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Cast members of The Navy Lark, together with the emblem of HMS Troutbridge. From left to right; Back: Ronnie Barker, Jon Pertwee, Michael Bates, Tenniel Evans. Center: Stephen Murray, Richard Caldicot, Leslie Phillips. Front: Heather Chasen and Judy Cornwell.

IntroductionEdit

The Navy Lark was a BBC radio comedy written by Laurie Wyman and George Evans about the crew of The Royal Navy ship HMS Troutbridge, (a pun on HMS Troubridge, an actual Royal Navy destroyer) based in HMNB Portsmouth, though in series 1 and 2 the ship and crew were stationed offshore at an unnamed location known simply as "The Island." In series 2 this island was revealed to be owned by Lt Cdr Stanton. The series was transmitted on the BBC Light Programme and subsequently BBC Radio 2. It was produced by Alastair Scott-Johnston. Laurie Wyman conceived the idea and wrote the scripts (with George Evans from quite early on, but who was not name checked until the 12th Series onwards). For most of its run, it starred Jon Pertwee, Leslie Phillips and Stephen Murray.

The show was first aired on The Light Programme in 1959 and ran for thirteen series until 1976 making it the second longest running radio programme the BBC has made.

The main characters of The Navy Lark are: Chief Petty Officer Pertwee, played by Jon Pertwee; Sub Lieutenant Phillips, played by Leslie Phillips and The Number One, which was played by Dennis Price in the first series and Stephen Murray from then on. The rest of the regular characters were played by Richard Caldicot, Ronnie Barker, Tenniel Evans, Michael Bates and Heather Chasen.[1]

PlotEdit

Programmes were self-contained, although there was continuity within the series, and sometimes a reference to a previous episode might be made. A normal episode consisted of Sub Lieutenant Phillips, scheming Chief Petty Officer Pertwee and bemused Lt. Murray trying to get out of trouble they created for themselves without their direct superior, Commander (later Captain) "Thunderguts" Povey finding out. Scenes frequently featured a string of eccentric characters, often played by Ronnie Barker or Jon Pertwee

Republic of PotarneylandEdit

The Republic of Potarneyland, a country situated somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, is featured in several episodes. Over the course of the series, it is revealed that Potarneyland had recently been granted independence from Great Britain, and had joined NATO because the Potanis considered it to be a "free gift scheme". During Series 3 of The Navy Lark, a Potarneyland frigate, the Poppadom, appears in several episodes manned by various Potani officers voiced by Michael Bates and Ronnie Barker.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

The series used accents and characterised voices to supplement the humour, as well as a good deal of innuendo.

The show's theme tune was a traditional hornpipe called St Ninian's Isle. The programme also featured musical breaks with a main harmonica theme by Tommy Reilly and several enduring catchphrases, most notably from Sub Lieutenant Phillips: "Corrrrr", "Ooh, nasty...", "Oh lumme!", and "Left hand down a bit". "Ev'rybody down!" was a phrase of CPO Pertwee's, necessitated by a string of incomprehensible navigation orders by Phillips, and followed by a sound effect of the ship crashing. Also, whenever Pertwee had some menial job to be done, Able Seaman Johnson was always first in line to do it, inevitably against his will: "You're rotten, you are!". The telephone response from Naval Intelligence (Ronnie Barker), was always an extremely gormless and dimwitted delivery of "'Ello, Intelligence 'ere" or "This is intelligence speakinTemplate:'".

Other recurring verbal features were the invented words "humgrummits" and "floggle-toggle" which served to cover all manner of unspecified objects ranging from foodstuffs to naval equipment.

