BROADCAST: 25 Oct 1955 [1]

Script by Spike Milligan


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC home service. This weeks copy of ‘The Radio Times’ price threepence, says that you are going to hear ‘The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu-Manchu.’ Once again we have deceived them and you, but – please don’t take it too hard.

SECOMBE: (Uncouth) I seconds that!

SELLERS: I thirds it!

MILLIGAN: Motion carried!

SEAGOON: Huzzah within! [2] This means yet another extraordinary talking type wireless Goon Show.

GRAMS: Piano strings being struck by various sized mallets. Add reverb for effect.

SEAGOON: Ah! They don’t write tunes like that any more. Let’s hear the other side.

GRAMS: Old recording of Jack Hylton foxtrot.

MILLIGAN: Stop! Stop that crazy ‘Shepherd’s Bush’ mambo. You sinful people! Now put the screens around bed number two, that he may not have to listen to the story of…

SEAGOON: “The Search for Rommel’s Treasure” or…

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic wartime theme. Bring in German national anthem, extend over series of dramatic chords, climax, then decrescendo to low, ominous note held under.

SEAGOON: I forgot what I was going to say now. Oh yes – “The Search for Rommel’s Treasure” or –

ORCHESTRA: Shorter version of dramatic wartime theme.

GRAMS: Heavy artillery in distance. Fade under.

MILLIGAN: Hear that sound dear listeners. I wonder what it is?

GREENSLADE: It was El Alamein, nineteen forty-two. [3]

GRAMS: Bring up sound of shelling. Mix through into chickens clucking. [4]

SELLERS: The sounds of chickens has specially been added for people living in rural districts. Rommel’s Treasure part ein.

HIMMLER:[5] The hind quarters of the Afrika Corps!

GRAMS: Bring up combined sounds of shelling and chickens.

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: (approaching) Herr General Rommel! Herr General Rommel! Herr General Rommel, where are you?

ROMMEL: Was ist los? [6]

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Ah, there you are. The British have broken our line.

ROMMEL: Curse! All our washing in the mud again.

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Listen Herr General, it is serious. We must retreat, otherwise the British will lose.

ROMMEL: You’re right. It’s a shame to disappoint them after all the trouble they’ve been to. Corporal Choff?


ROMMEL: Pack mein Jewish piano. I’m leaving.


ROMMEL: Kapitän Moriarty?

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Ja mein General.

ROMMEL: You are one of the few Kapitän Moriarty’s I can trust.


FX: Heels snap

ROMMEL: Zonk you.

FX: Heels snap.

ROMMEL: I haff a special job for you.

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: It shall be done.

ROMMEL: Gut. You see this mysterious black box?


ROMMEL: You know what is in it?
KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Nein, mein Herr General.

ROMMEL: Gut – then it is a secret between you and I.

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: I give you my hand – shake, rattle and roll.[7]

ROMMEL: Now we must bury the black box ten feet above the ground.

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Ten feet above the gr… But people will see it!

ROMMEL: That’s a chance we will have to take. Oberleutnant?

OBERLEUTNANT LEW: (Approaching) Yeah, mein hairy? (My life – what am I doing in this army I don’t know.)

ROMMEL: Help us with this black box.

CAST: Straining noises. (Extended)

FX: Box thumping across floor.

OBERLEUTNANT LEW: There’s nothing in my contract about lifting prop baskets that’s all I know. [8] (Going off) I don’t want to know about this…

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: (Narration) And so they buried the black box ten feet above the ground. Then Rommel made good his escape in James Mason’s car.[9] But I tell you, only just in time – right then the British arrived!

SEAGOON: Hands up or I’ll draw my rations!

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Himmel! It’s an English NAAFI manager.

SEAGOON: Don’t move! Don’t move or I’ll turn the key in this tin of spam. Now, where’s Jim Rommel?

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: He’s gone to see Fred Hitler. You will never catch him Englander. He’s flying back to Deutschland.

SEAGOON: Nonsense. He’s going to Germany. Private Eccles!

ECCLES: Ah ha ha hum?

SEAGOON: Eccles, stay on guard on this spot and don’t move until I come back.


SEAGOON: Remember the code word is ‘Habenere’.

ECCLES: Remember the code word is ‘Habenere’. Ok. ‘Habenere’. I’ll wait till you come back.

SEAGOON: Splendid. I’ll see you get demotion for this.

ECCLES: Thank you.

SEAGOON: Now Commandant, come, come, come! We must take you to the interrogation officer.

ORCHESTRA: Bloodnok theme.

BLOODNOK: (Cowering) Ohhhh ohhhhh awwwh!

SEAGOON: German officer outside sir.

BLOODNOK: I surrender!

SEAGOON: He’s a prisoner sir.

BLOODNOK: Oh! Bring the coward and his money in.

FX: Two set of boots struggling across floor.

SEAGOON & MORIARTY: (Shouting and cursing.)[10]

FX: Thump of body thrown across desk.

BLOODNOK: Ohhhh ohhhhhhh! So you’re him?


