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.

Introduction

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]

Plot

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 Potarneyland

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.

Cast

Production

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.

Reception

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 adaptations

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 guide

1st Series Spring 1959

2nd Series Autumn 1959

  • 17. 2-01 Oct 16 59 New at the Helm
  • 18. 2-02 Oct 23 59 Fatso's Box Brownie
  • 19. 2-03 Oct 30 59 Bring Back the Barge
  • 20. 2-04 Nov 6 59 The Mock Action
  • 21. 2-05 Nov 13 59 Going Dutch
  • 22. 2-06 Nov 20 59 The Figurehead
  • 23. 2-07 Nov 27 59 Gunboat To Gumba
  • 24. 2-08 Dec 4 59 Johnson Finds Treasure
  • 25. 2-09 Dec 11 59 The Charter Trip to Antarctica
  • 26. 2-10 Dec 18 59 Cementing Relations
  • 27. 2-11 Dec 25 59 Strike up the Band
  • 28. 2-12 Jan 1 60 The Route March
  • 29. 2-13 Jan 8 60 A Trip up the Thames
  • 30. 2-14 Jan 15 60 Radar Talk Down System
  • 31. 2-15 Jan 22 60 A Crisp Romance
  • 32. 2-16 Jan 29 60 The Lighthouse Lark
  • 33. 2-17 Feb 5 60 Pertwee Posted to Portsmouth
  • 34. 2-18 Feb 12 60 Johnson's Diet
  • 35. 2-19 Feb 19 60 Tug Of War
  • 36. 2-20 Feb 26 60 Return To Potarneyland
  • 37. 2-21 Mar 4 60 The Cross Country Run
  • 38. 2-22 Mar 11 60 The Morning After
  • 39. 2-23 Mar 18 60 The Admiral's Present
  • 40. 2-24 Mar 25 60 Secret Mission to Calais
  • 41. 2-25 Apr 1 60 Mr Murray Goes Sick
  • 42. 2-26 Apr 8 60 The Portarneyland Fishing Limit

3rd Series 1960

  • 44. 3-01 Nov 2 60 In Portsmouth for a Re-Fit
  • Nov 5 60 Wrens Reunion at the Royal Festival Hall
  • 45. 3-02 Nov 9 60 Refitting Ebeneezer Pertwee
  • 46. 3-03 Nov 16 60 Sea Trials of the Poppadom
  • 47. 3-04 Nov 23 60 Mutiny Aboard Troutbridge
  • 48. 3-05 Nov 30 60 The Explosive Biscuits
  • 49. 3-06 Dec 7 60 Sir Willoughby Takes Over The Island
  • 50. 3-07 Dec 14 60 Mount Rumpus Atoll
  • 51. 3-08 Dec 21 60 Mr Murray's Houseboat
  • 52. 3-09 Dec 28 60 Johnson's Birthday
  • 53. 3-10 Jan 4 61 Povey's Unexpected Leave
  • 54. 3-11 Jan 11 61 Families' Day
  • 55. 3-12 Jan 18 61 Falmouth Ghost Ship
  • 56. 3-13 Jan 25 61 Onabushkan Flu
  • 57. 3-14 Feb 1 61 The Efficiency Expert
  • 58. 3-15 Feb 8 61 The Floggle Grummit Missile
  • 59. 3-16 Feb 15 61 The Hitch Hiking Counterfeiter
  • 60. 3-17 Feb 22 61 Commodore Goldstein
  • 61. 3-18 Mar 1 61 Mr Phillips Has Navigation Tuition
  • 62. 3-19 Mar 8 61 CPO Pertwee and the Laundry
  • 63. 3-20 Mar 15 61 The Surprise Wedding

4th Series 1961

  • 64. 4-01 Sep 15 61 Returning from Leave
  • 65. 4-02 Sep 22 61 Captain Povey's Spy
  • 66. 4-03 Sep 29 61 The Secret Of Nessie's Youth
  • 67. 4-04 Oct 6 61 The Northampton Hunt Ball
  • 68. 4-05 Oct 13 61 Hijacked
  • 69. 4-06 Oct 20 61 Admiral Troutbridge
  • 70. 4-07 Oct 27 61 Relatives and Reservations
  • 71. 4-08 Nov 3 61 Humgrummits on the High Seas
  • 72. 4-09 Nov 10 61 Are Captain and Mrs Povey Married?
  • 73. 4-10 Nov 17 61 Cine Cameras at Sea
  • 74. 4-11 Nov 24 61 The Citizen Adjustment Course
  • 75. 4-12 Dec 1 61 A Hole Lieutenant
  • 76. 4-13 Dec 8 61 Spy Catching in Casablanca
  • 77. 4-14 Dec 15 61 Mount Pot Erupts
  • 78. 4-15 Dec 22 61 Captain Povey's Shop
  • 79. 4-16 Dec 29 61 Leading Seaman Goldstein's Party
  • 80. 4-17 Jan 5 62 The Invitation
  • 81. 4-18 Jan 12 62 The Cornish Exercise
  • 82. 4-19 Jan 19 62 A Strange Hobby
  • 83. 4-20 Jan 26 62 Mr Phillips Get Engaged
  • 84. 4-21 Feb 2 62 The Sinking of the Bubble Car
  • 85. 4-22 Feb 9 62 Long John Pertwee
  • 86. 4-23 Feb 16 62 The Admiral's Accident Report
  • 87. 4-24 Feb 23 62 Over the Sea to Rosyth
  • 88. 4-25 Mar 2 62 The Return of Sir Frederick Flatley
  • 89. 4-26 Mar 9 62 The Ship's Concert

