crew of HMS Troutbridge as with
their predecessors at the Tratvian Embassy.



Episodes written by Lawrie Wyman
Produced by Alastair Scott Johnston
Starring: Jimmy Edwards (Sir Charles Bonniface, Chairman and Managing Director), Frank
Thornton (Frank Bonniface, his son), Gwen Cherrell (Mrs Edith Chalmers)
Announcer: Michael de Morgan
Note: none of the episodes were originally given titles. The descriptions here come from the closing
announcements of each show

EPISODE ONE: Leading You Through
Broadcast 6 July 1969 (recorded 15 June 1969)
With Alexander John (Mr Holroyd, a director/Mr Halpacker), Nigel Graham(Mr Benson, a director),
Elizabeth Morgan (Mavis/BOAC Stewardess).
There is a problem with the managerial washrooms at British United Plastics; the synthetic
plastic fittings made by the company contribute to a hazardous build-up of static electricity
which is rather embarrassing when the company’s whole advertising campaign is that any
home fitted with their products is a clean home …

EPISODE TWO: Cruising on the River
Broadcast 13 July 1969 (recorded 22 June 1969)
With Nigel Graham (Mr Potter/Mr Benson), Alexander John (Mr Stokes/Mr Barnes),
Elizabeth Morgan (Phoebe).
Sir Charles feels that the best use of the company computer is to have it select the best players
for the next MCC game. Meanwhile, Mr Stokes of Comfy Campers approaches the firm; having
had polystumer anoraks manufactured for them, they now want to branch out into speed
boats … with some trials in the Thames that might be of interest to the Ministry of Defence!


EPISODE THREE: Taking You Through
Broadcast 20 July 1969 (recorded 29 June 1969)
With Nigel Graham (Mr Benson, a director), Alexander John (German Receptionist), Elizabeth Morgan
(Helga/BOAC Stewardess).
Frank is furious when his father disallows his expenses for 4/9 … especially when Sir Charles’
own expenses include stirrups for his polo pony. As the company directors brace themselves for
a family feud, Sir Charles decides to replace Benson on an overseas trip to a German trade fair …
where the Yokosaki company of Japan seem determined to pirate their product …

EPISODE FOUR: Disposing of a Relative
Broadcast 27 July 1969 (recorded 13 July 1969)
With Elizabeth Morgan (Cicely, his [Sir Charles’] sister), Nigel Graham (Hoskins),
Alexander John (Mr Halpacker).
Shares at British United Plastics are down by a penny … and that means a visit from Sir Charles’
sister Cicely demanding to know if this is due to severe mismanagement at boardroom level.
Soon Sir Charles has lost his own office and is under siege in his home; his one chance is to lure
his sister away on holiday …

EPISODE FIVE: Playing Ducks
Broadcast 3 August 1969 (recorded 13 July 1969)
With Alexander John (David Evans/Stanley the Liftman), Nigel Graham (Claude), Elizabeth Morgan
All firms now have to honour free gift offers, and this results in Sir Charles receiving a visit
from an annoyed customer, Mr David Llewellyn Gareth Evans of Cardiff, who bought a pint of
polystumer paint but never got a Donald-Duck-shaped toothbrush mug. And since none are left,
some will have to be made specially by the designer of the company’s new sculpture …


EPISODE SIX: Taking Orders
Broadcast 10 August 1969 (recorded 27 July 1969)
With Alexander John (Mr Stokes/Mr Holroyd/Stanley the Liftman), Elizabeth Morgan (Debby, his [Mr
Stokes’] secretary/Barbara/Miss Hertzhymer), Nigel Graham (Igor/Mr Benson/Mr Bishop).
Sir Charles is worried when he receives a letter from the Embassy of the USSR; have his
international trade fair indiscretions caught up with him? In fact, the Soviet Union would
like to order 500,000 tents made from polystumer for their army … and so this places British
United Plastics in direct competition with American Chemical Industries, and a figure from the
company’s past …