BLOODNOK: Now then, regiment?
KAPITÄN MORIARTY: Ekspanten gespantenet ich panzerwaffen.

BLOODNOK: Don’t you dare do it here! Now – first name?

BLOODNOK: Second name?

BLOODNOK: Hans Knitz?

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: …and bomps-a-daisy! [11]

BLOODNOK: SEILUNG! Next dance please.

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: I was just beginning to enjoy this one.

BLOODNOK: Now Herr Kapitän, what I… (Shocked) That watch you’re wearing…

KAPITÄN MORIARTY: What about it?
BLOODNOK: That watch… How many numerals on the dial?


BLOODNOK: It’s mine! Mine had twelve. Give me that watch…


BLOODNOK: I’ll prove it’s mine. I’ll just strap it round my wrist – oooh oorggh… (make another three holes…) Aach! There – it fits me perfectly. Take him away, geblungen!

ORCHESTRA: Tatty chord in C.

GREENSLADE: That melody signified the end of part one. Part Two. Five years after the war in a Tobruk Officer’s mess.

CAST: Commissioned officers rhubarb.

BLOODNOK: I say, does anybody want to know the time?

(Sudden silence)
BLOODNOK: Very well, I’ll tell you. It’s nine twenty-eight exactly.

GRAMS: Large raspberry. Add in reverb.

BLOODNOK: Thank you. I feel no pain.

GREENSLADE: And what of Captain Moriarty?
MORIARTY: Yes – what of me?

GRAMS: Distant Arabic singing.

MORIARTY: I was in Libya trying to find the elusive black box – Rommel’s treasure.

GRYTPYPE: Do try and remember where you buried it Moriarty.

MORIARTY: I’ve tried but I can’t! If only we could locate the British Lieutenant who captured me. He might help us.

GRYTPYPE: I wonder where he is?
SEAGOON: I had retired from the Army and was on a goodwill tour of North Africa teaching Morris Dancing to the Arabs.[12] They didn’t seem to be quite getting the hang of it. (Giggles) A-hem. However one night, out of curiosity, I entered a curiosity shop.

FX: Door opens. Shop bell.

GRYTPYPE: Good evening. Have a gorilla?

SEAGOON: No thanks. I’ve just put one out. [13]

GRYTPYPE: Oh. Can I help either of you two gentlemen?

SEAGOON: Two? I’m alone.

GRYTPYPE: Good heavens. So you are.

SEAGOON: Are you the proper-iota?

GRYTPYPE: Yes, Mister Hercules Grytpype Thynne – Doctor of Philosophy, Professor and Degree in Mathematics, Master of Arts, M.A. (Cantab.), and Knight Order of the Bath.[14]

SEAGOON: Good heavens. I wish I had those qualifications.

GRYTPYPE: So do I. Are you absolutely sure that you won’t have a gorilla? SEAGOON: No thank you. I’ll tell you what, I’m going back to England in a few days and I’d like to buy something for my wife – an antique.

GRYTPYPE: Well what about this early pottery record of Max Geldray?

SEAGOON: Shall we dance?

GRYTPYPE: I should love to.


MAX GELDRAY - "Charmaine" [15]

[PIANO INTRO: Arpeggio in G7.

HARMONICA: First phrase.

ELLINGTON: That’s nice, cor blimey![16]

PIANO & HARMONICA: Second phrase.

BLUEBOTTLE: I wish dat I could play the mouth-organ like dat.


BLUEBOTTLE: Dat is nice.

PIANO & HARMONICA: Third phrase.


ORCHESTRA: Join and complete the number uninterrupted.]  


SEAGOON: No. I don’t think she’d care for that antique. How about something more Egyptian?

GRYTPYPE: Oh yes? Well here is a catalogue of our current Pyramids for sale.

SEAGOON: Pyramids? Ha ha ha! I couldn’t take one of those back to England.

GRYTPYPE: Of course not. You leave it here and every now and then we write letting you know how it’s getting on.

SEAGOON: (Giggles) Ha, ha, ha. Jolly English type joke. (Laughs)

GRYTPYPE: (Joining in the laughter.) Yes.

SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo…

GRYTPYPE: To name but a few…

SEAGOON: Yes… (laughs again.) Wait! Wait! Come to think of it – it would be something to own a Pyramid, eh? Wouldn’t it?

GRYTPYPE: Of course it would.

SEAGOON: (Thoughtfully) Here’s this catalogue here, you see.

GRYTPYPE: That’s my brochure…

SEAGOON: Yes. (How is your old brochure?) I say – how much is this pyramid on page three?

GRYTPYPE: My dear sir, you couldn’t have chosen a better model. Only done four thousand years and had one previous owner.

SEAGOON: Why is he selling?
GRYTPYPE: He died.

SEAGOON: Oh, I am sorry. (I’m terribly sorry about...) How about this one here?
GRYTPYPE: Oh that. Well of course, that is the great Pyramid of Tot-knees the third, son of Ka the sun god, great Pharaoh of the Upper and Lower Nile Kingdoms, conqueror of the Syrians, the Assyrians; treasure vault of the Ptolemys; and the greatest Pyramid in the world.