Christmas special 1962

  • 90. S-01 unaired Calling The Antarctic -0Not broadcast in the UK.

The TV Lark 1963

  • T01.Opening Night
  • T02.Advertising Drive
  • T03.The Party Political Broadcast
  • T04.Back to Portsmouth
  • T05.Serial Programming
  • T06.The African Incident
  • T07.Yours, or MINE!!!
  • T08.The Portarneyland Election
  • T09.
  • T10.Back in the Navy

5th Series spring 1963

  • 91. 5-01 Apr 5 63 First Day out of Dock
  • 92. 5-02 Apr 12 63 (100th edition)
  • 93. 5-03 Apr 19 63 A Deliberate Bashing
  • 94. 5-04 Apr 26 63 Whittlesea Regatta
  • 95. 5-05 May 3 63 HMS Troutbridge Gets a Rocket
  • 96. 5-06 May 10 63 The Ghost Ship

6th Series autumn 1963

  • 97. 6-01 Sep 27 63 Wren Chasen Returns
  • 98. 6-02 Oct 4 63 On the Carpet
  • 99. 6-03 Oct 11 63 The Bungalese Spies
  • 100. 6-04 Oct 18 63 Troutbridge's Party
  • 101. 6-05 Oct 25 63 Rescuing Admirals
  • 102. 6-06 Nov 1 63 Demise of the Depth Charges
  • 103. 6-07 Nov 8 63 The Struggle for Promotion
  • 104. 6-08 Nov 15 63 Fred Computables
  • 105. 6-09 Nov 22 63 Stormy Weather
  • 106. 6-10 Nov 29 63 Chasing the Kepeac
  • 107. 6-11 Dec 6 63 The Submerged Island
  • 108. 6-12 Dec 13 63 The Sicilian Secret Agent
  • 109. 6-13 Dec 20 63 German's Troutbridge
  • 110. 6-14 Dec 27 63 Confirming Povey's Rank
  • 111. 6-15 Jan 3 64 The Calais Dock Strike
  • 112. 6-16 Jan 10 64 Johnson's Memoirs
  • 113. 6-17 Jan 17 64 The Emperor of Tratvia
  • 114. 6-18 Jan 24 64 Open Day
  • 115. 6-19 Jan 31 64 Stuck on a Sandbank

7th Series 1965

  • 116. 7-01 Jul 11 65 Back in the Muck Again
  • 117. 7-02 Jul 18 65 Smugglers in the Solent
  • 118. 7-03 Jul 25 65 Mr Murray Is Victimised
  • 119. 7-04 Aug 1 65 The Poveys Move House
  • 120. 7-05 Aug 8 65 Captain Povey Reports Sick
  • 121. 7-06 Aug 15 65 Admiral Pertwee's Fleet
  • 122. 7-07 Aug 22 65 Let Loose with a Chopper
  • 123. 7-08 Aug 29 65 Making a Right Pig's Breakfast
  • 124. 7-09 Sep 5 65 The Mysterious Pudding Mine
  • 125. 7-10 Sep 12 65 The Hovercraft Training Course
  • 126. 7-11 Sep 19 65 Sabotaged Floggle-Toggle Box
  • 127. 7-12 Sep 26 65 The Portarneyland Training Exercise
  • 128. 7-13 Oct 3 65 Going on Leave to Croydon

Christmas Special 1965

  • 129. S-02 unaired Not broadcast in UK.

