BROADCAST: 10 Jan 1956 [1]


Script by Spike Milligan


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC home service. Before the next part of the program, here is ‘The Goon Show.’

ORCHESTRA:  Tatty chord in C.

SELLERS: For years now, the feathered non-saxophone-playing Senapati tribesmen have been sweeping down from the date fields of Northern Waziristan. [2]

ECCLES: Fine, fine, fine.

SELLERS: Thank you. The reason for these destructive raids was an attempt to capture and imprison the recipe for the Great International Christmas Pudding.

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

SEAGOON: And… thank you. My name is Captain Neddie Seagoon, though why my mother christened me Captain I shall never know. (Laughs) Ha ha ha! Take a look at this picture of the regiment. See what I mean? (Laughs again.) Ha ha ha! Ahem. But, but I'm digressing. China, eighteen eighty-four; the province of Xikang is bleak, barren, and desolate – there are no gas works and all the rivers are under water.[3] Therefore, our story will take place in India!

ECCLES: Fine, fine, fine!

SELLERS: It was a meeting in the spring of a late autumn in eighteen sixty-two, when the strange secret was first disclosed.

OMNES: Hubbub. Various rhubarbs over.

SEAGOON: Gentleman! (Rhubarb!) Gentlemen, at ease. You may smoke. (Sudden rage) Put that cigarette out!

PRIVATE ECCLES: You said I could smoke!

SEAGOON: Yes, but not tobacco.[4] Now gentleman, we are facing a serious situation, therefore let's all turn 'round!

OMNES: Agitated murmurs. [5]

SEAGOON: The destructive raids of the Red-Bladders' tribesmen are endangering the Great International Christmas Pudding. [6]

OMNES: Further agitated murmurs.

SEAGOON: Yes! Yes! Eccles, put that saxophone out!

PRIVATE ECCLES: You said we could smoke.

SEAGOON: But not saxophones. (Rhubarb I tell you!) Now, you see this large map of the Deccan and Amritsar area, showing the high ground and Sunday train to Delhi? [7]


SEAGOON: Gentlemen, I put this map up for a very special reason.  

CAPTAIN FUDGE-KNUCKLE: Really sir? What sir?

SEAGOON: To cover that filthy great porridge stain on the wall. Now, I'm going to play you a military gramophone record. Listen carefully.

GRAMS: Hiss of needle on old fashioned gramophone record. Rifle fire. Cannons. Bugle sounding advance. Thunder of hooves. Shouts of battle. Suddenly stops.

SEAGOON: Right gentlemen! – come out from under the seats. Eccles, put that horse out!

PRIVATE ECCLES: But you said we could smoke.

SEAGOON: Not horses!

PRIVATE ECCLES: This one's cork tipped…

SEAGOON: (Which only goes to prove...) Now then! Gentlemen, do you know what record that was? It was a recording of the Battle of Plassey.[8]

MAJOR FLOWERDEW: You mean you actually recorded an entire battle, sir?

SEAGOON: Not just one Flowerdew, four hundred! In fact, every battle ever fought in India has been recorded.[9]

MAJOR FLOWERDEW: Can you buy them locally, sir?

CAPTAIN FUDGE-KNUCKLE: I mean, are they on the hit parade, sir?

SEAGOON: No, no they aren't, Fudge-Knuckle. The only copies are in the Indian Museum of Battle Records in Poona. One of these recordings has fallen into the hands of the Red Bladder.

OMNES: Cries of alarm.

SEAGOON: Yes Lieutenant Custard, and that's not all – the record that was stolen was the one of the only victory the Red Bladder had over the British.

GREENSLADE: (Distant) Sir? Of what POssible use can this record POssibly be to the Red Bladder?

SEAGOON: A good question. I wish I had a good answer.

MAJOR SPLON: Is it not a fact sir, that the captured record is being played daily over the Red Bladder's wireless to incite his tribesmen to renewed savagery?

SEAGOON: Thank you. Yes! But we are successfully countering.

LIEUTENANT BOWSER: (Wildly expressive) How, sir? Tell us, how? Elucidate! Clarify this statement! Tell us how, sir? How? Speak! Explain! Tell us! How? Oh, show me – how?

SEAGOON: Lieutenant Bowser.


SEAGOON: I'm putting you on a charge.


SEAGOON: Overacting. Now gentlemen, we are thwarting, and I repeat thwarting the Red Bladder by broadcasting in reply all the gramophone records of OUR victories over him.

FX: Phone rings. Receiver up.

SEAGOON: Hello, yes?

FX: Phone down.

SEAGOON: Men, bad news. The Red Bladder has surrounded our radio station at Chattagan.[10] All our records are in danger.

LIEUTENANT BOWSER: I say, does this mean… does this mean – WAR, sir?

SEAGOON: Yes. Men, I'm calling for volunteers.

GRAMS: Boots running away.

FX: Door slams shut.

SEAGOON: Now, why didn't I think of that?

FX: Door opens.

BLOODNOK: Sorry I'm late – it took me all morning to shake her off.