SEAGOON: How much?

GRYTPYPE: Eight bob.

SEAGOON: (Shocked) Eight silver shillings for a pyramid? Ha! But it’s second hand!

GRYTPYPE: Curse! The man must be an Egyptologist.

SEAGOON: No, no. I can’t pay eight shillings.

GRYTPYPE: Alright, very well then – nine.

SEAGOON: Nine and six.

GRYTPYPE: Ten shillings.

SEAGOON: Ten and six.

GRYTPYPE: Sold to the nit in the plasticine boots and lead trilby!

SEAGOON: Now, when can I see my pyramid?
GRYTPYPE: Immediately. I’ll have you driven there in my own private trousers. (Calls out.) Moriarty?

FX: Door opens.

MORIARTY: I heard you call my Capitain.

BLUEBOTTLE: You rotten swine, that’s my line. I always…

MORIARTY: Get out of here!

FX: Body blows. Scuffle. Door closes.

MORIARTY: I’m very sorry about…YOU!

SEAGOON: Captain Moriarty!


SEAGOON: I arrest you as an escaped prisoner of war.

MORIARTY: Sapristi gnuckles! The war’s over.

SEAGOON: Nonsense. It’s only an interval.

GRYTPYPE: Then, shall we dance?
GRAMS: Old gramophone recording of foxtrot..

SEAGOON: You’re still as beautiful as when I married you.

MORIARTY: Stop! Stop that sinful dancing. (Aside) Grytpype, this is the charlie who captured me at Alamein in nineteen forty-two. See if he remembers where the spot was.

GRYTPYPE: Yes. Yes. (Aloud) Er, Mister Seakroon, have you a good memory?

SEAGOON: Have I? Ha ha ha!  

“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”[17]

GRYTPYPE: Really? Do you know, you’re much older than I thought.

MORIARTY: Sapristi blonge! Lieutenant Seakroon what we want to know is – do you remember the name of the spot where you took me prisoner?

SEAGOON: Ooo yes. I remember the spot well. It was a place called…um, ah…Africa. That’s it, Africa!

MORIARTY: Yes, yes, yes, yes - but what I mean is the exact spot.

SEAGOON: Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t recall.

MORIARTY: Come, come. Can’t you think of… something?

SEAGOON: Let me see now… Mmm… Oh, wait. Now I come to think of it, I do remember something.


SEAGOON: “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

GRYTPYPE: Yes, yes, yes, Neddie. But don’t you remember anything after that?

SEAGOON: No. They threw me overboard.

MILLIGAN: I don’t wish to know that, and stop ad-libbing.

SEAGOON: (Needle nardle noo!) Look, if you contact Major Bloodnok, he has the original maps which show the exact spot where you were captured.

GRYTPYPE: Splendid.

SEAGOON: Well  then.

GRYTPYPE: Thank you Mr. Sneekroon, thank you. Gladys?

ELLINGTON: Yes darlin’?

GRYTPYPE: Gladys darling – drive this Charlie out into the desert, drop him near something that looks like a pyramid and then leave him.

ELLINGTON: Right-o darling. This way sir, cor blimey. Get in.

GRAMS: Vintage car speeds off. Frequent backfiring. Fade into distance.

GREENSLADE: Thank you. Now, if listeners will adjust their ear-trumpets to the new high frequency, they will be able to hear ‘Rommel’s Treasure’ part the drei.[18] The scene – Libya, the time – the present day. Inside a British officer’s mess at the Wadi of El Yah Want.

FX: Telephone. Picks up.

BLOODNOK: Wadi El-Yah-Want.

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) Is that Major Bloodnok?
BLOODNOK: Yes, and the time is exactly ten twenty-three and two seconds.

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) Is that the headquarters of the third filth-muck fusiliers?

BLOODNOK: It is, and further more…

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) Yes?
BLOODNOK: …it is now ten twenty-three and three seconds.

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) Major, you have in your possession certain war maps that I would like to borrow.

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) I’ve been trying to locate a certain spot in the desert.

BLOODNOK: What makes you think that I’d lend you British military maps?

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) Money.

BLOODNOK: What a lucky guess. I shall bring them round. What is the address dear boy?
MORIARTY: (On end of line.) Grytpype-Thynne’s Curiosity Shop, Mersa Mutt-Matru.[19]

BLOODNOK: Fine, fine. Look, before I leave, I …well, I do think that you ought to know something.

MORIARTY: (On end of line.) What?

BLOODNOK: It’s coming up to ten twenty-four exactly. (Calls out) Taxi, to the street of a thousand!

GRAMS: Vintage car putters off into the distance.

BLOODNOK: (Sings over.) “I’ll follow my secret heart…[20]

Oh, let me like a soldier fall…” [21]

GREENSLADE: That recording in now on sale at all good chemists. Now here is a recording of Neddie Seagoon in his taxi. If anybody wants me, I’ll be in the announcer’s rest room.

