Sergeant Grimshawe (a wonderful William Hartnell part) has been training National Service recruits for six heartbreaking years, but has never turned out a crack squad.
“I’ll be leaving the army in ten weeks,” he tells Croporal Copping (Bill Owen). “This is my last chance to get a champion platoon!”
“Like a bet on it?” chips in a sergeant whose platoon has just come out on top. “Fifty quid?”
Accepted, leaving Grimshawe more than usually anxious to get his first glimpse of his last intake of the eaw and the recalcitrant.
“Judging by their names,” he ruminates, “they should be a fine lot: Strong, Sage, Bailey, Haywood, Galloway, Golightly…Let’s go and take a look at our new platoon, shall we Corporal?”
They look…and what do they see?
They see Horace Strong (portrayed by Kenneth Connor), whose first request is for sick leave, as he is apparently suffering from floating knee-cap, short ribs, high blood pressure, nervous strain, catarrh, and weak stomach, heart and lungs.
They see Charlie Sage (played by Bob Monkhouse), who is not in a fit state to become a fighting machine, having been married that very morning.
They see Mileys Heyswood (Terence Longdon), whose father was a general, grandfather an admiral, uncle an air commodore, but whose own ambition is for a life of leisure and luxiury.
They see Andy Galloway (Gerald Campion), who has brought his guitar along to enliven parades.
They see James Bailey ((Kenneth Williams), lying on his bed because he resents all this stupid discipline!
They don’t see Pete Golightly (Charles Hawtrey) because he’s “got locked in somewhere.”
It follows that they are far from thrilled with what they have seen.
“Why does it happen to me?” wails Grimshawe. “Out of twenty four men I’m lumbered with a hypochondriac, a candidate for the glasshouse, a rock ‘n’ roller, a popsy-chasing layabout, and some lethal idiot who gets himself locked in the you know where! Any one of these clots could sabotage the squad…and I’ve got ‘em all!”
However, it is a challenge, and the sergeant decides to try new tactics with his nondescript flock.
“We must be kind and considerate,” he says. “These are delicate blooms…”
Which is the cue for Corporal Copping to nudge him when things are sent to try him, and he starts calling his squad a shower of “misbegotten misfits”.
“Fifty quid,” the corporal whispers. “Delicate blooms…”
In due course the “boys” are lined up to meet their Commander, Captain Potts (played by Eric Barker), known throughout the Command as the Perfect Potts. This brisk and bristlingly efficient officer proceeds to question them, one by one.
To hypochondriac Horace: " What do you dream about? "
To playboy Heywood: "What's the first thing that comes into your mind?"
And so on until, in disgust and despair, he turns wearily to Sergeant Grimshawe . . .
" Carry on, Sergeant."
"Very good sir. Left right left right left right left right left right left right left right left right. . ."
How Grimshawe carries on with the laugh-loaded task of turning his burden into a blessing and making champions of them all, is the tale that is told in this film. Girls are screen..
Look at the line-up provided to vary the drill: Mary, for Bob Monkhouse in his first feature film, Bill Owen (from “Tell the Truth”), Kenneth Connor (from" Meet The Huggets”), Charles Hawtrey (from “The Army Game”), Gerald Campion (TV’s Billy Bunter).
No wonder they broke the Sergeant's heart!