SEAGOON: Ah, Major Bloodnok. Just the man! We have a dangerous mission for you.

GRAMS: Single whoosh.

FX: Door slams.

SEAGOON: Quick! Stop him before he gets to the bus stop.

FX: Door opens.

ABDUL: (Approaching) I've got him, sir! I've got him sir. Come on...

BLOODNOK: (Struggling) Take your filthy hands of my filthy arm, will you! I've never been so yukkabukkakkered in all my…

SEAGOON: Bloodnok, stop yakkabakkakkering.

BLOODNOK: Yakkabakkakka.

SEAGOON: Yakkabakkakka-koo! You will assume command at once of the Fourth Battalion Night Schlappers[11] and march to the relief of Chattagan…

GRAMS: Regiment on the march. Double the speed. Continue behind.

BLOODNOK: And so we marched. Oh, how we marched; week after week, month after month I led them. It seemed we'd never reach Chattagan. Then unluckily I took a wrong turning, and we arrived.

GRAMS: Massed cheering.

BLOODNOK: Men of Chattagan radio station; you've all heard of me, Major Bloodnok – haven't you?





BLOODNOK: Oh well, in that case I appoint myself mess treasurer. I second that. Now then, what I want to know is, who's going to…

FX: Door opens.

RED BLADDER: Ahh, Major Bloodnok! At last I meet you, cor blimey. [13]



BLOODNOK: It's the naughty type Red Bladder! (Leaving) Aaargh!

GRAMS: Whoosh.

RED BLADDER: Bloodnok, come out from under that bed.

BLOODNOK: Don't hit me then, don't hit me. Here, have my OBE.

RED BLADDER: Listen, you have in your possession here three hundred and ninety-nine records of battles in which the British pigs beat my soldiers. Hand them over, cor blimey!

BLOODNOK: …and betray my secret trust? What do you take me for?

RED BLADDER: Rogue, liar and a coward.

BLOODNOK: Sit down, I think we can do business. Red Bladder, I'll make a deal with you. Here's a record of a British victory – call off your attack.

RED BLADDER: Ok, mate.

GREENSLADE: No attack took place that day. But, the following morning...

GRAMS: Bugle. Cavalry charge. Battle shouts. Cannons.

ABDUL: (Entering) Aaaaah, saaaaahib! The Red Bladder is attacking again, sir. AARGH!

BLOODNOK: What what what? Quick Abdul, post him another battle record – that'll keep him quiet. Thank heaven we've got three-hundred and ninety-seven more. We're safe for thirteen months and three days. Tell Miss Johnston I'm ready for her now, will you? Aarghh!

ORCHESTRA: Grandiose link.

SEAGOON: Meanwhile, at Indian Army HQ in Poona, I happened one evening to be listening to the wireless. [14]

GRAMS: Housewives Choice theme - ‘In A Party Mood’. Fade in a phrase of Indian music over, then back to the final line of theme. Fade behind.

ABDUL:[15] (On radio) Good morning wog-wives. This is Abdul Elrick [16] with your choice for this morning. And now for Mrs ‘The Red Bladder’ of two, The Cages, Grand Parcel Walk, Khyber Pass,[17] here is a record of the Battle of Pondicherry, in which the British got a good bashing from the Red Bladder.[18] Hooray!

GRAMS: Distant battle sounds.

SEAGOON: Good heavens! Great Scott! Did you hear that, Field Marshal Carruthers?

FIELD MARSHALL CARRUTHERS: Yes, but we didn't lose the battle of Pondicherry, sir.

SEAGOON: Great galloping crabs! Do you know what they're doing?


SEAGOON: They're playing that record backwards to make it sound as if the British were losing.

CARRUTHERS: Then it doesn't take an idiot to know that our radio station and Major Bloodnok have been completely wiped out, sir.  

SEAGOON: Heavens yes. We must send help. Eccles?


SEAGOON: Fall forward!

GRAMS: Regiment coming to attention.

SEAGOON: Off you go!

GRAMS: Regiment setting off at quick march.

CARRUTHERS: Do you think one man is really enough sir?

SEAGOON: Of course not, we'll follow with another man – namely, Max Geldray!


MAX GELDRAY – ‘April in Paris[19]


ORCHESTRA: Dramatic introduction.

GRAMS: Sounds of battle.

ABDUL: Aaargh! Stop, stop! The Red Bladder's attacking again.

BLOODNOK: What! I've got no more records left. This Red Bladder's causing a lot of trouble!

GRAMS: Bugle call. Vary the speed wildly.

BLOODNOK: Listen! Where’s the elastic telescope? Ah good… Good heavens, it's a bugle call followed immediately by Seagoon and two men-type soldiers!

SEAGOON: Bloodnok!


SEAGOON: Take off that Sabrina outfit and explain how the Red Bladder has been getting these records of British history.

BLOODNOK: He employed a mean, low, cunning trick, sir!


BLOODNOK: He bribed me. I'd be mad to turn it down of course.

SEAGOON: Then he’s got every record?