GRAMS: Taxi speeds up. Screeches to a halt. Small piece of metal falls off.

ELLINGTON: Get out darling. This is your pyramid here, cor-blimey.

GRAMS: Pair of boots hit the ground.

SEAGOON: Ooo! Thank you darling. (Narration) I saw before me a pile of earth ten foot high which, as yet – unbeknown to me, was the hiding place of Rommel’s Treasure. Ha! Surely this couldn’t be the great pyramid of Tot-knees, it’s so small!

GRAMS: Taxi screeches away. Fade into distance.

SEAGOON: He’s gone! He’s gone, leaving me in charge of all this sand – leaving me to starve in the desert. This is terrible! I – I haven’t paid him.

ECCLES: (In distance. Sings.) “I talk to the trees…”[22]
SEAGOON: Anyone behind that pyramid?
ECCLES: (Off) Habenere!

SEAGOON: Habenere? (Shouts) Habenere what?

ECCLES: Habenere for ten years.

SEAGOON: Good heavens, Private Eccles!

ECCLES: (Approaching) Yeah. You told me to wait here [23] until you came back, remember?
SEAGOON: Oh yes. Oh horror of horrors! Dear faithful old hairy English Tommy.

ORCHESTRA: Bring in amateur violin solo behind:Land of Hope and Glory.”

SEAGOON: Ten years you’ve waited here rather than disobey that last order I gave you. “Stay here till I came back,” I said to him. He waited alone in the desert, he never wavered from his duty, he kept the name of servitude shining bright. Eccles, Eccles – you upheld the flag; you never questioned the order; you stayed out here alone; you – without food or water; you – without money; you – without anything to stop you walking away. You…

ORCHESTRA: Solo violin stops.


ECCLES: What! What! What! Me an idiot? Let me put this violin down, I’ll tell you. Now listen, you don’t think for ten years I been standing here on guard? I mutinied! I refused to obey an order.

SEAGOON: There’s nobody here to give any orders.

ECCLES: I gave them myself. Like this – listen. (On parade) Private Eccles, fall in!

GRAMS: Regiment running across parade ground.

ECCLES: You’re late! Come on, hurry up Snowdon.[24] Private Eccles, from the right – number.


Fine, fine, fine. From the left – number.


Good, good. Private Eccles my good man, slope arms.

(Rebelliously) I ain’t a-goin’ to do it.

Come, come, come, my good man. I’m giving you an order. Slope arms!

(Rebelliously) I ain’t a-goin’ to slope my arms.

Come, come Private Eccles. Co… Ooo! My good man, why are you pointing that gun at me? Put that gun down my good man.

(Rebelliously) I won’t!

Yes you will.

I won’t!

Yes you will…(Argument)

FX: Body blows. Quick pistol shot.

ECCLES: I shot ‘im. [25]

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, I fear that ten years alone in the desert have softened his brain. He thinks he’s two people. Eccles, come here good lad…


SEAGOON: Lie down. There, good boy. Steady now. That’s it. Lie down. That’s right. There. Now say after me – there is only one Eccles.

ECCLES: There is only one Eccles.

GRAMS: (Recording. ECCLES: (Distant)  ‘What about me over here?’)

SEAGOON: Arrhhhhggghh! No! I must be hearing things. Why, I’m even imagining I can hear Ray Ellington singing and playing a certain known melody. Exit for a short gorilla.


RAY ELLINGTON “Love Me or Leave Me” [26]


ECCLES: Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine.

SEAGOON: Thank heavens it was all a mirage played by Ray Ellington. Now Eccles, do you know your way out of this desert?
ECCLES: Oh, I can’t say I do.

SEAGOON: Well say something else.

ECCLES: I don’t.

SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo, naughty hairy soldier. Get to the top of that ten foot pyramid, (which up to now I don’t know contains the black box), and scan the horizon.

ECCLES: Ooooo-k.

GRAMS: Clambering sounds over loose boulders and rocks.

SEAGOON: What can you see?

ECCLES: (Distant) Nothing.

SEAGOON: Use your binoculars.

ECCLES: Ok. Ah, that’s better.

SEAGOON: See anything now?
ECCLES: No, but you can see it much clearer with these. [27]

GRAMS: Aeroplane in distance.

SEAGOON: Listen, there’s a record of an aeroplane approaching. We’re saved. Fire your gun to attract his attention.

FX: Pistol shot.

GRAMS: Messerschmitt plummeting to earth. Instead of crash, substitute steel bars and corrugated iron sheets. Drop a few buckets at the end.

BLUEBOTTLE: (Distant) You rotten swine you. Ehi-hue! I was driving along like a happy boy airman, when PING, SPLIT, PLUNGE! – the string on my joy-stick was severed. He-he-hui!

SEAGOON: Little long vested aviator, who are you?
BLUEBOTTLE: I am Air-Ace Bluebottle, wonder-boy aviator, kinge of the air. I was just breaking the worlds record for cardboard and string aeroplanes when – PING! – you crashéd me. Ehi-hou. I shall never be able to stand up again.