ReceptionEdit

The series made household names of Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee and Richard Caldicot, but Ronnie Barker's versatile contributions were only recognised after he had become better known through television comedy. Michael Bates later appeared on television as Blamire in Last of the Summer Wine and as Rangi Ram in It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Judy Cornwell was later to appear in the short series Moody and Pegg, but became best known when she was cast as Daisy, one of Hyacinth Bucket's sisters in Keeping Up Appearances. Dennis Price returned for a guest appearance in the fourth series episode A Hole Lieutenant

Repeats can regularly be heard on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Sequels and adaptationsEdit

There were several radio sequels, including The Embassy Lark and The Big Business Lark. The TV Lark was intended to be a replacement for The Navy Lark starting with what would have been the series' fifth season. This situation came about due to the head of light entertainment believing that "forces" based humour had had its day and television was the next "big thing" so Lawrie was told to create a show with the same cast in an independent TV station situation. Alastair Scott Johnston and Lawrie Wyman tried to stop this folly but were overruled, hence the arrival of The TV Lark. The entire cast had been drummed out of the service (as the announcer puts it) and hired by Troutbridge TV Ltd. Janet Brown joined the cast due to the absence of Heather Chasen for this season. However, mainly due to public pressure, the production team of Alastair Scott Johnston and Lawrie Wyman managed to revert the show back to nautical capers, even though episode ten of The TV Lark revealed that CPO Pertwee had arranged to flog almost the entirety of HMS Troutbridge. Storylines in The TV Lark nudged back to Naval origins across the ten shows until they were finally reunited with Troutbridge and acceptable storylines once more. 10 episodes were made but unfortunately Episode 9 is lost.

In 1959 a film version was made, written by Laurie Wyman and Sid Colin and directed by Gordon Parry. It starred Cecil Parker, Ronald Shiner, Elvi Hale, Leslie Phillips and Nicholas Phipps.

Wyman co-wrote with three other writers a television sitcom HMS Paradise (Associated-Rediffusion, 1964-5) set in a naval shore establishment in which Caldicot played Captain Turvey, but only one series was made. The entire series has been wiped, but a rumour exists that one episode still exists.

The show was condensed from 30 to 27 minutes by Transcription services, then the discs were then exported around the world except for South Africa. As Springbok Radio was a commercial station the BBC refused to allow the station to re-broadcast the British shows so the station acquired the scripts from Lawrie and edited them to around twenty five minutes, to accommodate the commercial breaks. The revised show was recorded by them in front of a live audience. All the UK associations were kept for the Durban audiences which must have been incomprehensible on occasions. Excerpts of these broadcasts can be heard on the Springbok celebration site and occasionally Pumamouse.

Episode guideEdit

1st SeriesEdit

(March 29th 1959- July 12th 1959)

Navy Lark Season 1
The Missing Jeep I Operation Fag End I Number One's Chair I The Fairground Lights I The Comfort Fund I Stuck Up The Inlet ; The Admiral's Party I The Hank of Heather I The Multiple Mines I The Gun Mechanism Test I The Whittlesea Bay Yacht Regatta I The Psychology Test I A Watch On The Initiative Test I An Exercise In Filming I The Smuggling Spy I The Whittlesea Carnival and Fete

2nd SeriesEdit

(October 16th 1959 - April 8th 1960)

Navy Lark Season 2
New at the Helm / Fatso's Box Brownie / Bringing Back The Barge / The Mock Action / Going Dutch / The Figurehead / Gunboat To Gumba / Johnson Finds Treasure / The Charter Trip To Antarctica / Cementing Relations / Strike up the Band / The Route March / A Trip up the Thames / Radar Talk Down System / A Crisp Romance / The Lighthouse Lark / Pertwee Posted To Portsmouth / Johnson's Diet / Tug of War / Return to Potarneyland / The Cross Country Run / The Morning After / The Admiral's Present / Secret Mission to Calais / Mr Murray Goes Sick / The Portarneyland Fishing Limit I Wrens Reunion at the Festival Hall

3rd SeriesEdit

(November 2nd 1960 - March 16th 1961)

