Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974-81)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974-81)
BBC1, 3/1/1974-3/9/1981
56 x 30min episodes in 8 series, colour
ProducerDavid Croft
ScriptJimmy Perry
 David Croft
DirectorJohn Kilby
 Phil Bishop
 Bob Spiers

Cast: Windsor Davies (Sgt. Major Williams); Melvyn Hayes (Gunner 'Gloria' Beaumont); Don Estelle (Gunner 'Lofty' Sugden); Donald Hewlett (Colonel Reynolds); Michael Knowles (Captain Ashwood); John Clegg (Gunner 'Paderewski' Graham); Michael Bates (Rangi Ram); Dino Shafeek (Char Wallah Muhammed)

Show full cast and credits

The chaotic adventures of a Royal Artillery concert party under the command of strict disciplinarian Sergeant Major Williams, given the task of entertaining British forces in India during World War Two.

Show full synopsis

A well-received follow-up to the hit comedy Dad's Army (BBC, 1968-77) upon its arrival in 1974, It Ain't Half Hot Mum (BBC, 1974-1981) now appears very much a product of its era - one which was largely untroubled by political correctness.

That this second excursion for the David Croft/Jimmy Perry comedy team has not enjoyed the enduring popularity of its predecessor is principally due to its perceived national stereotyping and occasionally patronising humour. This has not prevented the series developing a cult comedy status, as demonstrated by its inclusion on various nostalgia TV retrospectives.

The humour centres on the exploits of a Royal Artillery concert party, and their hapless attempts to boost the morale of troops stationed in colonial India during the Second World War. Their very presence in such a regimental environment is comic in itself, though based on Perry's own experiences while in military service.

The performers represent vaudeville caricatures, from the outrageously camp drag artist Bombardier 'Gloria' Beaumont (Melvyn Hayes) to the eccentric Oxbridge fop Gunner Graham (John Clegg). Their dialogue is frequently laced with innuendo, and there is more then a hint of homoerotic tension behind the team's lively camaraderie.

The fastidious military presence of Sergeant Major Williams (Windsor Davies) provides a comic counterpoint to the Concert Party's endeavours, as he tries in vain to instil a modicum of discipline into the camp. But rather then gaining the respect of his subjects, the Sergeant Major usually ends up looking faintly absurd; his ineffectual grip on authority is summed up by the weary bluster of his catchphrase: "Shut Up!"

The Indians in the camp, bearer Rangi Ram (Michael Bates) and Char Wallah (Dino Shafeek), are portrayed as grovelling sycophants who adopt the rhetoric and habits of the English in order to curry favour with their colonial "superiors". They reject their compatriots as "natives" and sneer at their ignorant ways. To a modern audience this characterisation looks unnecessarily crude, even bigoted. Even so, a guilty humour can still be extracted from the locals' desperate desire to impress those so singularly undeserving of their respect.

Though dated and occasionally in questionable taste, It Ain't Half Hot Mum retains a certain quirky charm, harking back to an era of British comedy which is remembered fondly by those of a certain age.

Darren Lee

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Rehearsal (3:35)
2. Sergeant Major (2:50)
Complete episode: 'Meet the Gang' (29:36)
Bux, Ishaq (1917-2000)
Croft, David (1922-2011) and Perry, Jimmy (1923-)
Davies, Windsor (1930-)
Perry, Jimmy (1923-) and Croft, David (1922-)
Spiers, Bob (1945-2008)
Race and the Sitcom