SEAGOON: Why not?
BLUEBOTTLE: My trousers have come off. Hee hee hee!

SEAGOON: Fear not little Rhodes scholar with knees heavily wired for sound. You’re in good hands.

BLUEBOTTLE: Thank you my Capitan for them kind words. Thank you. (Thinks – you rotten swine you!)

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, here I was in a harassing position. One – I was with an old hairy English soldier who had lost his mind. Two – I had been sold a pyramid of much smaller size than I had bargained for. Three – actually it wasn’t a pyramid but the burial place of Rommel’s treasure, (which up to know I did not know.) Four – I had shot down the world’s greatest cardboard and string aviator, and five – IT WAS EARLY CLOSING DAY IN EAST ACTON!


GRAMS: Funeral wailing.

SEAGOON: There, there. Don’t take it so hard dear listener. They’re opening again tomorrow.

GRAMS: Vintage car approaching. Frequent backfiring.

SEAGOON: But hist! I hear someone approaching. Everyone hide behind the horizon.

BLOODNOK: Stop the car. Stop the car will you! Switch something off, anything.

GRAMS: Recording stops.

BLOODNOK: Ohchh! This is the place, and we arrived here dead on eleven thirty.

MORIARTY: Sapristi! Look – that’s it!

MORIARTY: That ten foot mound there. Gladys take this shovel and you’ll find the black box at the top darling.

ELLINGTON: Ah… yes darling.

MORIARTY: Grytpype, soon we’ll have the treasure.

SEAGOON: I watched as they unearthed the black box, then I sprang. Hands up!

MORIARTY: Ooooooooooh! A retired English NAAFI manager.

SEAGOON: You devilish men. You sold me a phoney pyramid and left me in the desert to die!

MORIARTY: To die? I thought it was yester-die.

SECOMBE: (Raspberry) I don’t wish to know that.

MILLIGAN: I say, look here…

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, don’t take on so. (Aside) Moriarty, get the black box, (which up to a moment ago Neddie didn’t know was buried in the mound) and get it into the car.

MORIARTY: Well said.

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, it’s all been a dreadful mistake. We’ll refund you the money and here is an advance in Hittite pottery vases.

GRAMS: Car drives off at speed.

GRYTPYPE: Stop! Stop that taxi. The swine Moriarty’s got away with Rommel’s treasure.

SEAGOON: Treasure? He won’t get far. Eccles, bend down.


SEAGOON: Right now, everybody on. Hold tight. Off you go Eccles.

GRAMS: Boots running at jogging speed. (Continue under.)

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, he’s running beautifully.

SEAGOON: Yes – he’s only done four thousand miles.

GRYTPYPE: My, what a lovely night.

SEAGOON: Shall I…(suddenly coy)… shall I tell you something?

GRYTPYPE: What Neddie?

SEAGOON: You’re just as beautiful as when I first married you.

GRYTPYPE: You tease. Shall we dance?

SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo.

GRAMS: Old fashioned gramophone record of foxtrot.

GREENSLADE: And so dear listeners they danced in hot pursuit of Moriarty. Now here is a record of Moriarty and his taxi in full flight.

GRAMS: Vintage car spluttering along.

MORIARTY: Faster! Faster Gladys darling! They’re gaining. Bloodnok, what’s the time?

BLOODNOK: It’s um… Blast, it’s stopped.[28]

MORIARTY: Good heavens! Wait, what’s that sign ahead? ‘Danger, minefields.’

BLOODNOK: Minefield?

MORIARTY: Don’t stop. It’s only an old war sign. Keep driving on…

GRAMS: Large explosion.

GREENSLADE: People with television sets will see that the explosion blew Rommel’s small black box up in the air, and it lands on…

FX: Bucket hits hard surface.

BLUEBOTTLE: Ahhhhaeeeeiii! I have been nutted, nutted by a black box! I’m too young to be nutted. I don’t like this game.

SEAGOON: The black box! Rommel’s treasure which up to three hours ago I did not know was buried in the ten foot mound.

GRYTPYPE: Give it to me! Give it to me!! Give it to me!!! This gun is loaded! At last the treasure. Now, I’ll just lift the lid…

FX: Catch opens..

GRAMS: Music box.

GRYTPYPE: Oh, a music box.

SEAGOON: Shall we dance?

GRYTPYPE: Yes, darling. [29]

ORCHESTRA: End theme.

GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded program 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 program was produced by Peter Eton.

ORCHESTRA: Playout.[30]


[1] In the decade following World War II, a tide of war books and action films appeared in bookshops and cinemas, narrating tales of heroism and cowardice, sacrifice and selfishness – all part of the millions of stories which made up the Allied victory. Although Milligan had no more exciting war than anyone else, he seemed to be acutely aware that his observation of action in Bexhill, North Africa and Italy from the ordinary soldier’s point of view, was entertaining and worthy of being told.