EPISODE SEVEN: Strike Breaking
Broadcast 17 August 1969 (recorded 3 August 1969)
With Alexander John (Mr Stokes/Stanley the Liftman), Nigel Graham (Welsh Striker/Blasted Ernie/Igor
Grazinov), Elizabeth Morgan (Welsh Striker/Board of Trade Secretary).
Having made most of the electricians redundant, Sir Charles decides to repair his office buzzer
himself … only to fuse the lights, jam the lift and send the remaining electrician off to convene
at Transport House. However, Mr Stokes at the Board of Trade is more concerned as to why the
Cardiff factory has not shipped the order of Russian tents …

Broadcast 24 August 1969 (recorded 10 August 1969)
With Nigel Graham (Mr Earp/Chinese Restaurant Owner/Angry Customer), Elizabeth Morgan (his
[Mr Earp’s] daughter Birdie/Maisy/Gladys/Tricia), Alexander John (nearly everyone else - Stanley the
Liftman/Pickwick Arms Proprietor/Carlton Grande Manager/Italian Maitre D’).
After the recent behaviour of Sir Charles at the company’s annual dinners, there are now no
hotels left that will accept his bookings. At the same time, the firm receives a visit from Mr Earp
of American Novelty Toys and Fun Things Inc who wants to bring English culture to the USA … in
the form of blow-up polystumer reproductions of Anne Hathaway’s cottage!


EPISODE NINE: Initiating You Through
Broadcast 31 August 1969 (recorded 24 August 1969)
With Nigel Graham (Ellington King), Alexander John (Stanley the Liftman), Elizabeth Morgan
In order to get information on his competitors, Sir Charles has plans to become the new Grand
Master of the Royal Society of Vendors of Plastics. Unfortunately, not only has he lost the vital
book from which he needs to learn the Grand Master’s oath, but he has also received a letter from
an anonymous wartime associate who reminds him of ‘Operation Look Out Here It Comes’ …

EPISODE TEN: Searching For Liberty
Broadcast 7 September 1969 (recorded 31 August 1969)
With Nigel Graham (Mr Hintking/Mr Benson/Taxi Driver), Elizabeth Morgan (Miss Short/Nurse),
Alexander John (Basher Fremantle/Mr Turnball).
Sir Charles assembles the directors to discuss the New York Home Hobbies Exhibition display
stand and proposes that the motif to be crafted from polystumer should be a forty-foot-high
statue of him. But the firm lacks the technical expertise to tackle this project, until Frank
encounters his old schoolmate ‘Basher’ Fremantle who is brilliant but rather accident-prone …

EPISODE ELEVEN: Contracting Out
Broadcast 14 September 1969 (recorded 7 September 1969)
With Nigel Graham (The Sultan/Oldest Employee of BUP), Alexander John (Stanley the Liftman/Zoo
Keeper), Elizabeth Morgan (Myrtle Burton/Fatima/Harem).
Edith is upset; during her birthday treat, Sir Charles disgraced himself with Tornado Trixie. An
opportunity to placate her is the forthcoming Miss British United Plastics competition which
will be held during a visit from a Sultan who wants the firm to provide camel-proof polystumer
pipelines for his oil wells …


Broadcast 21 September 1969 (recorded 14 September 1969)
With Alexander John (Mr Stokes/Corporal), Elizabeth Morgan (Miss Short/Mr Stokes’ secretary), Nigel
Graham (Mr Burke/Lt Col Banks).
Unfortunately, all 50,000 sheets of polystumer manufactured for Glorious Garden Greenhouses
Ltd have had the bolt holes drilled in the wrong place. Even more unfortunately, polystumer is
indestructible, so the company cannot even dispose of the unwanted stock in their destructor
unit. But maybe they can sell them to the Ministry of Defence …

Broadcast 28 September 1969 (recorded 21 September 1969)
With Alexander John (Samuel J Packenacker), Elizabeth Morgan (Samantha/French Usherette/Elsie
Podmore/Myrtle), Nigel Graham (Talbot Smythe/Doorman).
Sir Charles is deeply unhappy with British United Plastics’ new television commercial which
makes him look like a nana in charge of an empire of hippies. And he needs something effective
on air imminently to attract the attention of the television-mad Samuel J Packenacker, head of
Transglobal Pictures, so that he will purchase vast quantities of polystumer film …