BLOODNOK: Yes, and believe me our morale-boosting programme sounds pretty thin with just the whistler and his dog – especially as the whistler died last week. [20]

SEAGOON: Gad-gid-gud! This is terrible gid-gud-gad.


SEAGOON: We've got to stop him playing our records.

BLOODNOK: Yes. (Narration) And so that night with the enemy at the gates, firing through the windows, throwing grenades into the compound, shooting up through the floor and dropping bombs through the ceiling, we were forced to take dinner from the kneeling position. [21]

GRAMS: Distant rifle fire. Fade and continue under.

SEAGOON: (Entering) General, have you noticed anything strange about those stewed prunes?

BLOODNOK: Yes, no custard.

SEAGOON: Correct. And another thing – we're being attacked.

BLOODNOK: What's more, the Red Bladder's got fresh troops.

SEAGOON: Who told you?

BLOODNOK: One of the women they got fresh with. (I'm on the wrong side, you know.)

SEAGOON: Bloodnok, stop blacking up.

BLOODNOK: Stop blacking up…

(Sings) For that maamee… [22]

SEAGOON: Yakka bakkaka koo. Now listen; our first counter-move – any suggestions?


Very well, our second counter-move. We'll form three companies of commandos, numbered one, two and three. Each group will be thoroughly trained in the lost art of removing a gramophone needle from its sound-box and destroying it. Now, look at this chart.

MAJOR CARRUTHERS:[23] Why sir! – it's a photograph of a gramophone needle.

SEAGOON: Correct. It's the actual gramophone needle the enemy is using in their insulting campaign, photographed at great risk by air reconnaissance at low level.

MAJOR CARRUTHERS: How did they manage to get so low?

SEAGOON: They walked. Now, we're going to destroy Red Bladder's gramophone needle. We'll call this "Operation Needle"…

MILLIGAN: …nardle noo!

SEAGOON: Thank you, "Operation Needle Nardle Noo" is on!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.

GREENSLADE: Our heroes reported immediately for an intensive eight-year course at the army needle-destroying depot at Umbala.[24]

GRAMS: Drilling sound.

INSTRUCTOR:[25] There gentlemen. Having drilled a hole in the gramophone needle – (you must do this very carefully by the way,) you put into the hollow of the needle one eye-dropper full of the nitroglycerine. Now be most careful about this – it's extremely dangerous. Now, next we attach the detonator leads and set the fuse, so. Now, we withdraw quickly to two miles distance, follow me.

GRAMS: Large whoosh.


FX: Door opens.

BLUEBOTTLE: (Entering) Hello everybody! Sorry I'm late. Ooh, there's nobody here. (Thinks; there's nobody here.) I know, I will sit here quietly until the talking lecture-man comes back. Starts to cut out six box tops of Scruffo, thus enabling me to get the Scruffo Boy's bravery badge for eating six boxes of scruffo. I think I will sing a little song to keep my spirints up. [26]

(Sings) Oh my love, my darling,

          I hunger for your touch… [27]

ECCLES: Hallo!

BLUEBOTTLE: Oh, it's the famous Eccles.

ECCLES: It’s the famous Eccles!

BLUEBOTTLE: Eccles, let's have a game. You close your eyes and guess who you are.

ECCLES: Fine, I like the sound of that. I'll close my eyes. Now let me see – who am I? Who am I? I'm not going to tell you.

BLUEBOTTLE: Well, while he is guessing, I think ... Ooooh! What are all them funny things under the lecturer's desk? Ooooh, it is a little needule full of needule juice. Ooooh! – and what is this big box here with the red labels saying janantro-glyncerine explosive? (Thinks; I wish I had not readed that bit.) I know – I will tiptoe out of the room. (Thinks; this is one week Bluebottle is not going to be deaded.) (Self fade) Reaches door – so far so good. Opens door very carefully.

FX: Door slowly creaks open.

BLUEBOTTLE: Turns back for one last look of triumph.

GRAMS: Large explosion.

BLUEBOTTLE: You rotten swine, you! You have exploded me. Where's my legs? I don't like this game. (Self fade) I've gone a bungle…[28]

GREENSLADE: The experiment had succeeded. The needle was entirely blunted.

SEAGOON: So we prepared to raid the Red Bladder's dreaded radio station.

GRAMS: Night time noises.

GREENSLADE: Yes, that night our heroes crept through the jungle, playing their tom-toms as quietly as possible and holding umbrellas painted to resemble mango trees.

ECCLES: Oh! I'm frightened!  

SEAGOON: What's up Eccles?

ECCLES: I just spotted a leopard.

BLOODNOK: Nonsense, leopards are always spotted. Now then, if it had only been a dog, we could have all had lunch.

ECCLES: Oooh! – spotted dog! [29]

SEAGOON: Don’t explain the gag.  

ECCLES: Hey – oooh hoo, I just saw a tree move!

BLOODNOK: It must have spotted a dog as well.

SEAGOON: I don't wish to know that! Now then…

ECCLES: The tree did...

SEAGOON: …let's check our bearings. Let me see now; one, two, three, four. That's one bearing each. Make them last as long as you can.

