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Arnold Ridley
Born William Arnold Ridley
7 January 1896(1896-01-07)
Bath, Somerset, England[1]
Died 12 March 1984 (aged 88)
Hillingdon, London, England[2]
Nationality British
Occupation Playwright, Actor
Spouse(s) Althea Parker
Children One child

Major William Arnold Ridley, OBE (7 January 1896 — 12 March 1984) was an English playwright and actor, first notable as the author of the play The Ghost Train and later in life for portraying the elderly Private Charles Godfrey in the popular British sitcom Dad's Army (1968-77).


Early life

Ridley was born in Bath, England, and attended the Beechen Cliff School. Afterwards, he attended and graduated from the University of Bristol.


After making his debut in 'Prunella' at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, in 1914, he joined the British Army as a private in the Somerset Light Infantry. He saw active service in the First World War, sustaining several serious injuries: his left arm was left virtually useless by injuries sustained on the Somme,[3][4] his legs were riddled with shrapnel and the legacy of a blow to the head by a German soldier's rifle butt left him prone to blackouts. After the war Ridley went into acting. In 1918, he joined Birmingham Repertory Theatre, staying for two years and playing 40 parts, before moving on to Plymouth, where he eventually had a break from the stage when his war injuries began to trouble him.

He first became well known as the author of the play, The Ghost Train (1923) (later a film with Arthur Askey). It was a tale of passengers stranded at a haunted railway station in Cornwall, with one of the characters playing a detective trying to catch smugglers. The show became a huge success, enjoying 665 performances in London's West End and two revivals. He also wrote over 30 other plays including The Wrecker (1927), Keepers of Youth (1929) and The Flying Fool (1929) and Recipe for Murder (1936).[5]

Having unsuccessfully attempted to establish a film company between the wars, Ridley rejoined the army in 1939 with the rank of Major and again saw active service with the British Expeditionary Force in France during the Second World War, but was discharged on health grounds. During this time he adapted the Agatha Christie novel Peril at End House into a West End play. He worked regularly as an actor, including an appearance in the 1964 British comedy Crooks in Cloisters. He was also known for playing Doughy Hood in the radio soap The Archers in the 1960s. However he only became a household name during the 1970s when he was offered the role of Private Charles Godfrey, the gentle platoon medic in one of the most successful British sitcoms: Dad's Army. He continued to appear into his eighties. He was appointed an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List of 1982, for services to the theatre.

He married actress Althea Parker (1911–2001) in 1946; they had one son. Arnold Ridley died in hospital in Northwood in 1984[6] at the age of 88 and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.

His collection of theatrical memorabilia was left to the University of Bristol and has been made available online.[7][8]


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: MAR 1896 5c 543 BATH - William Arnold Ridley
  2. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: JUN 1984 13 934 HILLINGDON, MIDDLESEX - William Arnold Ridley, DoB = 7 Jan 1896 aged 88
  3. ^ "Godfrey's secret war horror" p13 of Sunday Telegraph (Issue 2,459- dated 27 July 2008)
  4. ^ Daily Mail
  5. ^ The Times, obituary, 14 March 1984
  6. ^ The Times, death announcement, 13 March 1984
  7. ^ BBC News 6th January 2008
  8. ^ University of Bristol Theatre Collection Arnold Ridley Archive

Television Roles

Year Title Role
1968 to 1977 Dad's Army Private Godfrey

External links



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