Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Recently I was in a discussion with a friend about the time period in which Dad's Army is set. The war only lasted for six years yet the series ran for almost a decade. We discussed how certain episodes mention specific aspects of the war, allowing them to be dated to a certain month or year. As a result, I have watched every Dad's Army episode and have produced a chronology for the series based on on-screen evidence.

The whole series takes place across the span of about two and a half years, from May 1940 to autumn 1942.

Series 1 takes place across May 1940 to August 1940.
Series 2 presumably takes place somewhere in the late summer, autumn or winter of 1940 to 1941.
Series 3 takes place from spring 1941 to summer 1941.
Series 4 takes place from summer to autumn 1941.
Series 5 seems to be the anomaly as this goes back in time to summer and autumn 1941 so it appears to be set at the same time as series 4 and must run concurrently alongside.
Series 6 jumps ahead to early 1942.
Series 7 also takes place in early 1942
Series 8 takes place in spring/early summer of 1942
Series 9 takes place in the latter half of 1942.

Series 1

001 “The Man and the Hour
The calendar on Mainwaring’s desk in the bank quite clearly says 14 May 1940. In the same scene Mainwaring, Wilson, Pike and Miss King all listen to Anthony Eden’s speech on the wireless about the formation of the LDV; historically, this did indeed take place on 14 May (although in reality, the broadcast occurred in the evening).

002 “Museum Piece
An announcement at the beginning of the episode says that it has “only been a few days since they answered their country’s call”, which places this episode in mid-May 1940.

003 “Command Decision
At the end of the episode, Mainwaring receives a phone call to say that the LDV has now been renamed as Home Guard. This actually occurred on 22 July 1940.

004 “The Enemy Within the Gates
No references I could spot

005 “The Showing Up of Corporal Jones
No references I could spot

006 “Shooting pains
Jones says that the previous episode (“The Showing Up of Corporal Jones”) took place “last week”.

Series 2

007 “Operation Kilt”
Pike mentions that he is 17.

008 “The Battle of Godfrey’s Cottage”
No references I could spot

009 “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker”
This is one of the Dad’s Army episodes that is missing from the archives, so I was not able to watch it. There are audio recordings, I believe, but I haven’t heard them.

010 “Sgt. Wilson’s Little Secret”
No references I could spot

011 “A Stripe for Frazer”
Missing Episode

012 “Under Fire”
Missing Episode

Series 3

013 “The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones
No references I could spot

014 “Battle School
No references I could spot

015 “The Lion Has Phones
When Jones phones the cinema, they mistakenly believe he is enquiring about the film One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. This film was actually released in UK cinemas on 27 June 1942. [This is something of an anachronism for a number of reasons. Firstly, three episodes later, in “Room at the Bottom”, we learn about the sinking of the Bismarck, which occurred in May 1941, a whole year before the release of this film. Secondly, the Home Guard in this episode are still wearing their khaki denim uniforms; by 1942, when this film was released, these had been replaced by the standard woollen battledress uniform.]

016 “The Bullet is Not for Firing
No references I could spot

017 “Something Nasty in the Vault
According to a deleted scene this episode is set exactly one year after the first episode (“The Man and the Hour”), placing it as 14 May 1941. In fact, a close examination of the calendar in the bank does indeed show the date as being 14 May 1941.

018 “Room at the Bottom
This episode takes place in May 1941, about a year after “The Man and the Hour”, as evidenced when Frazer states that Mainwaring had been holding his commission with no right “for a whole year”. This is further confirmed when the Verger announces that the German battleship Bismarck has been sunk. The sinking of the Bismarck occurred on 27 May 1941.

019 “Big Guns
No references I could spot
020 “The Day the Balloon Went Up”
No references I could spot

021 “War Dance
Wilson says that Pike is “going on 19”, which would make him 18. In the series 2 episode “Operation Kilt”, Pike says that he is 17, which means he has had a birthday between then and now. It also implies that he is approaching his 19th birthday in this episode. Presumably this means that Pike’s birthday is sometime in the summer, most likely in August.