BLOODNOK: Thank you – every man should have a military bearing. Wait a minute, this is a civilian bearing.

SEAGOON: Of course – we're in disguise. Now let's check our position. Put on that gramophone record of a map. [30]


GRAMS: Regiment marching on gravel road.

SEAGOON: Ah yes – just as I thought; we're marching up a road.

BLOODNOK: Wait, listen.

GRAMS: Fast car approaching.


GRAMS: Car fades into distance.

SEAGOON: Swine! He was driving on the wrong side of the record. Anybody hurt?

BLUEBOTTLE: Yes, I'm hurted.

ECCLES: He's hurted.

SEAGOON: Quick, put on a record of a doctor's house?.


GRAMS: Hiss of needle on record.

FX: (Over) Knocking on door.

GRAMS: Hiss stops.

SEAGOON: Curse, he's not in. He must be away on another record. Well, never mind!  Here's a photograph of Gracie Fields playing Ray Ellington.




BLOODNOK: Stop this crazy type photographic humor. We must find the Red Bladder's radio station or my name's not Dennis “Diana Dors” Bloodnok.

SEAGOON: What's Diana Dors doing in the middle?

BLOODNOK: Can you think of a better place?[32]

SEAGOON: Quiet please. I think we're within a stone's throw of the Red Bladder's secret radio. I'll make a test; hand me that elephant.

BLOODNOK: Here you are.

ECCLES: I’ll just take his hat off. [33]

SEAGOON: Right. Now then. (Straining.) Uuuuurgh urgh!


FX: Glass breaking.

GRAMS: Elephant trumpeting.

SEAGOON: I knew it! I knew it! – we're also within elephant-throwing distance. But there's open ground between. How are we going to cross it?

ECCLES: ‘Ere, how are we going to get across the…

GRAMS: (Recording) Milligan: Shhh… shhh… shhh, shhh, shhh, shhh, shhh (Getting faster, build up speed, bring in sound of real locomotive behind. Fade into distance.)

SEAGOON: And so we arrived by train. Now men, we must affect entry by a cunning ruse. We'll say we are plumbers.

BLOODNOK: But we don't know how to do plumbing.

SEAGOON: Exactly. There's no plumbing in the Red Bladder fort. It's only to afford an entry.

ECCLES: I can't afford an entry; I haven't got any money with me. I didn't...

SEAGOON: Shut up Eccles!

CAST: (Variously) Shut up Eccles! (Extended)

SEAGOON: Now then, the plumbers' disguises. Eccles?  


SEAGOON: Put this spanner behind your ear and wrap these fifty feet of lead tubing around your legs.


SEAGOON: Candidly – it suits you. You, Bloodnok – you take this copy of "Ten Thousand Plumber's Gags." Now, who knows how to ring a doorbell?

BLUEBOTTLE: I can, Captain. I have been to college.

SEAGOON: Thank heavens! Right – RING!


FX: Door opens.

RED BLADDER: Yes? – what do you want, cor blimey! [34]

SEAGOON: We're plumbers.

RED BLADDER: Come in, cor blimey!

SEAGOON: Wait, noble Red Bladder. Why have you got your trouser legs rolled up above your neck?

RED BLADDER: Got burst pipe.

BLOODNOK: (Close) That's done it! – we can't repair any burst pipes. (Aloud) Ahem. Tell me, where is the pipe?

RED BLADDER: In harem.

GRAMS: Pair of boots running into distance.


SEAGOON: (Shouts off) Bloodnok, come back here!

RED BLADDER: Come, come. Hurry up and mend burst pipe, cor blimey; four of my wives are underwater.

SEAGOON: I’m…er… well I'm terribly sorry; we were on strike, you know. I… er… um… We never repair wives under water. Well – goodbye!

FX: Door slams.

RED BLADDER: Me suspicious of them, cor blimey.

FX: Knocking on door. Door opens.


SEAGOON: Good morning.

RED BLADDER: What you want?

SEAGOON: (Close) This'll get us in safely, listeners. (Aloud) I'm Doctor Seagoon and we are strolling brain surgeons and tigers dentists.

RED BLADDER: Good! My tiger got strolling brain and two bad teeth. This way please.

SEAGOON: (Panic) Well, no – I’m sorry… I’ve, er… hoihouighhouighhou – we've all just been struck off the rolls.  


SEAGOON: The baker didn't like us sleeping on them. Ha ha! Good day!

FX: Door slams.

RED BLADDER: Cor blimey! – me very suspicious now. First plumber, then strolling brain surgeons, then corny gag about struck off rolls! Now what!?

FX: Knocking on door. Door opens.

SEAGOON: (Outside) One, two, three…

SEAGOON/BLUEBOTTLE/ECCLES: (Singing outside) We three kings of Orient are...

GRAMS: Pistol shot.


(Short pause)

ECCLES & BLUEBOTTLE: (Singing) We two kings of Orient are...

GRAMS: Pistol shot.


(Short pause)

BLUEBOTTLE: (Singing) Noel, Noel...