At the beginning of the third volume of his eventual War Memoirs, after the fall of Tunis, he asked with some surprise – “Had we ordinary layabouts beaten the formidable German Army?” He saw the war from the point of view of the common man – the down at heel, layabout Londoners, held together with brylcreem and dust, who had put the German Panzer divisions to flight more by luck than by strategy. When at last he came to write these memoirs, the pages were not filled with details of divisional counter moves, brave last ditch stands, or noble moments; rather they were filled with stories about the common man battling the sandstorms, the rain, the food and the stinking cigarettes, while getting soaked, drunk, bored or killed.

At the time of this Goon Show there had been two recent films concerning Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Based on a book by Brigadier General Desmond Young, ‘The Desert Fox; The Story of Rommel’ (1951) starred James Mason as Rommel and Luther Adler as Hitler, and narrated Young’s brief meeting with the Desert Fox as a prisoner of war, then followed Rommel’s declining fortunes after being recalled to Germany. A second war film concerning the North African campaign was released in 1953, again featuring James Mason as Rommel. ‘The Desert Rats’ (1953) narrated the story of the siege of Tobruk, with Richard Burton playing the captain of the garrison holding out against Rommel’s fierce attacks.

In this script we immediately hear the voice that Spike was to adopt in the War Memoirs. It is direct, funny, and totally unselfconscious. It takes neither the tone of a regimental history, nor the ‘tear-in-the-eye’ sound of an old comrades tale, rather it focuses on the detritus of front line action –the humour that is found when the smallest things in life take on an exorbitantly important meaning because your next breath may be your last. When the bigger picture was too big to bear, Spike wrote his best work. Broken military lines become washing lines in the mud; the distant thud of artillery bombardments become the ululation of broody chickens; and above all, the idiot soldier still stands on guard.


[2] Milligan had recently started adding Shakespearian imitation quotations in his scripts. Innocuous little lines like “Exeunt Tucker and Treeze, fighting,” (‘The Case of the Missing CD Plates’ 5/6th) and “Huzzah within” sound suspiciously like the stage directions from Shakespeare’s published plays. On the other hand, it has been widely accepted that Shakespeare’s stage direction, ‘Exit, pursued by a bear,’ (‘The Winter’s Tale’ Act 3, sc.3) is Goonesque in the extreme - a wonder, considering the play was written 340 years before the broadcasts.


[3] El Alamein was the deciding battle of the North African campaign. The town was a shipping facility for oil, and it was here that the Allies finally managed to first stop Rommel’s advance, then three months later break his lines, sending the Africa Corps into retreat. Churchill later wrote, “Before El Alamein we had no victory. After it we had no defeats.”


[4] This is a standard piece of Milliganism. In an incident in Algeria during WWII, an enterprising soldier in his battalion bought dozens of eggs from an Arab farmer as they marched through a native village on their way to camp. With no means to carry them, the whole regiment was seconded to clutch one each.

“Puzzled wayfarers watched as British soldiers marched by, clutching eggs accompanied by mass clucking.”

(“Rommel? Gunner Who?” – 1974, p.22)

It remained in Spike’s mind as another of those wonderful examples of ‘things out of order with each other’, for after all, shelling eggs and shelling soldiers are almost the same thing.


[5] Sellers again.


[6] Meaning ‘What’s up?’ Rommel is voiced by Secombe.


[7] The phrase ‘Shake, rattle and roll’ had recently entered the language as the title of a rock and roll number written in 1954 by Jesse Stone. Recorded initially by Big Joe Turner followed by ‘Bill Haley and His Comets’ in the same year, the number reached number 1 on the US Billboard for Turner and number 7 for Haley. The origin of the phrase seems to have come from gambling, though the original version of the Stone’s lyrics make it clear that its meaning is sexual.


[8] This sudden reference to ‘props baskets’ makes me suspect that this was a spoof on a real incident. After the war, Peter had once played a joke on his land-lady in Birmingham by having himself delivered to her home inside a props basket. She and her son dragged the heavy basket up the stairs to Seller’s first floor room. To their surprise he opened the lid and stepped out. “Thank you.” he said. “It’s my legs you know.”


[9] James Mason essayed the role of Erwin Rommel in the two films ‘The Desert Fox’ and ‘The Desert Rats’.


[10] Milligan (as Kapitän Moriarty) says, “Take your filthy geblunden off my yukka-bakkaka.” There is a  further struggle then he says, “You pig Englanders!”


[11] This is actually a spoof of the musical hall number “Hands, Knees and Boomps-a-daisy” written in the early part of the twentieth century by Annette Mills, and which featured in the Broadway hit musical of 1938, ‘Hellzapopin’. This musical was circus based, off-the-wall, anarchic and innovative. After joining the central pool of artists in Italy following his being downgraded due to ‘battle fatigue’, Spike wrote a show for the lads based on this type of humour called ‘Men-in-Gitis’. It was the beginning of the Goon Show. (See ‘Where Have All the Bullets Gone?’ p.98)

Annette Mills however, went on to have a major career in early BBC television. After a broken leg forced her to retire from professional dancing, she turned first to musical composition, then to cabaret and entertainment. A horrible car accident during WWII left her is hospital for 3 years, after which she became the piano playing partner of ‘Muffin the Mule’, a puppet character whose show on BBC television ran from 1946 to 1955. Mills died eight days after the final show in January of that year.

