The Navy Lark: Series 1 and 2

The Navy Lark: Series 1 and 2

The Classic BBC Radio Sitcom

Summary

The first two series of the vintage seafaring comedy – plus Special The Wrens’ Reunion

One of BBC Radio’s most popular and long-running sitcoms, The Navy Lark sailed the airwaves for an impressive 15 series between 1959 and 1977. Included here are the complete Series 1 and 2, featuring the madcap escapades of the merry crew of HMS Troutbridge, a Royal Navy frigate based on an unnamed island just off Portsmouth. Also featured is a special episode, The Wrens’ Reunion, recorded at the Royal Festival Hall to celebrate 21 years of the Women's Royal Naval Service.

It’s laughs ahoy as we meet conniving Chief Petty Officer Jon Pertwee, silly-ass Sub-Lieutenant Leslie Phillips, put-upon Commander ‘Thunderguts’ Povey (Richard Caldicot) and the constantly bemused 'Number One' (Dennis Price in Series 1 and Stephen Murray in Series 2). Below decks Ronnie Barker is just about working his passage as (Un)Able Seaman 'Fatso' Johnson, while Tenniel Evans and Michael Bates are making mischief in a variety of roles – and keeping them all on their toes is Wren Heather Chasen.

Superbly remastered and restored, these 43 classic shows are as hilarious as when they were first broadcast – so jump on deck and enjoy the maritime mirth, mayhem and misadventure!

NB: Some of the language on this recording reflects the era in which it was first broadcast, and due to the age of the source material, the sound quality may vary

Production credits
Scripted by Lawrie Wyman
Produced by Alastair Scott Johnston
Starring: Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee, Dennis Price (Series 1), Stephen Murray (Series 2), Richard Caldicot, Michael Bates, Heather Chasen, Ronnie Barker and Tenniel Evans
With Pamela Buck and June Tobin

Remastered by Ted Kendall
Thanks to Andrew Pixley

Note: none of the episodes were originally given titles. The ones here have been adopted for easy reference and are in line with previous commercial releases

For more information on the programme, contact:
The Navy Lark Appreciation Society
Honeysuckle Cottage
Little Street
Yoxford
Suffolk
IP7 3JQ

Episode guide

First broadcast on BBC Light Programme on the following dates:

Series 1
The Missing Jeep 29 March 1959
Operation Fag End 5 April 1959
Number One’s Chair 12 April 1959
The Fairground Lights 19 April 1959
The Comfort Fund 26 April 1959
Stuck up the Inlet 3 May 1959
The Admiral’s Party 10 May 1959
The Hank of Heather 17 May 1959
The Multiple Mines 24 May 1959
The Gun Mechanism Test 31 May 1959
The Whittlesea Bay Yacht Regatta 7 June 1959
The Psychology Test 14 June 1959
A Watch on the Initiative Test 21 June 1959
An Exercise in Filming 28 June 1959
The Smuggling Spy 5 July 1959
The Whittlesea Carnival and Fête 12 July 1959

Series 2
New at the Helm 16 October 1959
Fatso's Box Brownie 23 October 1959
Bringing Back the Barge 30 October 1959
The Mock Action 6 November 1959
Going Dutch 13 November 1959
The Figurehead 20 November 1959
Gunboat to Gumba 27 November 1959
Johnson Finds Treasure 4 December 1959
The Charter Trip to Antarctica 11 December 1959
Cementing Relations 18 December 1959
Strike Up the Band 25 December 1959
The Route March 1 January 1960
A Trip up the Thames 15 January 1960
Radar Talk Down System 15 January 1960
A Crisp Romance 22 January 1960
The Lighthouse Lark 29 January 1960
Pertwee Posted to Portsmouth 5 February 1960
Johnson's Diet 12 February 1960
Tug of War 19 February 1960
Return to Potarneyland 26 February 1960
The Cross Country Run 4 March 1960
The Morning After 11 March 1960
The Admiral's Present 18 March 1960
Secret Mission to Calais 25 March 1960
Mr Murray Goes Sick 1 April 1960
The Potarneyland Fishing Limit 8 April 1960

Special: The Wrens’ Reunion Recorded 5 November 1960

© 2024 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2024 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

About the author

Lawrie Wyman

The Navy Lark is the second longest-running comedy in British radio history (the topical Friday night show, Week Ending, which ran from 1970 to 1998, is currently the longest). In 1958, writer Laurie Wyman announced that he wanted to build a series around talented comic actor Jon Pertwee. Having secured Pertwee as the lead, he looked for other main characters and is quoted in the Radio Times as saying 'I felt we needed an idiot, and there was no one better at playing idiots than Leslie Phillips - so we got him.' The first episode of the series went out on 29 March 1959 and, from the start, the light-hearted and affectionate spoof on the Senior Service won many fans - some of the highest order! On the occasion of the show's 21st anniversary, for example, the crew were asked by WRNS to put on a special performance. They duly obliged, and in the audience that night at the Royal Festival Hall was Her Royal Highness the Queen Mother. Sir Charles Lambe, who was the first Sea Lord at the time, had also visited the studio during rehearsal. The crew of HMS Troutbridge were a motley bunch: Jon Pertwee, who actually served in the Navy during the Second World War, played the conniving Petty Officer and was established as a household favourite by the series. Leslie Phillips was the vague chinless wonder Sub-Lieutenant. His parrot cry of 'left hand down a bit' has passed into A Dictionary of Catch Phrases, whose author Eric Partridge writes 'within two years, it was a standard piece of Navalese'. The young Ronnie Barker (long before attaining fame as a television comedy actor) also appeared in the series, playing two parts: (Un)Able Seaman Fatso Johnson and Lieutenant-Commander Stanton. The Navy Lark gripped the nation for the best part of twenty years. Its signature tune, composed by Tommy Reilly and James Moody, was the jaunty Trade Wind Hornpipe and did much to contribute to the popularity of the series. The key to the show's popularity, though, was its irreverent but essentially gentle humour and, most of all, the many-voiced talents of its stars. As Leslie Phillips remarked in 1987, 'I caused more damage to Naval property than the Navy had done in two world wars'. The final episode was broadcast on 18 January 1976. However, the crew all jumped on board one last time for a Jubilee Special on 16 July 1977.
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