RED BLADDER: Stop! Stop! Christmas not here for another eleven months.

SEAGOON: Well, can we come in and wait?

RED BLADDER: Very well, on one condition.


RED BLADDER: That you go away at once.

SEAGOON: Very well, we will – on one condition.


SEAGOON: That you let us stay.


SEAGOON: (Close) We're in, lads.

RED BLADDER: You sit here and wait for Merry Christmas, cor blimey. Me go put frogman suit on; talk to four submerged wives.

SEAGOON: We must hurry, chaps. The Red Bladder is due to broadcast ‘Wog Wives Choice’ in five minutes. We must blow up the gramophone needle before then. So much for the plot. Eccles?


SEAGOON: Shut up!

ECCLES: Shut up!

SEAGOON: Now, follow me down this passage. What's in here?

FX: Door opens.

GRAMS: Eastern music.

ECCLES: Ooooooo...

BLOODNOK: (Distant) Get out of here! Get those trousers pressed, will you?

FX: Door closes.

SEAGOON: He'll be sorry when the cold weather comes. (Clears throat) Ahem.

BLUEBOTTLE: Captain, look! Here is the vital record-type-playing room.

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Well done, Bluebottle! Good work. Gads-gids-goolie-ek! – what's this record on the turntable?

BLUEBOTTLE: It is a South American one.


BLUEBOTTLE: It says seventy-eight revolutions a minute. (Thinks; joke!) [35]

SEAGOON: (Thinks; whallop.)

BLUEBOTTLE: (Thinks; oh! – my nut.)

SEAGOON: Hurriedly we drilled a hole in that gramophone needle, filled it with nitroglycerine and screwed it back in.

BLUEBOTTLE: Oh! The Red Bladder's coming, Capitain!

SEAGOON: Quick! – disguise yourselves as gramophone records.

ECCLES: Right.

SEAGOON: Put these labels on, and remember at all costs – if he plays you, SING!

FX: Door opens.

RED BLADDER: What's this? cor blimey – three new records? Me put one on.

SEAGOON: (Narration) I watched horrified as he put Bluebottle on the turntable. Would Bluebottle succeed in deceiving the Red Bladder?

GRAMS: Crackle of needle on record.

BLUEBOTTLE: (Singing – muffled.) Ding a-ding a-ding, a ding,

Ding a-ding a-ding, a ding…[36]

Oh, wait a minute – this needle's full of the dreaded nitro...

GRAMS: Large explosion.

GREENSLADE: And it was. An heroic British victory with the loss of only three idiots. This show was recorded on a double-sided Bluebottle. Good night listeners.

ORCHESTRA: End theme.

GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a BBC-recorded programme featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott, script by Spike Milligan, announcer Wallace Greenslade. The programme produced by Peter Eton.

ORCHESTRA: Tag and playout.



[1] Milligan was prone to military memories at Christmas. Once, later in his life, he was asked by the Yorkshire Post to write a seasonal article for their Christmas Edition and proceeded to write a fascinating article full of remembrances of his Christmas’s past, including a moving paragraph about Christmas in Poona, India.

“God, is there any greater joy than a child seeing his toys on Christmas morn? I can still see that

box of British lead soldiers – eight Grenadier Guardsmen with Captain, the shiny scarlet tunics, seven with rifles, one with a sword. I ate my breakfast with them on the table. They stood around my plate

at Christmas lunch, and again at tea. By oil lamp I packed them into their box and they slept by my

bed. Those soldiers! They have marched in my head ever since.”

Whenever Milligan thought of Christmas he thought of soldiers; the soldier’s son in India waiting for Santa to come down the non-existent chimney; the teenager witnessing his soldier uncle shooting himself in the foot on Christmas eve so as to get a discharge; the trainee soldier keeping watch on Christmas eve in an OP at Bexhill-on-Sea. Soldiers, battles and Christmas seemed to be inextricably intertwined in Spike’s mind.

This episode is one of three written in constrained circumstances while Spike manipulated his hectic personal life - on one hand shifting his family from a flat in Highgate to their new home in Finchley and on the other hand negotiating a new television series with Associated Rediffusion. He seems to have started this script with the intention of expanding upon the successful plot of ‘The International Christmas Pudding’ performed the previous November, setting the story in Waziristan on the North West frontier of India, but within two dozen lines he loses interest in the pudding and transfers his attentions to battle recordings and explosive gramophone needles. Along the way he reintroduces Bloodnok’s fiercesome arch nemeses – the Red Bladder, making his first appearance in the Goon Shows since first being heard of in the 1954 show ‘Dishonoured’ (12/5th.)