[12] Strangely enough, it is not unlikely that Morris dancing actually originated in North Africa with the Moors. (Morris = Moorish). The actual dance itself  seems to have come to England from Spain sometime after the Reconquista in 1492.


[13] This is the second appearance of Spike’s new smoking craze, the first occurring in ‘Napoleon’s Piano.’ By the ninth show, the Goons had switched to monarchical tobacco. “Have a picture of Queen Victoria.”


[14] Grytpype is not being amusing when referring to the Bath. It is a British order of chivalry first awarded by George 1 in 1725. The bathing refers to the medieval ceremony for conferring a Knighthood upon someone, when ritual purification was undergone as part of the ceremony.


[15] Composed by Erno Rapee, with lyrics by Lew Pollack in 1926 for the original silent movie version of ‘What Price Glory?’ (1926). It seems incongruous that an actual musical number would be associated with a silent art form, but from the 1920’s onwards, songs, interludes and whole musical scenes were written as background music for films, and the arrangements distributed throughout the cinema circuits along with the canisters of celluloid. The cinema chains of the era employed anything from a solo pianist, to whole symphony orchestras, so the music had to be arranged to suit a wide variety of instrumental combinations. Although singers were not employed in the cinema orchestras, the theme tunes were often released on disc to coincide with the film’s release. A recording of the song ‘Charmaine’ by Guy Lombardo had reached the top of the charts in 1927, remaining number one for seven weeks. The number remained popular for many decades, with a recording by Ronald Binge accompanied by the Mantovani Orchestra and a second version by Bob Carroll entering the charts in 1951. ‘Bill Haley and His Comets’ went on to record their own version of the number later in 1958.


[16] As far as I am aware, this is one of the few times Ellington interrupts Geldray’s number.

[17] Written by Maurice Abravanel (1903-1993), a Swizz-Jewish conductor, who was a descendent of Isaac Abravanel, the finance minister for Queen Isabella of Spain, the Regent who had authorised Columbus’ voyage. The song continues:

“Indians!  Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

[18] The BBC Light Programme opened in July 1945, utilizing the long wave frequency previously used by the BBC National Programme before the war.  During 1955 the BBC was allocated three new VHF (FM) frequency ranges for the Light Programme, the Third Programme and the Home Service. The BBC began transmissions on the new frequency (88.0 – 94.6 MHz.) in May of this year. This is what Greenslade is alluding to.


[19] Once again a name based on a real location from the desert campaign. Mersa Matruh is a Mediterranean sea-port in Egypt, 290kms west of Alexandria, on the main highway to Libya. During the war, General Erwin Rommel had maintained his headquarters in the town, until it was retaken by the allies in November of 1942.


[20] From ‘Conversation Piece’ by Noël Coward, (1934).


[21] From ‘Maritana’ by Fitzball & Wallace, (1845).


[22] For someone alone in the desert for ten years, Eccles was right up to date with Broadway shows. The song he sings, ‘I Talk to the Trees’ is from “Paint Your Wagon’ by Lerner & Loewe, which opened in 1951.


[23] Secombe continues talking under this line. He says, “Mad Dan Eccles! I’m… after all these years.”


[24] I think this is what he says.  If this is so, Spike would not have been referring to Antony Armstrong-Jones (1930- ) as he was not ennobled until October 1961 upon his marriage to Princess Margaret. It is likely Milligan actually meant what he wrote. Snowdon was not a mountain easily hurried up. Even that year, a climber had lost his life on its slopes.


[25] It is highly likely that this scene was based on a routine Milligan performed when he was first making an attempt at a solo comedy career in the late 40’s. It has all the characteristics of a well rehearsed, solo act. Spike describes his early attempts at stand up in “Peace Work” (Michael Joseph, 1991 p.204-205.)


[26] By Kahn and Donaldson, originally published in 1928, and first sung in the Broadway play ‘Whoopee’ by Ruth Etting – a nightclub vocalist and Ziegfeld girl, who was married to the gangster ‘Moe the Gimp’ Snyder. Two versions of the song were released during 1955 – Sammy Davis Jr’s version débuted in May, while Lena Horne’s version charted in July. The film of Ruth Etting’s life – ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, was also released in 1955, and starring James Cagney and Doris Day, who played a part originally intended for Ava Gardner. Etting herself never regained her career after her ex-husband Moe shot and injured her pianist (to whom she was engaged at the time) in a jealous rage in 1938. The trial and its publicity effectively left her ruined.


[27] Occasionally Spikes lines have a remarkable resonance to them. I suggest that it is because sometimes he used actual lines he remembered saying whilst in the army.

[28] This gag, concerning Bloodnok’s watch, is often overlooked. It was part of Milligan learning how to tie the shows together with interconnected gags.


