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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arnold Ridley

Arnold Ridley 1921.jpg
Ridley in 1921
William Arnold Ridley

(1896-01-07)7 January 1896
Died12 March 1984(1984-03-12) (aged 88)
Resting placeBath Abbey Cemetery, Widcombe, Somerset, England
Alma materUniversity of Bristol
Occupation(s)Actor, playwright
Years active1918–1984
Spouse(s)Hilda Kathleen Mary Cooke
(m. 1926–1939),
Isola Strong
(m. 1939)
Althea Parker
(m. 1945)
RelativesDaisy Ridley (great-niece)
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service
  • 1915–1917
  • 1939–1940
  • 1940–1944
Service number103363
UnitSomerset Light Infantry
Caterham Home Guard
Battles/warsFirst World War

Second World War

William Arnold Ridley, OBE (7 January 1896 – 12 March 1984) was an English playwright and actor, earlier in his career known for writing the play The Ghost Train and later in life in the British TV sitcom Dad's Army (1968–1977) as the elderly bumbling Private Godfrey, as well as in spin-offs including the feature film version and the stage production.

He is the great-uncle of actress Daisy Ridley.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Grave Of Dad's Army Actor| Arnold Ridley. Full video on my channel.
  • How Each Dad’s Army Cast Member Died
  • Dad's Army | Ian Lavender interview | 5's Company |1997
  • The Ghost Train (1941) [Horror]
  • Ridley Scott's I Am Legend with Arnold Schwarzenegger - WTF Happened to this (Unmade) Movie?!


Early life

William Arnold Ridley was born in Walcot, Bath, Somerset, England, the son of Rosa Caroline (née Morrish, 1870–1956) and William Robert Ridley (1871–1931).[3] His father was a gymnastics instructor and ran a boot and shoe shop. He attended the Clarendon School and the Bath City Secondary School where he was a keen sportsman. A graduate of the University of Bristol,[4] he studied at the Education Department, and played Hamlet in a student production. Ridley undertook teaching practice at an Elementary School in Bristol.[5]

Military service

Ridley was a student teacher and had made his theatrical debut in Prunella at the Theatre Royal, Bristol when he volunteered for service with the British Army on the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. He was initially rejected because of a hammer toe.[6] In December 1915, he enlisted as a private with the Somerset Light Infantry, British Army.[7] He saw active service in the war, sustaining several wounds in close-quarter battle. His left hand was left virtually useless by wounds sustained on the Somme;[6][8] his legs were riddled with shrapnel; he received a bayonet wound in the groin; and the legacy of a blow to the head from a German soldier's rifle butt left him prone to blackouts after the war.[6][9] He was medically discharged from the army with the rank of lance corporal in May 1917.[7] He received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service.[7]

Ridley rejoined the army in 1939 following the outbreak of the Second World War.[9] He was commissioned into the General List on 7 October 1939 as a second lieutenant.[10] He served with the British Expeditionary Force in France during the "Phoney War", employed as a "Conducting Officer" tasked with supervising journalists who were visiting the front line. In May 1940,[11] Ridley returned to Britain on the overcrowded destroyer HMS Vimiera, which was the last British ship to escape from the harbour during the Battle of Boulogne.[12] Shortly afterwards, he was discharged from the Armed Forces on health grounds.[9] He relinquished his commission as a captain on 1 June 1940.[13] He subsequently joined the Home Guard,[9] in his home town of Caterham, and ENSA, with which he toured the country.[12] He described his wartime experiences on Desert Island Discs in 1973.[14][15]

Acting career

After his medical discharge from the army in 1916, Ridley commenced a career as a professional actor. In 1918 he joined the company of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, staying for two years and playing 40 parts before moving on to Plymouth, where he took a break from the stage when his war injuries began to trouble him.[4]

