BROADCAST: 28 Feb 1957 [1]


Script by Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens.



GREENSLADE: This is the BBC.

GRAMS: Screaming female fans at Elvis concert.

GREENSLADE: Right – steady girls, steady! This is your old Wallace the ‘pelvis’ again with a real hot modern rhythm for you. So let’s get ‘hep’[2] with my latest recording, “See You Later Alligator.”[3]

GRAMS: Massed applause.

ORCHESTRA: Rock and Roll introduction – fast.

GREENSLADE: (Sings)     See you later alligator,

                                        After a while crocodile.

                                        See you later alligator,

                                        After a while crocodile.

                                        Cause you’re in my way, my way now,

                                        Don’t you know you cramp my style.

SEAGOON: Stop! Stop you mad fool Greenslade. Are you out of your mind?[4] Take off those false crepe-hair side-burns and remove that elastic leg support.

GREENSLADE: I can’t. I’ve got haricot beans.

SEAGOON: You mean varicose veins.

GREENSLADE: Haricot beans – I’ve just been shopping.

SEAGOON: Mr. Greenslade, I’d like you to bear in mind that you’re in the company of cultured gentlefolk, so belt up or you’ll get a dirty big bunch of fives up your conk.

GREENSLADE: Now, the highly esteemed and pressed Goon Show.

PIANO INTRO: Sellers awful piano playing. (Extended) [5]

SEAGOON: Yes, with that haunting Seller’s theme sounding the death knell of all piano postal tuition courses, we present this week’s play entitled – (and we quote from this suicide note)…

SELLERS: [6] ‘Insurance – the White Man’s Burden’.

GRAMS: Scratchy violin solo with piano accompaniment.

GREENSLADE: Scene one – the British Zoo. A flannelled fool approaches the penguin pool.

GRAMS: Cheerful school children on zoo excursion.

SEAGOON: Ah, good morning zoological keeper.

WILLIUM: Good morning flannelled fool.

SEAGOON: What a lovely day for a zoo.

WILLIUM: Yes. That’s why I let it out this morning.

SEAGOON: Ha, ha, ha, ha! A merry zoological-type joke.


SEAGOON: A big crowd of people here today.

WILLIUM: Yes, I know. We let ‘em in for the animals to look at, you see. Trouble is we have to lock the boa constrictors up so the kids don’t get at ‘em, you know. Lost four boa constrictors last year – kids taking ‘em home all the time… hang the laundry on their backs there…  bloke come down the road he told me about, eh? (Raves)

SEAGOON: Well done. Now tell me, what do you call those little black and white creatures in the penguin pool?
WILLIUM: Well I call that one Jim, that one’s Terence and that’s Penelope over there.

SEAGOON: What do you call that one sitting at the piano?
WILLIUM: I call him a pianist, mate.

SEAGOON: Don’t tell me that penguin plays the piano!

WILLIUM: Well, I …

GRAMS: Music hall intro. on piano; penguin squawks tune. [7]

SEAGOON: Good heavens! And he sings as well.

WILLIUM: Yes – and them’s all his own words too you know.

SEAGOON: Dear listeners, I realised that the great crowd was due to this piano playing penguin. If I could get him on the stage I’d make a fortune.

GREENSLADE: Immediately Seagoon went to a nearby house and put up a brass plate inscribed ‘Curator of Birds – Inquire within.’

FX: Quick knock. Door opens.

SPRIGGS: Good morning. Come in. Come i-innnn.

SEAGOON: I want to buy a penguin.

SPRIGGS: You look like the type – but only one penguin? I’m afraid, I’m afra-aaaid we only sell them wholesale.

SEAGOON: Alright then, I’ll buy one wholesale. How much are they?

SPRIGGS: How much are they? (Sings) How much are the-eeeey! I’ll just look in this catalogue.

SEAGOON: I don’t want a cat, I want a penguin. Look in the penguin-log.

SPRIGGS: It’s a lie – I didn’t write that one. Nevertheless I shall look in this penguin log. Where’s my saw?[8] (sings) Hoawaoaoaoaw! Ahhhh! Here we are. (Sings) Here we ar-rrreeee!

SEAGOON: You found it?
SPRIGGS: No – I was just telling you where we were.

SEAGOON: Thank heavens – I can throw away this map of China.