022 “Menace from the Deep
No references I could spot

023 “Branded
In a speech, Mainwaring says that the platoon has been together for “14 months”. Since the platoon was formed in May 1940, that would place this episode in July 1941.

024 “Man Hunt
Mainwaring tells the platoon that this war has been in progress now for “18 months”. Since World War II started in September 1939, that would place this episode in March 1941. He then goes on to say that “Rudolph Hess was dropped into this country by parachute some 6 weeks ago.” Historically, Hess flew to Scotland on 10 May 1941. Plus six weeks that makes it 21 June 1941. Not only does this contradict the date Mainwaring gave in the previous sentence, both of these statements contradict the dates given in previous episodes. The obvious solution, of course, is that Mainwaring is actually mistaken in both of his estimates. Rather than 18 months, June 1941 would actually be closer to 21 months since the outbreak of the war. However, assuming that the 18 month comment is merely a mistake on Mainwaring’s part, his second comment still places this episode in June, when in the previous episode his comments led us to believe it was July. Once again, I suppose it is possible that in the previous episode he was rounding up, or in this episode he was rounding down.
Another solution would be that if this episode does indeed take place in June, and the previous episode takes place in July, then we could just switch the episode order around. This would actually make more sense, because at the end of “Branded”, Godfrey is made the platoon’s medic, but in this episode he does not start wearing his medic’s armband; that does not occur until the final episode of series 3, “Sons of the Sea”.
The current order of episodes is this:
023 “Branded
024 “Man Hunt
025 “No Spring for Frazer
026 “Sons of the Sea
But if we switch the order as follows, it would make much more sense:
024 “Man Hunt
025 “No Spring for Frazer
023 “Branded
026 “Sons of the Sea

025 “No Spring for Frazer
No references I could spot
026 “Sons of the Sea
No references I could spot
Series 4
027 “The Big Parade
Mainwaring mentions that Al Jolsen said “You ain’t heard nothing yet” twelve years ago. The line he quotes is from the movie The Jazz Singer, the first Hollywood motion picture with synchronised dialogue. The film was released in the USA on 6 October 1927, but did not premiere in the UK until 27 September 1928. Presumably Mainwaring is referring to the UK date. 1928 plus 12 years is 1940, but we know that this episode is in at least 1941, so either Mainwaring is mistaken, or he and his wife saw the film in 1929 rather than the year it came out.
Private Sponge mentions that the rams are “a bit funny this time of year”, implying it is mating season. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that most sheep have a breeding season in the autumn, so this episode could well be set anywhere around September to November.
The warden sees the platoon looking dishevelled and dirty and is excited because he can make a derogatory remark to them, but when the time comes he cannot think of anything clever. He states that he had been waiting “months” for such an opportunity. Obviously this does not help us date the episode, but it does give us an indication of how long he has held a grudge against Mainwaring and his men. Since the platoon has been formed for over a year, but the warden mentions only months, we can conclude that it was not from the outset that he held a vendetta against them. Logically this would only have developed over time, and in fact, it was only really in series 3 that he seems to develop the personal rivalry with Mainwaring. Before that he only seemed to tell them to keep it down while he gave a lecture.
In this episode, the platoon are wearing the standard 37-pattern battledress, which has replaced the denim battle dress they were originally issued. Historically, it was announced in December 1940 that the Home Guard were kitted out with proper battle dress, as and when stocks became available. Since this episode is set after July 1941, and probably in the autumn of that year, it has clearly taken some time for stocks of the uniform to reach the Walmington-on-Sea platoon.