After being stranded for an evening at Mangotsfield railway station, near Bristol, Ridley was inspired to write the play The Ghost Train (1923),[9] a tale of passengers stranded at a haunted railway station in Cornwall, with one of the characters being an incognito British Government agent trying to catch Bolshevik revolutionaries active in Great Britain. The play was produced on stage, and became a hit, with 665 performances being staged consecutively in London's West End, and two revivals. The first credited filmed version was a German-British silent film co-production The Ghost Train in 1927. The Ghost Train was also filmed in 1931 and again in 1941 when it starred Arthur Askey. Ridley also wrote more than 30 other plays including The Wrecker (1924), Keepers of Youth (1929), The Flying Fool (1929) and Recipe for Murder (1932).[16][17]

During his time in military service in the Second World War he adapted the Agatha Christie novel Peril at End House into a West End play that premiered in 1940. Ridley's post-war play, Beggar My Neighbour, was first performed in 1951[18] and adapted for the Ealing Comedy film Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953).

Ridley worked regularly as an actor, including an appearance in the British comedy Crooks in Cloisters (1964). He also played Doughy Hood, the village baker, in the radio soap opera The Archers and the Rev. Guy Atkins in the ATV soap Crossroads from the programme's inception in 1964 until 1968. However, he became a household name only after he was cast as Private Godfrey, the gentle platoon medic in the television comedy series Dad's Army (1968–1977). He continued to appear into his eighties, and was appointed an OBE in the 1982 Queen's New Year Honours List, for services to the theatre.[4]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life[19] in 1976 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at London's Marylebone Station.

Personal life

Ridley was married three times. His first marriage lasted from January 1926 to 1939, and was followed by a short marriage to Isola Strong, an actress (It's Hard to Be Good), at Kensington in 1939,[20] before his final marriage to actress Althea Parker (1911–2001) on 3 October 1945;[21] they had one son, Nicolas (born 1947).[22] He was a Freemason, and belonged to the Savage Club Lodge in London.[23][24][25] The actress Daisy Ridley is his great-niece.[11]

A keen rugby player in his youth, he was President of Bath Rugby from 1950 to 1952.[26]


Ridley died in hospital in Northwood in 1984 at the age of 88 after falling at his residence in Denville Hall, a home for retired actors.[27] His body was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium and an urn holding his ashes was buried in his parents' grave at Bath Abbey Cemetery.[9] His collection of theatrical memorabilia was left to the University of Bristol and has been made available online.[28][29]



  • The Ghost Train (1923)
  • The Wrecker (with Bernard Merivale, 1924)
  • Old Leeds (1928)
  • The Flying Fool (with Bernard Merivale, 1929)
  • Keepers of Youth (1929) (filmed in 1931)
  • Third Time Lucky (1932)
  • Half a Crown (1934)
  • Recipe for Murder (1936)
  • Peril at End House (1945, from Agatha Christie novel)
  • Easy Money (1948)
  • East of Ludgate Hill (1950)
  • Murder Happens (1951)
  • The Return (1953)
  • Mrs Tredruthan's Son (1953)
  • Beggar My Neighbour (1953)
  • Geranium (1954)
  • Tabitha (1956) (written with Mary Cathcart Borer)[30]
  • You, My Guests (1956)
  • Bellamy (1960)
  • Hercule Poirot Strikes (1967, from Agatha Christie novel)[31]

Film adaptations (original author)




Year Title Role Notes
1949 The Interrupted Journey Mr Saunders Uncredited
1951 Green Grow the Rushes Tom Cuffley
1952 Stolen Face Dr Russell
1963 Wings of Mystery Mr Bell Children's Film Foundation
1964 Crooks in Cloisters Newsagent
1966 A Man for All Seasons Innkeeper Uncredited
1971 Dad's Army Private Godfrey
1973 Carry On Girls Alderman Pratt
1975 The Amorous Milkman Cinema Attendant