[29] Twice the Goon Show ends with the cast left with nothing but a musical apparatus; here a music box and in ‘The Man Who Never Was’ (21/8th) a barrel organ. Both shows are concerned with WWII. Both shows end with the revelation of a secret – one a treasure in the desert guarded for ten years by an idiot soldier; while the other a highly secret military machine.

It is perfectly feasible that the ending to both shows are metaphors for Spike’s life and career. He started WWII as a pimply youth unable to fit in. He finished it as a professional musician; a performer; a comic; a guitar player in the Bill Hall Trio, a music-box entertaining audiences with one of the most remarkable musical performances to come out of the War; but simultaneously he ended up a monkey on a barrel organ, churning out the Goon Show for a decade, chained to a BBC contract which he both needed and loathed. ‘Spike! Up on top and start scratching! The tin mug – and off we go!”


[30] Although obviously based on the film ‘The Desert Fox; The Story of Rommel’,  no more than the first scene imitates the plot to any extent. The remainder of this episode is drawn from Spike’s own war experiences and shows his first tentative steps towards writing the War Memoirs, the first volume of which was eventually published in July 1971. Spike’s long time writing partnerships with Larry Stephens and then Eric Sykes seems to have taught him a reasonable amount about synthesising disparate events into satisfactory plots – an extraordinary achievement considering the mental and emotional battles he was suffering at the time.

If we take his War Memoirs as non-fiction – and despite the tendency of reviewers to perceive them as fiction embroidered with fact, Spike went to great lengths to prove that he wrote them seriously and with great attention to the real events – then there are quite a few instances from his North African campaign that seem to have provided him with the necessary events on which to hang the plot for this show.


1/ The German’s burying something before their retreat is one of Spike’s oddest stories. It occurs in vol. 3 “Monty. His Part in My Victory.” (p.55)


It had been whispered that Jerry indulged in ‘drag’ activities. Now… ‘What would I do, if I had women’s clothes in my big pack, and the enemy were closing in. Put ‘em on? No! Bury em.’ I started to prod the ground, finding a soft surface I dug down and lo! there, just below the surface…


Milligan goes on to finish the story, but for the purpose of this show he used the idea of the German’s burying items as they fled as the central plot device.


2/ The final scene where they climb the large mound and scan the horizon for help, then shoot down a plane is a combination of two events. The first is in ‘Monty. His Part in My Victory’ p.49-51.


We walked around the Aqueduct and came to a low feature. Forrest scrambled up it. “There, we’ve climbed it. Let’s all go home.” I was not put off, I led an assault up the ruins till we were a good fifty feet up, close behind moaning was Forrest. “If I wanted to be this high,” he said, “I’d have joined the air force.”


They become stuck on the aqueduct and attempt to construct a rope ladder from their trousers to get down again. From the distant camp, Major Chater Jack is watching the descent.


He passed his binoculars to his batman. “I don’t know if my eyes are playing tricks, but there appear to be three men climbing the aqueduct with no trousers on.”


The second incident is the shooting down of an enemy aircraft.


One freezing morning we were awakened by a Lockheed Lightning repeatedly roaring over our camp. “Go and ask that bastard if he’s going by road,” says Edgington. I got outside just as the plane made another drive. I shouted “Hope you crash you noisy bastard,” the plane raced seaward, hit the water and exploded. I was stunned.


From that point onwards, Edgington and others ribbed Spike about his verbal curse which could bring down fighters. (‘Rommel? Gunner Who?’ – 1974, p.20)


3/ The romantic, Hollywood style interlude between Grytpype and Seagoon as they cross the desert on Eccles’ back – “You’re just as beautiful as when I first married you,” appears in book three.


“I want to live,” I said raising one eyebrow like John Barrymore and crossing my eyes. “I’m young! Lovely! I want to feel the wind of this giant continent blowing through my hair,” I laughed. “Happy darling?” I said as Kidgell shot two feet up, hitting his nut on the roof.


(‘Rommel? Gunner Who?’ p.100.)


4/ The lone soldier left on guard in the desert is mentioned a second time in book one of his memoirs.  Spike narrates the legend of a soldier permanently ‘posted’ – a military word meaning to shift a worthless soldier from regiment to regiment.


“There is a legend that the last of these idiots was discovered as late as 1949 living on the tail-board of a burnt-out ammunition lorry in a Wadi near Alamein, When located, he was naked save for a vest and one sock: he said he was ‘waiting to be posted.”


Eccles’ story was also the story of Spikes life. The war went on with the disasters and the comedy intertwined and the idiot soldier still remained on guard.


(“Hitler: My Part in his Downfall” p. 66)


5/ German washing appears in ‘Rommel? Gunner Who?’ p. 72 in the form of a comic photo.


And finally,


6/ Heavy artillery and chickens clucking. In an incident in Algeria, an enterprising soldier in his battalion bought dozens of eggs from an Arab farmer as they marched through a native village on their way to camp. With no means to carry them, the whole regiment was seconded to clutch one each.


“Puzzled wayfarers watched as British soldiers marched by, clutching eggs accompanied by mass clucking.”


(“Rommel? Gunner Who?” p.22)