028 “Don’t Forget the Diver
No references I could spot

029 “Boots, Boots, Boots
No references I could spot

030 “Sgt – Save My Boy!
Mainwaring mentions “our Russian ally”. The formal Anglo-Soviet alliance was signed by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union on 12 July 1941, so this episode is set at least after this date. Mainwaring then mentions Hitler and is crony Mussolini, implying that Germany and Italy are still allies, placing the episode before 25 July 1943, which was when Mussolini was dismissed from power by King Victor Emmanuel III, and the subsequent armistice between Italy and the Allies on 8 September 1943.
Wilson says he’s known Pike for 19 years. Since we can suppose that Pike is now 19 (see 021 “War Dance”), it means that Wilson has known Pike since he was born.

031 “Don’t Fence Me In
The Italian prisoners mention the war in Africa, which was fought between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943.

032 “Absent Friends
Mainwaring says that he has “worked so hard for months” to mould his platoon into a bunch of fighting men. Though he is not mistaken in this statement, the platoon has actually been formed for over a year, possibly close to 18 months by this point, assuming they are still in autumn 1941 at this time.

033 “Put That Light Out
Walker mentions Hess again (see: 024 “Man Hunt”)

034 “The Two and a Half Feathers
Jones is attending the 42nd Annual Reunion of the Battle of Omdurman. The Battle of Omdurman took place on 2 September 1898, so we can presume that this episode is also in September. However, 1898 plus 42 is 1940, but we know this series is set in 1941. It is entirely possible that the 1st Annual Reunion occurred two years after the battle.
Private Clarke says that he joined the army 44 years ago and gives the year as 1897. This does correspond with the current year being 1941.

035 “Mum’s Army
No references I could spot

036 “The Test
No references I could spot

037 “A. Wilson (Manager)?
No references I could spot

038 “Uninvited Guests
No references I could spot

039 “Fallen Idol
Captain Reed says he has been running his school of explosives for “over a year now”.

Christmas Special

040 “Battle of the Giants!
It is pouring down with rain, to which Hodges observes, “Typical English summer”. If it is indeed summer, that would set this special sometime between series 3 and 4, for the summer of 1941, or sometime after series 6, for the summer of 1942.
Alternatively, it could still be September 1941, where series 4 left off, and Hodges statement could be a commentary on the weather rather than the season. The latter seems the more likely option.

Series 5

041 “Asleep in the Deep
No references I could spot
042 “Keep Young and Beautiful
No references I could spot

043 “A Soldier’s Farewell
Mainwaring says they haven’t had a raid in “over a week now”. Since there was an air raid two episodes ago in “Asleep in the Deep” we can assume that this episode is set at least a fortnight since then.

044 “Getting the Bird
The calendar in Jones’s butchers shop says June. The only thing I can conclude is that Jones has forgotten to turn the calendar page over, because June 1941 was during the end of series 3 and the platoon were still wearing their old denim uniforms back then. And they can’t yet be in June 1942 as that won’t come round until after series 6. Since series 5 seems to be set alongside series 4, it is most likely July or August. If it is still early July, it is entirely possible that Jones hasn’t yet turned his calendar over.

045 “The Desperate Drive of Corporal Jones
Presumably this episode is set sometime in late summer or early autumn because Mainwaring says that he has bought himself an overcoat “before the really chilly weather sets in”. It is also mentioned that it is “muggy” for the time of year.

046 “If the Cap Fits…
Frazer says that it is a “perfectly beautiful summer’s evening”.
Frazer then goes on to list previous dates on which Captain Mainwaring has given pointless lectures: on “November 6 1940” he gave a lecture on why the Germans don’t play cricket, and on “January 28 1941” he gave a lecture on how Hitler bites the carpet when he’s angry. Both of these dates would place these lectures sometime in series 2 or early series 3.

047 “The King was in his Counting House
No references I could spot

048 “All is Safely Gathered In
The story revolves around the gathering in of the harvest, which traditionally takes place in late summer or early autumn.