SPRIGGS: I’ll just make out this bill of sale. How do you spell penguin?

SEAGOON: P – N – guin.

SPRIGGS: How do you pronounce it?

SEAGOON: P – E – N – G – U – I – N.

SPRIGGS: Thank you.  Let me see now – I’ll write that down. E – Z – L – X – Q. Drat this pen – it can’t spell!

SEAGOON: Wait a minute. Perhaps it’s the ink that can’t spell. Let me taste it. (Tasting) P – E – N – G … No, no. This ink’s alright.

SPRIGGS: Thank you. Now then – oh oh oh ohhh! Here’s the one Jim. The name’s Tom – Tom Penguin. Pianoforte and penguin vocalist. (Sings) Melody divine he sings.

SEAGOON: That’s him. How much?

SPRIGGS: How much? Twenty pounds sterling.

SEAGOON: That’s expensive for a second hand penguin.

SPRIGGS: Ah, but he’s just been done up.

SEAGOON: Who by?
SPRIGGS: The husband of the penguin he’s been carrying on with.

SEAGOON: Twenty pounds? I’ve only got eighteen shillings sterling.

GRAMS: Double whoosh.

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, we just heard your bank statement on the wireless.

SEAGOON: The two strangers were dressed in immaculate hand sewn rags with newspaper parcels to match.

MORIARTY: Senti amo caro.[9] Listen Neddie – and here is a hand carved Arab sock as a token of our goodwill. Aowawawawawawoohaw!

SEAGOON: What would you with me, gentlemen?

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, my steaming French friend has come here to make you a present lad.

MORIARTY: Yes, yes… and here is a sample of it in this bottle.

SEAGOON: It looks like water.

GRYTPYPE: Yes, but no ordinary water this, lad. Partake and savour the bouquet.

FX: Cork popping.

SEAGOON: (Tasting) Good heavens! This is English Channel nineteen-oh-two.

GRYTPYPE: One of their best years Neddie.

SEAGOON: Really?
GRYTPYPE: Yes – and there’s more where that came from, wasn’t there Moriarty?

MORIARTY: Plenty more!

GRYTPYPE: Allow me to present the sommelier who was responsible for bottling that rare vintage sea-water, Count Jim ‘Grape’ Labour-exchange Moriarty, leaper supreme and all-England crab champion.[10]

SEAGOON: I am both honoured to know a man of such exquisite boots.

MORIARTY: Ooo hoo houi – merkie mon ami. Merkie. Merkie, and here in return – free of charge, is the deeds to the English type channel.

SEAGOON: You mean you’re offering me free of charge the deeds to the English channel?

GRYTPYPE: (He heard you Moriarty.)

MORIARTY: Do you accept the English channel then – le channel anglais?

SEAGOON: Yes – I only hope I can live up to it.

GRYTPYPE: I’m sure you can Neddie. However, one slight formality Neddie – for your own protection of course, the joke-al style of protection – you must insure it lad.

SEAGOON: Insure it against what?
GRYTPYPE: Fire Neddie.

MORIARTY: Yes, fire Neddie. And fortunately for vous we happen to be strolling insurance agents of no fixed percentage.

SEAGOON: What is the premium?
MORIARTY: Tell him!

GRYTPYPE: Well, let me see – you’ve got eighteen shillings haven’t you?


GRYTPYPE: Well that’s it. Eighteen shillings in sterling lad.

SEAGOON: How much do I get if the channel catches fire?

GRYTPYPE: Forty-eight thousand pounds!

SEAGOON: Where do I sign?
GRYTPYPE: On the dotted line of this cheque I’ve just found in your pocket here.

FX: Pen nib on paper.

MORIARTY: Er… don’t worry to fill in the amount, we’ll – er, fill in that later. (Goes off singing.) April in Paree…[11] I can see it all now!

SEAGOON: Dear listeners. These men think I’m a fool. Little do they know that the moment their backs are turned I’ll be down to that channel, set fire to it and collect the forty-eight thousand nicker![12]

GRYTPYPE: Right. To give him time, here is Max ‘Worried’ Geldray and his electric nose.

SEAGOON: Right, round the back for the ‘ol brandy there.

GRAMS: Boots running off at speed.


