Born in 1934 in Stepney, East London, Bernard Bresslaw was the son of a tailor's cutter and a mother who took in sewing to raise extra money for the family. He became keen on an acting career from an early age, following many regular trips to the theatre in London, as a child. Bernie eventually won a scholarship to RADA, where he went on to win the Emile Littler Award for Most Promising Actor. During his time at RADA, he was picked by Laurence Olivier to play a wrestler in his production of The MacRory Whirl.
This early success was followed by a number of other stage appearances, before Bernie landed a part in the hugely successful radio series, Educating Archie, before finding fame in the classic television comedy The Army Game (alongside Carry On regular Charlie Hawtrey and Carry On Sergeant's William Hartnell) in 1957, and the series' spin off movie, I Only Arsked! (the title based on Bernie's catchphrase in the series).
The success of The Army Game led to a successful stage show, again starring Bernie, and a release of the show's theme tune. He followed this chart topper with one of his own, Mad Passionate Love, which made it to No6 in 1958.
Bernie's film career fell hit an obstacle in 1959 with the disastrous The Ugly Duckling, and in the subsequent years, he found himself playing bit parts in shows such as Danger man and Z Cars. He recovered following a run of highly successful Shakespearean roles at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, where he went on to win the Variety Club of Great Britain's Most Promising Newcomer Award.
In 1965, Bernie was offered the role of Little Heap in Carry On Cowboy. His first experience of the Carry On way of life being when the crew went away and left him stranded up a tree for hours while they went on a break!
He went on to star in a further 13 Carry On films and became a regular of the television comedies. One of the best loved characters, Bernie normally played the well-meaning buffoon alongside Sid James' character. His dedication to the series was without question. For the filming of Carry On Up the Jungle, he even went as far as to learn his lines in a genuine African language; only to find out that the actors hired to play alongside him were from the West Indies!
Bernie remained a regular on the stage, performing in such plays as Charley's Aunt, Run for Your Wife and Me and My Girl. He returned to the Carry On fray in 1992, alongside Barbara Windsor, to star in Wot a Carry On in Blackpool.
His later stage work won Bernie great acclaim. It was just before a performance as Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew in Regent's Park where Bernie suffered a heart attack and died. He was 59. One of the truly great Carry On-ers, Bernie's death shocked all who had worked with him.