8th Series 1966

  • 130. 8-01 Sep 4 66 Searching for Their Ship (a.k.a. Where is Troutbridge?)
  • 131. 8-02 Sep 11 66 Float a Peddle Fiddle
  • 132. 8-03 Sep 18 66 Gumming Up the Works (a.k.a. A Sticky Business)
  • 133. 8-04 Sep 25 66 Buoys Will Be Buoys
  • 134. 8-05 Oct 2 66 Steamship Day
  • 135. 8-06 Oct 9 66 Farewell to HMS Varsity
  • 136. 8-07 Oct 16 66 Blowing Themselves Up (a.k.a. The Army Lark)
  • 137. 8-08 Oct 23 66 Buying Tickets (a.k.a. Just the Ticket)
  • 138. 8-09 Oct 30 66 Mr Phillips Promotion
  • 139. 8-10 Nov 6 66 Pertwee and the Tratvian Beer
  • 140. 8-11 Nov 13 66 The PM Papa
  • 141. 8-12 Nov 20 66 Getting Rid of Pertwee
  • 142. 8-13 Nov 27 66 Off to Sea at Last

9th Series 1967

  • 143. 9-01 Jul 2 67 Back from the Antarctic
  • 144. 9-02 Jul 9 67 Fishing in Troubled Waters (a.k.a. Fishers off the Faroes)
  • 145. 9-03 Jul 16 67 Cleaning Up (a.k.a. A Filthy Ferryboat)
  • 146. 9-04 Jul 23 67 Doing a Disastrical (a.k.a. Jigsaws and Jemmies)
  • 147. 9-05 Jul 30 67 The Naval Review
  • 148. 9-06 Aug 6 67 Going Caravaning (a.k.a. The Curious Caravan Case)
  • 149. 9-07 Aug 13 67 Having a Bit of Trouble with the French (a.k.a. Frenchmen in J.41)
  • 150. 9-08 Aug 20 67 Tangling with the Law (a.k.a. The Police Drop In)
  • 151. 9-09 Aug 27 67 Mr Murray's Endurance Course
  • 152. 9-10 Sep 3 67 Women in the Wardroom
  • 153. 9-11 Sep 10 67 Troutbridge's Silver Jubilee
  • 155. 9-12 Sep 17 67 Computerising (a.k.a. CECIL the Navigation Computer)
  • 156. 9-13 Sep 24 67 A Russian Rendezvous
  • 157. 9-14 Oct 1 67 The Bugged and Burgled Beer
  • 158. 9-15 Oct 8 67 Picking up the Poppadom
  • 159. 9-16 Oct 15 67 Cuthbert Joins the Navy
  • 150. 9-17 Oct 22 67 The Flying Machine
  • 160. 9-18 Oct 29 67 Sub Lt. Philips at Dartmouth
  • 161. 9-19 Nov 5 67 Frying Up
  • 162. 9-20 Nov 12 67 Troutbridge in Quarantine

10th Series 1968

  • 163. 10-01 Oct 13 68 Lighting Up (a.k.a. Troutbridge Electrifies Portsmouth)
  • 164. 10-02 Oct 20 68 The Redundancy Drive
  • 165. 10-03 Oct 27 68 The Smugglers Return
  • 166. 10-04 Nov 3 68 Captain Trotter Takes Charge
  • 167. 10-05 Nov 10 68 The Anti-Submarine Missile
  • 168. 10-06 Nov 17 68 Accredited (a.k.a. Sub-Conductor Phillips)
  • 169. 10-07 Nov 24 68 The South Kawowan Summit
  • 170. 10-08 Dec 1 68 Pertwee's Enlistment Expires
  • 171. 10-09 Dec 8 68 Capt. Povey Takes Over
  • 172. 10-10 Dec 15 68 Sir Willoughby Goes to Kawowa
  • 173. 10-11 Dec 22 68 The Padre's Birthday
  • 174. 10-12 Dec 29 68 The Portsmouth Kiosk
  • 175. 10-13 Jan 5 69 The Radio Beacon
  • 176. 10-14 Jan 12 69 The Wrong Uniform
  • 177. 10-15 Jan 19 69 Harold Wilson Reviews the Fleet
  • 178. 10-16 Jan 26 69 Relief of the Weather Ship
  • 179. 10-17 Feb 2 69 Bunging Up (a.k.a. The Mickey Mouse Toothbrush)
  • 180. 10-18 Feb 9 69 The Brick Smugglers