[2] Waziristan, one of the tribal areas on the border of India-Afghanistan, was a satrapy of the British, administered through a government agent. The Waziris were determined and agile fighters and difficult to manage. They were in a constant state of unease with British rule and easily inflamed. Following the third Anglo-Afghan War (1919) they took the opportunity to conduct large scale raids down into the administered areas, causing mayhem, wrecking infrastructure and inflicting a terrible toll on the population. The British launched a series of operations against the Waziris from 1919-1920  under Major General Sir Andrew Skeen, eventually subduing the terrorists with the help of bombers from the Royal Air Force. Soldiers from this campaign would have still been around the cantonments of India when young Terence Milligan was a boy in Pune, because Spike was born in the same year as the war he describes.  The tribe he mentions, ‘Senapati’ is not genuine; it is a Hindi word meaning “General” or “Commander-in-Chief,” and was most likely a word he picked up in his childhood in the cantonments of India. The actual Waziri tribes involved in the Waziristan conflicts were the Tochis and the Mahsuds.


[3] Xikang province lay in the South West of China, abutting the Himalayas and adjacent to the province of Tibet. It was split in half by the Yangtze River, and recent newspaper articles reported terrible flooding during the spring of 1955. By the time Milligan wrote this script the province had been abolished, split in two and absorbed into Sichuan to the east and Tibet to the west.


[4] This is the punch line to an on-going joke about tobacco substitutes. Milligan had used it first in ‘Napoleon’s Piano’ 4/6th in its anthropoideal form – (“Have a gorilla! No thanks, I’m trying to give them up.”) He tried the gag four times in that show, then again in “Rommel’s Treasure” 6/6th  – (“Have a gorilla! No thanks, I’ve just put one out;”) “The Pevensey Bay Disaster” 10/6th  – (“Have a gorilla! No thanks, this street is a non-smoker;”) and in “The Hastings Flyer – Robbed!”  15/6th, a repeat of the 10th show.  After trying anthropoideal nicotine, Spike tried Monarchical tobacco; female – “Have a picture of Queen Victoria!” (‘The International Christmas Pudding’ 9/6th)  and male – “Have a statue of George III!”( ‘The Mighty Wurlitzer,’ 16/6th),  and now in this show he plays tag with Eccles, substituting element after element in a grand culmination of impossibly improbable addictions.


[5] Amongst the murmurs Milligan says ‘That’s a good idea!


[6] If we take Milligan’s date as genuine then he is referring to the Umbeyla War of 1863. Two fanatical leaders of the Islamic Wahhabi sect – Mulvi Abdullah and Syad Mubarak Shah, had drawn together a large force of Pashtuns, fundamentalist Muslims and disaffected sepoys and had created a terrorist enclave in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of North West India (now Pakistan). From this outpost they attacked  the settlements along the frontier and forced the British to mount a military campaign against their base, which was situated on the same spur of mountains that Alexander the Great had besieged in 327BCE.


[7] The Deccan is the central plateau of India, bounded by the Eastern and the Western Ghats, with the gangetic plain to the north. On it are located such important cities as Hyderabad and Bangalore. With Mumbai (Bombay) on the west coast as the hub of the Indian railway system, Milligan’s family would have been well acquainted with the line from Pune (Poona) to Mumbai. The railway line then headed north to Delhi, up through the Punjab past Umbala, then veered west towards Amritsar and its golden temple, then to exotic Lahore the capital of the Punjab, and onto the vast military cantonment of Rawalpindi, under the lee of the mountains of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


[8] The Battle of Plassey – 23rd June, 1757 took place near Murshidabad, the then capital of Bengal, between the British East India company and Siraj-ud-daulah - the Nawab of Bengal, and his French allies. The military operation had been precipitated by the attack and plunder of Calcutta by Siraj-ud-daulah and the famous ‘black hole’ tragedy. With 53 cannon, the Nawab had the better fire power, but in the driving rain thoughtlessly neglected to cover them with tarpaulins rendering the gunpowder useless. Thinking the British cannon unworkable in the same way that his own artillery was, the Nawab commanded his forces to attack the British, only to be slaughtered by a ruthless barrage from howitzers and field pieces. The British had had the presence of mind to cover their cannons with tarpaulins during the tropical downpour and led by Colonel Robert Clive, they ruthlessly cut the Bengalis to pieces.


[9] British rule of India had began in 1600 with the granting of a trading charter by Elizabeth I to the ‘British East India’ company which, through trade monopolies, alliances, divide and rule policies, military excursions and administrative takeovers, gradually expanded to create a mercantile hegemony over most of the subcontinent, culminating in the Battle of Plassey (1757) in which French support of the eastern Nawabs collapsed. The East India company ruled until the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, after which the British Government took control, absorbing the financial, bureaucratic and military arms of the company under the administration of the British Crown. The country was then treated as a dominion of Great Britain until a short, thin Guajarati lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi pointed out that a nation of  300 million could not be realistically ruled by a garrison of 70,000 foreigners and instigated a campaign of non-violent resistance. During Milligan’s childhood the peoples of India challenged British rule on moral and political grounds, in a movement called the ‘Quit India Campaign’, until the British gave in, beaten by war, bureaucratic exhaustion, financial ruin and force of numbers, granting the Republic of India its independence in 1947.