Navy Lark Season 3
In Portsmouth For A Re-fit I Refitting Ebeneezer Pertwee‘s Tug I Sea Trials Of The Poppadom I Mutiny Aboard TroutbridgeI The Explosive Biscuits I Sir Willoughby Takes Over An Island I Mount Rumpus Atoll I Mr Murray's Houseboat I Johnson’s Birthday I Povey’s Unexpected Leave I Families' Day I Falmouth Ghost Ship I Onabushkin Flu I The Efficiency Expert I The Floggle Grummit Missile I The Hitch Hiking Counterfeiter I Commodore Goldstein I Mr Phillips Has Navigation Tuition I CPO Pertwee And The Laundry I The Surprise Wedding

4th SeriesEdit

(September 15th 1961 - March 9th 1962)

Navy Lark Season 4
Returning From Leave I Captain Povey's Spy I The Secret Of Nessie’s Youth I The Northampton Hunt Ball I Hijacked I Admiral Troutbridge I Relatives And Reservations I Humgrummits On The High Seas I Are Captain And Mrs Povey Married? I Cine Cameras At Sea I The Citizen Adjustment Course I A Hole Lieutenant I Spy Catching In Casablanca I Mount Pot Erupts I Captain Povey's Shop I Leading Seaman Goldstein's Party I The Invitation I The Cornish Excercise I A Strange Hobby I Mr Phillips Gets Engaged I The Sinking Of The Bubble Car I Long Jonathan Pertwee I The Admiral's Accident Report I Over The Sea To Rosyth I The Return Of Sir Frederick Flatley I The Ship's Concert

Christmas special 1962Edit

S-01 unaired Calling The Antarctic - Not broadcast in the UK.

The TV Lark 1963Edit


The TV Lark
Opening Night ; Advertising Drive I The Party Political Broadcast I Back to Portsmouth I Serial Programming I The African Incident I Yours, or MINE!!! I The Portarneyland Election I TV Lark Episode 9 I Back in the Navy

5th SeriesEdit

(April 5th 1963 - May 10th 1963)

Navy Lark Season 5
First Day Out Of Dock I The New Barmaid I A Deliberate Bashing I Whittlesea Regatta I HMS Troutbridge Gets A Rocket I The Ghost Ship

6th SeriesEdit

(September 27th 1963 - January 31st 1964)

Navy Lark Season 6
Wren Chasen Returns I On The Carpet I The Bungalese Spies I Troutbridge’s Party I Rescuing Admirals I Demise Of The Depth Charges I The Struggle For Promotion I Fred Computables I Stormy Weather I Chasing The Kepeac I The Submerged Island I The Sicilian Secret Agent I German's Troutbridge I Confirming Povey's Rank I The Calais Dock Strike I Johnson's Memoirs I The Emperor of Tratvia I Open Day I Stuck on a Sandbank

7th SeriesEdit

(Jul 11th 1965 - October 3rd 1965)

Navy Lark Season 7
Taking Some Liberties I Smugglers in the Solent I Mr Murray is Victimised I The Poveys Move House I Captain Povey Reports Sick I Admiral Pertwee's Fleet I Let Loose with a Chopper I Making a Right Pig's Breakfast I The Mysterious Pudding Mine I The Hovercraft Training Course I Sabotaged Floggle-Toggle Box I The Portarneyland Training Excercise I Going on Leave to Croydon

Christmas Special 1965Edit

S-02 unaired Not broadcast in UK.

8th SeriesEdit

(September 4th 1966 - November 27th 1966)

Navy Lark Season 8
Searching for Their Ship (a.k.a. Where is Troutbridge?) I Float a Peddle Fiddle I Gumming Up the Works (a.k.a. A Sticky Business) I Buoys Will Be Buoys I Steamship Day I Farewell to HMS Varsity I Blowing Themselves Up (a.k.a. The Army Lark) I Buying Tickets (a.k.a. Just the Ticket) I Mr Phillips’ Promotion I Pertwee and the Tratvian Beer I The PM Papa I Getting Rid of Pertwee I Off to Sea at Last

9th SeriesEdit

(July 2nd 1967 - November 12th 1967)