049 “When Did you Last See Your Money?
The calendar in the bank says it is the 25th, though I cannot see the day or month.
There is a poster in the town hall saying “Sunday June 11th” and mentions a “Golden Jubilee”. I’m not sure what jubilee it is referring to, but the only years around the war where 11 June was a Sunday were 1939 and 1944.

050 “Brain Versus Brawn
No references I could spot

051 “A Brush with the Law
Mainwaring is taken to court accused of leaving the light in the vicar’s office on. The date of the alleged offence is given as 7 September.
Since series 5 seems to run concurrently alongside series 4, it should be noted that this episode takes place about a week after the events of “The Two and a Half Feathers”.

052 “Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel
The opening shot of this episode clearly states the year as being “1941”.

053 “Time on My Hands
The town hall stairs were destroyed “last year” by a firebomb, and the clock hasn’t worked since 1939.

Series 6

054 “The Deadly Attachment
Mainwaring observes that the platoon are about to come face-to-face with the enemy, “after all these months”. By this point, the platoon has been formed for almost 2 years (we find out next episode that we are now in 1942), so he should probably have said years rather than months.

055 “My British Buddy
A small contingent of American troops arrives in Walmington-on-Sea. Historically, the first American troops arrived in the UK on 26 January 1942, meaning that this episode cannot take place before this date. In reality, however, the first US troops were actually stationed in Northern Ireland, placing this episode even later in 1942. Though Mainwaring does say that the Americans we see in this episode are a small “advanced party”, allowing for some leeway.
Mainwaring states that “last winter times were so dark it was difficult to see ahead”. He goes on to say that they have been standing alone against the Nazi horde for almost 2 years. The French surrender was in June 1940, which was what left the UK alone, so “almost 2 years” places this episode before June 1942. Walker later confirms this when he says that the war has been going on for 2 and a half years. Since the war started in September 1939, that would place this episode in about February 1942.

056 “The Royal Train
Pike says it has been “3 weeks and 2 days” since he last had a go with the Tommy Gun. The last time we saw Pike with the Tommy Gun was in “The Deadly Attachment”, so we know that this episode is set at least 3 weeks and 2 days after that.

057 “We Know Our Onions
No references I could spot

058 “The Honourable Man
The Russians are still our allies (see entry for 030 “Sgt – Save My Boy!”).

059 “Things that Go Bump in the Night
No references I could spot

060 “The Recruit
Mainwaring says that “our chaps” are doing well in the dessert and that the Italians are no match for Tommy Atkins, a reference to the North African campaign.
Godfrey wears sunglasses and a sunshade on his nose, indicating that the weather is sunny.

Series 7

061 “Everybody’s Trucking
No references I could spot

062 “A Man of Action
Referencing Mainwaring’s declaration that he is imposing martial law, Hodges says, “he’s been leading up to this for years”.

063 “Gorilla Warfare
Mainwaring says, “Over the years I’ve come to know this platoon…”
By this point, the platoon has been formed for approximately 2 years. However, it should be noted that he knew some members of the platoon before the Home Guard was formed.

064 “The Godiva Affair
A headline on Jones’s newspaper says “Rommel Trapped”. Another reference to the North African campaign.

065 “The Captain’s Car
No references I could spot

066 “Turkey Dinner
No references I could spot

Series 8

067 “Ring Dem Bells
It’s a “hot day”.

068 “When You’ve Got to Go
No references I could spot

069 “Is There Honey Still for Tea?
The calendar in the bank says it’s the 26th, though the day and month are too small to make out.
Mainwaring says that it has been “3 months since the bank was bombed”. The bank has been bombed twice on screen, first in series 3 “Something Nasty in the Vault” and then in series 5 “The King was in his Counting House”. However, both of these stories took place well over three months ago, and on neither of these occasions was Mainwaring’s office door destroyed. Since he is getting a new door in this episode, we can conclude that the bank has been bombed for a third time. It is a shame that the Eastgate branch of the bank was bombed only once, completely destroying it and ruining Wilson’s promotion to manager (037 “A. Wilson (Manager)?”), yet the Walmington-on-Sea branch has been bombed three times, with relatively minimal damage each time, and it remains open.