[10] There is no such place as Chattagan – if that is in fact what he wrote. On at least one occasion during the show the word is pronounced as ‘Chattagand’. It’s amusing to speculate how Milligan came up with this word. Spikes Hindi was acquired from his aaya (Nanny) and his family’s Indian servants and their children, so he remembered Hindi through a veil of childish imitation, not consciously realising what he was saying. ‘Chatta’ could mean ‘stack’; while the homophone ‘chutta’ means ‘fool’; ‘gand’ is almost certainly the word for ‘arsehole’, though it could conceivably be the mispronounced version of ‘gaon’, ‘village’. If it is ‘Chuttagand’ that he meant, it would have meant ‘the arsehole of an idiot’, the sort of language he would have been certainly aware of when he was a boy.


[11] Schlapper is a German word indicating something or someone who is flabby, slack, listless or floppy.


[12] The answers in order are done by Milligan, Secombe, Greenslade and Secombe.


[13] This is actually the first real appearance of the Red Bladder in the Goon Show. He had been referred to previously in ‘Dishonoured’ (12/5th)  where Neddie Seagoon gave his all in battle against this fiercesome warrior as he led the Pathan tribes against the British. From now on however, he became a real person voiced by Ray Ellington. Now that he had a voice, Milligan found it more useful to make him the adversary of Major Bloodnok rather than Seagoon. He appears in seven shows altogether; ‘The Red Fort’ (7/8th); ‘The Sahara Desert Statue’ (1/9th); ‘Dishonoured Again’ (9/13th); ‘The Tay Bridge (15/9th);  with a final appearance in ‘The Gold Plate Robbery’ (16/9th.)


[14] Although Poona is the spelling Milligan traditionally uses for this city, the reason is purely due to the improper pronunciation of Hindi vowels by English speakers. The present spelling is consistent with Devanagari script – Punè. The British built a large military cantonment in the city soon after subduing it following the third Maharatha War of 1817. This became the centre for the British Indian Army in the Northern states, and the city continued its important military status after the granting of independence in 1947. Milligan and his family lived at 5 Climo Road in the cantonment during the 30’s. The house is still there, and is now occupied by a civilian family.* (My thanks to Wing Commander Mahesh Gulati Rtd of the Indian Air Force for this information.)


[15] Milligan.


[16] This refers to George Elrick (1903-1999), ‘The Smiling Voice of Radio’, British musician, impresario and radio presenter, who compèred ‘Housewives Choice’ throughout the 50’s and 60’s.


[17] Milligan, as ever the son of a British NCO, had picked up many words from his father concerning the seedy underbelly of life in the cantonments of British India, but as a writer was unconcerned about making the facts behind these words clear to his listeners. ‘The Cages’ is an area in the Falkland Road section of Mumbai where prostitutes, sometimes as young as 11 and often in advanced stages of venereal infection, were paraded in cages on the street for their customers to make a selection. The mention of ‘Grand Parcel Walk’ is probably Milligan’s  version of the ‘Grand Trunk Road’, the 2,500km long highway across the gangetic plains of Northern India, built by Shah Jahan, repaired and enlarged by the British, and stretching from Chittagong on the Bay of Bengal to Kabul in Afghanistan. The Khyber Pass is a mountain pass in the west of present day Pakistan connecting Afghanistan with the plains of the sub-continent. To cockneys it was rhyming slang for ‘arse’. To the British soldiers guarding the desolate crags of that godforsaken frontier, it was the arse end of the Empire.


[18] Pondicherry, in present day Tamil Nadu India, had been the centre for the French East India company. The British besieged the city twice, in 1760-61 and again in 1778 as retaliation for the French alliance with the American colonists fighting the War of Independence, half a world away.  Both occasions saw the French defeated and eventually it established the British East India company as the dominant European trading force on the east coast.

[19] One of the most frequently occurring songs in the Goon Show – especially at moments of triumph when sung by Grytpype and Moriarty, it was written by Duke & Harburg for the revue ‘Walk a Little Faster’ in 1932.


[20]The Whistler and his Dog’ was a novelty jig written in 1905 by Arthur Pryor (1870-1942), trombone virtuoso, arranger, conductor and composer. Pryor was the first conductor to take the new fangled ‘phonograph’ recording process seriously, and he became music director for the fledgling Victor Talking Machine company in 1903, creating a new band and introducing ragtime to its repertoire and to the general public. Here, Bloodnok is referring to the ‘moral boosting’ broadcasts by the BBC during WWII. Nowadays these cheerful programmes – comedy shows, music programmes, community singing, community whistling, classical concerts and organ recitals, sound grotesquely unsophisticated, but during the war they were considered by the authorities to be vital aides in keeping up the spirits of the population, many of whom were suffering terrible personal losses.


[21] A similar idea was used a decade later by Talbot Rothwell (1916-1981) in his script for “Carry On Up the Khyber” when a British legation is at dinner in a dodgy Indian outpost. As the local warlord bombards the Governor’s residence, the dinner guests studiously ignore the magnificent destruction of the building going on round them maintaining English discipline to the last, while the governor’s wife, picking cement out of her hair, complains of  being “a little plastered”.