11th Series 1969

  • 181. 11-01 Dec 28 69 The Squatters
  • 182. 11-02 Jan 4 70 Admiral Hunting (a.k.a. What is the S.S.E.?)
  • 183. 11-03 Jan 11 70 The Promotion Ladder
  • 184. 11-04 Jan 18 70 Stranded
  • 185. 11-05 Jan 25 70 StarrSir Willoughby's Party
  • 186. 11-06 Feb 1 70 Fleet Initiative Test
  • 187. 11-07 Feb 8 70 C.P.O. Pertwee's Long Service Medal
  • 188. 11-08 Feb 15 70 The Phenomenal Pertwee Tug
  • 189. 11-09 Feb 22 70 The Security Clampdown
  • 190. 11-10 Mar 1 70 The Anniversary and the Washing
  • 191. 11-11 Mar 8 70 The Forbodians Hijack Troutbridge
  • 192. 11-12 Mar 15 70 Getting Spliced (a.k.a. Number One Gets Married)
  • 193. 11-13 Mar 22 70 The Honeymooners Return
  • 194. 11-14 Mar 29 70 C.P.O. Pertwee and the Lead Half Crowns
  • 195. 11-15 Apr 5 70 Dartmouth Naval College Has Had a Narrow Escape (a.k.a. Sup-Lt Phillips to Leave for Dartmouth)
  • 196. 11-16 Apr 12 70 The Mark 31 Radar

12th Series 1971

  • 197. 12– 1 May 16 71 The Put-a-Horse-out-to-Graze Fund
  • 198. 12– 2 May 23 71 Impressions for Survival
  • 199. 12– 3 May 30 71 The Beard-Growing Race
  • 200. 12-04 Jun 6 71 The Mysterious Radio Signals
  • 201. 12-05 Jun 13 71 Operation Recovery
  • 202. 12-06 Jun 20 71 The Slogan Contest
  • 203. 12-07 Jun 27 71 Sir Willoughby at Shanghai
  • 204. 12-08 Jul 4 71 Operation Cowes Barge
  • 205. 12-09 Jul 11 71 Number One's Anniversary
  • 206. 12-10 Jul 18 71 The Loch Ness Monster
  • 207. 12-11 Jul 25 71 The Forbodian Attaché

13th Series 1972

  • 208. 13-01 Mar 26 72 The TV Documentary
  • 209. 13-02 Apr 2 72 The P.O.W. Escape Exercise
  • 210. 13-03 Apr 9 72 Number One's Married Quarters
  • 211. 13-04 Apr 16 72 Operating for Profit (a.k.a. The Newhaven-Dieppe Smuggling Run)
  • 212. 13-05 Apr 23 72 The Bumble Spit Lighthouse Affair
  • 213. 13-06 Apr 30 72 The Tongipouhaha Treasure
  • 214. 13– 7 May 7 72 The US Navigator Swap
  • 215. 13– 8 May 14 72 Son of a Sea Lord
  • 216. 13– 9 May 21 72 Hypnotising Ramona
  • 217. 13–10 May 28 72 The Master of Sardinia
  • 218. 13-11 Jun 4 72 Opportunity Knockers
  • 219. 13-12 Jun 11 72 Friday the 13th
  • 220. 13-13 Jun 18 72 The New NAAFI

14th Series 1973

  • 221. 14-01 Jul 29 73 The Montezuela Revolution
  • 222. 14-02 Aug 5 73 The Island Swordfish
  • 223. 14-03 Aug 12 73 Bunged in the Brig (a.k.a. Bunged in the Rattle)
  • 224. 14-04 Aug 19 73 Kidnapped Down Under
  • 225. 14-05 Aug 26 73 The Digital Isles Go Unstable
  • 226. 14-06 Sep 2 73 Egbert Hitches a Ride
  • 227. 14-07 Sep 9 73 Povey an Admiral at Last
  • 228. 14-08 Sep 16 73 The Bergan Horse Trials
  • 229. 14-09 Sep 23 73 Captain Povey's Wig
  • 230. 14-10 Sep 30 73 Brain Pill
  • 231. 14-11 Oct 7 73 Operation Showcase
  • 232. 14-12 Oct 14 73 Living the High Life (a.k.a. CPO Pertwee Yachtmonger)
  • 233. 14-13 Oct 21 73 The Talpinium Shell

15th Series 1975

  • 234. 15-01 Nov 9 75 Sequel to the Talpinium Shell
  • 235. 15-02 Nov 16 75 NANA
  • 236. 15-03 Nov 23 75 Helen, the New Wren
  • 237. 15-04 Nov 30 75 Relief for Station 150
  • 238. 15-05 Dec 7 75 Black is Beautiful
  • 239. 15-06 Dec 14 75 Sidney and the Stamp
  • 240. 15-07 Dec 21 75 Riding to Victory (a.k.a. Commander Murray Becomes a Showjumper)
  • 241. 15-08 Dec 28 75 Horrible Horace
  • 242. 15-09 Jan 4 76 Officer's and Gent's Lib
  • 243. 15-10 Jan 11 76 The Case of the HGM Mark 5
  • 244. 15-11 Jan 18 76 Uncle Wilberforce Pertwee

Special 1977

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

References

External links

Sources

  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
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