070 “Come in, Your Time is Up
It is the wrong time of year for hedgehogs.

071 “High Finance
The calendar in the bank gives the day as the 19th, and the following days it says the 20th. It is said that it is a Tuesday. The only Tuesday in 1942 that fell on the 19th was in May. It should be noted that it isn’t even dark at 9:30 pm, so a summer month would make more sense.
Jones has a cheque dated “1491” though it should say “1941”. Presumably this cheque was from the previous year as this series is set in 1942. Since this episode deals with Jones’ abysmal business and financial filing system, it would be a surprise that he had out of date cheques lying around.
Hodges increased Mrs Pike’s rent “about a year ago”. If this episode is set in May 1942, it would mean that he increased the rent sometime in series 3.

072 “The Face of the Poster
No references I could spot

Christmas Specials

073 “My Brother and I
At the end of this episode, Mainwaring gives his fob watch to his brother. Subsequently, the watch we see Mainwaring wearing in series 9 is slightly different to the watch he gives up here, which he had worn since series 1, so we can assume that this takes place exactly where it was shown; between series 8 and 9.

074 “The Love of Three Oranges
This one is a bit of a mess, to be honest.
Mainwaring refers to “our Finnish allies”, which means that this episode is set sometime before 25 June 1941. On that date, the UK declared war on Finland, following Finland’s invasion of the USSR alongside Germany.
The Vicar says that he hasn’t seen an orange for “over two years”; the Verger clarifies that it was just before the war. So if we assume that he saw an orange in the summer of 1939, two years from then would be summer 1941, which just places this before the June 1941 deadline. However, what really muddles this episode is that the Vicar welcomes everyone to the “Winter Bazaar”. Since the episode cannot be in winter 1941 to 1942 because the Finns were no longer allies, then it must be winter 1940 to 1941. This somewhat messes with the Vicar last seeing an orange just before the war over two years ago, since that would place it at less than two years. In addition to that, winter 1940 to 1941 would place the episode sometime between series 1 and series 3, at which point the platoon were still wearing their denim uniforms, not the woollen battledress they wear in this episode. Also, if this episode is from that time period, where is Walker? The only obvious solution is that this episode does indeed take place in the winter of 1941 to 1942, setting it between series 5 and 6. Mainwaring’s comments about the Finns could be chalked down to a mistake (it wouldn’t be his only one), and Walker’s absence could be explained any number of ways.

Series 9

075 “Wake Up Walmington
Wilson states that the “Home Guard’s been formed for two years”, so if we take him literally then this is May 1942, but it is more likely that he is speaking generally, placing this anywhere in the summer of 1942.
Pike mentions the events of the series 8 episode “Ring Dem Bells”.
Captain Square makes comments that indicate Mainwaring has been in charge of the Walmington-on-Sea platoon for “the last couple of years…”

076 “The Making of Private Pike
The calendar in the Brigadier’s office says it is Thursday 4 September. However, this date would place the episode in 1941, when we know that this series must be set in 1942 (every episode after series 6 must be set in 1942 because the Americans have joined the war), so we can assume it is a mistake on the part of the set dresser. 4 September 1942 was a Friday. In-universe, it could be suggested that this episode is indeed set on 4 September but the Brigadier’s batman/adjutant could have forgotten to move the calendar on a day when setting the date.

077 “Knights of Madness
Frazer mentions their Morris Dance from the series 7 episode “The Godiva Affair”.

078 “The Miser’s Hoard
Frazer has owed Hodges “thirteen and six” since last January.

079 “Number Engaged
No references I could spot

080 “Never Too Old
The episode takes place over a matter of weeks. Wilson remarks of Jones, “You’d think he’d have calmed down after a week”.