[22] Bloodnok is quoting a line from the song ‘My Mammy’ (Donaldson/Young/Lewis – 1918) made famous by Al Jolson in his 1927 film ‘The Jazz Singer.’  Jolson mostly performed in blackface makeup, saying that working behind a blackface mask gave him a sense of freedom and spontaneity on stage he had never known.


[23] Sellers.

[24] Spike remembered this name from his youth in India. The city is actually named Ambala, and lies on the Grand Trunk Road, 200 kms north of Delhi. The cantonment (which still exists) was established in 1843, and was the largest in India.


[25] Milligan.


[26] Both Wheaties and Cheerios (General Mills) breakfast cereals had highly developed advertising campaigns by the 50’s in which certain numbers of box tops could be exchanged for a prize. In 1955 both companies produced 45rpm records as promotional prizes – Wheaties with a recording of ‘On Top of Old Smokey’ and Cheerios with an ‘Official Mickey Mouse Club’ song. In earlier years, prizes included signet rings and even plate sets.


[27] Bluebottle is singing his highly individual version of ‘Unchained Melody’ (North/Zaret – 1955) probably in imitation of Jimmy Young, whose version of the recent original Todd Duncan hit had reached the UK #1 spot in 1955. There was to be a special request for the song four shows later in ‘Tales of Old Dartmoor’ (21/6th)  by the men of Dartmoor prison.


[28] Unclear.

[29] Spotted Dog was traditional English fare – a steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit (usually currants) and served with custard. The recipe is traceable back to the middle of the 19th century, when it was commonly known as ‘spotted dick’ though the etymology of both titles is far from certain.


[30] Which brings us to the central reasoning behind Milligan’s idea. One of his original comic principals was “the transference of utility” in which different objects are substituted for other objects but perform the same tasks. In this case the original factor is not mentioned – it is a sheet of music. The reasoning goes like this: ‘If a piece of sheet music can be read, comprehended (in the form of a performance,) recorded and played back on a gramophone record, then a map can also be read, comprehended – (and then the ‘absurdist’ element of the transference comes into play,) recorded and played back on a gramophone.’

Milligan’s invention was in line with the theatrical principals of absurdism, the concept of extended reality where different identities are interchanged to produce a fallacious result. I suggest Milligan learnt to do this in his youth. His family background, his cultural dislocation and his bipolar sensitivity led him to suspect the veracity of basic objects and basic indicators. The multilingual atmosphere of the cantonments when he was a child taught him to see words as meaningless gobbledegook – a cigarette could easily be tobacco, or Queen Victoria or gorilla – it made no difference. All three were just sounds. And if anything could be called anything else, then many things which did the same job (like communication devices in particular) could be called by each others names and still provide the same result. Maps and sheet music are the graphics of a journey; both can be played back on a gramophone. Organs and racing cars can both move you; both therefore can move you from point A to point B. Some examples were slightly cleverer. The function of a pair of binoculars is to keep your eyes peeled; the function of a banana is to be peeled – therefore the similarity of their operation allows for the exchange of the object.  Synthesis (transference) of indicators, synthesis (transference) of objects and synthesis (transference) of utilities are the three comic inventions we have inherited from the fertile mind of Mr Milligan.

[31] For most of her career, this song was Gracie Fields’ theme tune – along with “We’ll Meet Again”, “Wish Me Luck as you Wave Me Goodbye” and “The Biggest Aspidistra in the World.” Written by Haines, Leon and Towers for her 1931 hit film “Sally In Our Alley,” Gracie admitted later in her life that the final lines – (“If he lost you, he wonders what he’d do,”) were written by her husband Walter’s mistress Annie Lipman, and that if she’d have her way she would “drown blasted Sally together with Walter, with the aspidistra on top!”


[32] Diana Mary Fluck (1931-1984) was a British actress known as the British ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ Her assets were fully appreciated by a generation of men in the 1950’s and her fitful career included a 1960 LP entitled ‘Swinging Dors’ conducted by Wally Stott. An apocryphal story concerning her relates the tale of a certain Vicar, overcome by her looks, her name and his overactive imagination, introducing her at the local fete as Miss Diana Clunt.

[33] Milligan much enjoyed the idea of animals wearing hats. Spriggs is presented with a horse in ‘The Flea’ (12/7th) he says – “A horse?! …Take his hat off. You’re right – it is a horse.” while in a later poem Spike writes; “…and so they left the monkey house, while an elephant raised his hat.”  (‘Silly Verse for Kids’ – 1959.)


[34] As an example of one of Milligan’s recycled scenes, it is interesting to compare this scene of Seagoon and company trying to gain entry to the Red Bladder’s hide-out, with the similar (but much more effective) scene in ‘The Red Fort’ (7/8th). 


[35] Although it was a joke, it was regrettably not far from the truth. Seven out of twelve of the South American nations had undergone a Coup d’État since World War II. As Milligan was writing this script, Argentina was in uproar with President Juan Perón deposed, and the military out of control.


[36] Bluebottle is singing the ‘Harry Lime’ theme, from the 1949 film ‘The Third Man’.