Year Title Role Notes
1959 Charlesworth Bank Clerk
1964–1968 Crossroads Rev. Guy Atkins
1967 The Avengers Elderly Gentleman Episode: Never, Never Say Die
Z Cars Gardener Episode: I Never Meant to Drop Him: Part 1
Coronation Street Herbert Whittle
Mrs Thursday Director
Beggar My Neighbour Man 2 episodes
1968–1977 Dad's Army Private Godfrey 80 episodes, (final appearance)
1968 Theatre 625 Tunicliffe
The War of Darkie Pilbeam Hospital patient
The Very Merry Widows Sir Frederick Snayle, QC
The Caesars Nigrinus
1969 The Contenders Walrus
Out of the Unknown Munnings
Special Branch Mr. Turner
1970 As Good Cooks Go Mr. Charmers
The Doctors Percy
W. Somerset Maugham London Club Waiter
1971 Crossroads Guy Atkins
The Flaxton Boys Mr. Mooney
1972 The Persuaders! Uncle Rodney Episode: The Ozerov Inheritance
1973 Thriller 1st Old Man
1975 Hogg’s Back Old Man


  1. ^ "Birth Index entry". FreeBMD. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 6 October 2021. Register of Births: Jan-Feb-Mar 1896. Surname: Ridley. Given Name: William Arnold. District: Bath. Volume: 5c. Page: 543.
  2. ^ "Death Index entry". FreeBMD. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 6 October 2021. Register of Deaths: 1984. Surname: Ridley. Given Name: William Arnold. DoB: 07 Ja 1896. District: Hillingdon. Registered: 06.84. Volume: 13. Page: 0934.
  3. ^ "Lance Corporal William Arnold Ridley". Lives of the First World War. Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c reporter, Nancy Connolly, Senior news and features (13 June 2018). "Bath actor to appear on special edition Dad's Army stamps".
  5. ^ Ridley, Nicholas (2009). Godfrey's Ghost From Father to Son. Mogzilla Life. ISBN 978-1-906132-98-9.
  6. ^ a b c Dad's Army star's First World War heroics, The Daily Telegraph, 26 July 2008
  7. ^ a b c Ridley's WW1 medal index card at The National Archive, Kew Surrey. Document code: WO 372/17/728.
  8. ^ "Godfrey's secret war horror" p13 of Sunday Telegraph (Issue 2,459- dated 27 July 2008)
  9. ^ a b c d e f Excusing Private Godfrey, BBC Radio 4, 2012-07-06.
  10. ^ "No. 34732". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1939. p. 7633.
  11. ^ a b The real-life wars of Dad's Army actor Arnold Ridley. Bethan Bell, BBC News, 5 February 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  12. ^ a b Homewood, Dave (2008). "Arnold Ridley's REAL WARS". Wings Over New Zealand. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  13. ^ "No. 34861". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 May 1940. p. 3268.
  14. ^ Interview with Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs, 1973 "Desert Island Discs", BBC radio, 1973, retrieved 8 February 2016
  15. ^ The real-life wars of Arnold Ridley, BBC News website, retrieved 8 February 2016
  16. ^ Obituary, The Times, 14 March 1984
  17. ^ Amnon Kabatchnik Blood on the Stage, 1975–2000: Milestone Plays of Crime 2012 -. – Page 554 "A dastardly blackmailer is shot and poisoned simultaneously in Arnold Ridley's Recipe for Murder (1932)."
  18. ^ "Plays by Arnold Ridley" Archived 30 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Doollee website
  19. ^ Arnold Ridley, This Is Your Life, Thames Television, 1976
  20. ^ Nicolas Ridley Godfrey's Ghost, Mogzilla, 2009 pp.191–93
  21. ^ Nicolas Ridley Godfrey's Ghost, Mogzilla, 2009 p.194
  22. ^ Nicolas Ridley Godfrey's Ghost, Mogzilla, 2009 p.1
  23. ^ See reference on the Lodge's official website.
  24. ^ Report of actor's son, Nicolas Ridley, discussing his father.
  25. ^ Report in UGLE magazine MQ.
  26. ^ "Ridley William Arnold OBE MM".
  27. ^ The Times, death announcement, 13 March 1984
  28. ^ "Dad's Army star's archive online". BBC News. 11 September 2018.
  29. ^ Bristol, University of. "Arnold Ridley Archive - Theatre Collection - University of Bristol".
  30. ^ Wearing, J. P. (16 September 2014). The London Stage 1950-1959: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780810893085 – via Google Books.
  31. ^ from WorldCat

External links

This page was last edited on 17 February 2023, at 00:00
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