Navy Lark Season 9
Back from the Antartic I Fishing in Troubled Waters I Cleaning Up I Doing a Distracial I The Naval Review I Going Caravaning I Having a Bit of Trouble with the French ; Tangling with the Law I Mr Murray's Endurance Course I Women in the Wardroom I Troutbridge's Silver Jubilee I Computerising I A Russian Rendezvous I The Bugged and Burgled Beer I Picking up the Poppadom I Cuthbert Joins the Navy I The Flying Machine I Sub Lt. Phillips at Dartmouth I A Fishy Business I Troutbridge in Quarantine

10th Series 1968Edit

(October 13th 1968 - February 9th 1969)

Navy Lark Season 10
Lighting Up I The Redundancy Drive I Dredging Their Way Through I Instructing Their New CO in the Ways I Visiting Broadstairs I Accredited I Have Been Appearing I Avoiding Redundancy I Have Been Exercising I Crashing Their Way Through I Presented the Padre I Blowing Up I Shot At I Having Been Masquerading I Have Been Breaking Up I Weathering I Bunging Up I Assisting the Police with Their Enquiries for the Last Time in the Series

11th Series 1969Edit

(December 28th 1969 - April 12th 1970)

Navy Lark Season 11
The Squatters I Admiral Hunting I The Promotion Ladder I Stranded I Sir Willoughby's Party I Fleet Initiative Test I C.P.O. Pertwee's Long Service Medal I The Phenomenal Pertwee Tug I The Security Clampdown I The Anniversary and the Washing I The Forbodians Hijack Troutbridge I Getting Spliced i The Honeymooners Return i C.P.O. Pertwee and the Lead Half Crowns i Dartmouth Naval College Has Had A Narrow Escape I The Mark 31 Radar

12th Series 1971Edit

(May 16th 1971 - July 25th 1971)

Navy Lark Season 12
The Put-A-Horse-Out-To-Graze Fund I Impressions For Survival I The Beard-Growing Race I The Mysterious Radio Signals I Operation Recovery I The Slogan Contest I Sir Willoughby at Shanghai I Operation Cowes Barge I Number One's Anniversary I The Loch Ness Monster I The Forbodian Attaché

13th Series 1972Edit

(March 26th 1972 - June 18th 1972)

Navy Lark Season 13
The TV Documentary I The P.O.W. Escape Exercise I Number One's Married Quarters I Operating for Profit I The Bumble Spit Lighthouse Affair I The Tongipouhaha Treasure I The US Navigator Swap I Son of a Sea Lord I Hypnotising Ramona I The Master of Sardinia I Opportunity Knockers I Friday The 13th I The New NAAFI

14th Series 1973Edit

(July 29th 1973 - October 21st 1973)

Navy Lark Season 14
The Montezuela Revolution ; The Island Swordfish ; Bunged in the Brig (a.k.a. Bunged in the Rattle) ; Kidnapped Down Under ; The Digital Isles Go Unstable ; Egbert Hitches a Ride ; Povey an Admiral at Last ; The Bergan Horse Trials ; Captain Povey's Wig ; Brain Pill ; Operation Showcase ; Living the High Life (a.k.a. CPO Pertwee Yachtmonger) ; The Talpinium Shell

15th Series 1975Edit

(November 9th 1975 - January 18th 1976)

Season 15
Sequel to the Talpinium Shell I NANA I Helen, the New Wren I Relief for Station 150 I Black is Beautiful I Sidney and the Stamp I Riding to Victory (a.k.a. Commander Murray Becomes a Showjumper) I Horrible Horace I Officer's and Gent's Lib I The Case of the HGM Mark 5 I Uncle Wilberforce Pertwee
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Special 1977Edit

  • 245. S-03 Jul 16 77 Queen's Silver Jubilee Edition

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

SourcesEdit

  1. Introduction
  2. Obituary of Ronnie Barker in The Times (small mention of The Navy Lark near the end of the first page)[1]
  3. Obituary of Tenniel Evens in The Independent