MAX GELDRAY - “I Like to Recognise the Tune” [13]


GRAMS: Wind and waves.

SEAGOON: I wonder how many listeners noticed that while Max Geldray was playing, I caught a road to Norman’s Bay Halt and am now addressing you from the beach at Pevensey Bay, where the great English channel meets the great English sewerage system.[14]

GREENSLADE: And so saying, Seagoon prepared to ignite the English channel – devil that he was.

GRAMS: Further burst of wind and waves.

SEAGOON: Yes, it was bitterly cold as I walked through the thick winter snow to the water’s edge. Suddenly I noticed, lazing in a deck chair, a gentleman in ankle length swimming trunks, sunglasses and sun-tan oil.

ECCLES: Heello! Well, well, well, my good man – are you on holiday too?

SEAGOON: With that statement folks I realised that the case of ‘The Crown verses Eccles’ was proven.

ECCLES: What a lie. What a day this has been! What a day!

        (Sings)  With a smile on my face

                                        I belong to the human race… (raves) [15]

What a day! What a scorcher of a day it’s been.

SEAGOON: This is a scorcher?

ECCLES: This is a scorcher.

SEAGOON: Then what’s the snow doing on the beach?

ECCLES: It’s on holiday as well.

                    (Sings) England my island home

                                        Land of the free…[16]

SEAGOON: Listen, blue shivering frost covered figure, what gives you the idea that it’s hot today?

ECCLES: Well, my grandad he phoned up this morning and he said “Out of bed, lad! Out of bed! It’s a beautiful day.”

SEAGOON: Where is he?
ECCLES: He was phoning from Bermuda and who am I to argue?

SEAGOON: Dear grandson Eccles, sit down on this fossilised shooting stick.

ECCLES: (Agony) Oooooo! That’s an old gag but a new stick. Thank you my good man.

SEAGOON: Now let me put you right before you freeze to death. It’s summer in Bermuda but it’s winter over here.

ECCLES: You can’t fool me Neddie. Look at the reading on this thermometer.

SEAGOON: A hundred and thirty degrees?


SEAGOON: This thermometer has a temperature. We must get it to a doctor at once!

ECCLES: And with that remark folks the case of ‘The Crown verses Neddie Seagoon’ was proven.

SEAGOON: A-hem, a-hem.

ECCLES: Your turn. (Sings &c) Oh, the thermometer.

SEAGOON: Wait a minute. You took the thermometer out of a hot water bottle.

ECCLES: Of course. I always keep it in there. If I didn’t it would drop below zero and we’d freeze to death.

SEAGOON: Are you the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

ECCLES: No. Oh, the Chancellor of the Exchequer! Oh well, I can understand because I’ve often been mistaken.

SEAGOON: For the Chancellor?
ECCLES: No, I’ve just often been mistaken, that’s all. Well, I’d better get back to the match factory.

SEAGOON: Matches!

ORCHESTRA: Dramatic chords.

SEAGOON: Curse! I’ve forgotten to bring any. Perhaps I can make use of this maladjusted human barometer. A-hem, a-hem, a-hem. You work in a match factory don’t you?

ECCLES: Yeh. I’m a dipper.

SEAGOON: You put the heads on?

ECCLES: No, I put the gloves on. They’re boxing matches. Ha ha ha ha! (Laughs &c) Thank you my friends. It’s all free. Ta!

SEAGOON: Get in this catapult.


GRAMS: Whoosh.

ECCLES: Owwww!

GRAMS: Distant splash.

SEAGOON: Now to burn the channel.

ECCLES: (Distant) He – eeeeeeelp! Help, I’m drowning. I’m drowning in the water.

CRUN: Min. Min. Min… Wake up Min.

CRUN & BANNISTER: Rhythmic waking up.

BANNISTER: Get over your side of the bed. I was having a lovely dream Henry – I dreamt I was asleep.

SEAGOON: Those voices are coming from the Pevensey Bay life-boat shed.

CRUN: Min, Min, Min, Min, wake up Min.

BANNISTER: Ok, buddy. I’ll wake up!

CRUN: You heard what the gentleman said. Our voices are coming from the Pevensey life-boat shed.

BANNISTER: Oh, we’d better get over there as quickly as possible.

ECCLES: (Distant) He – eeeeeelp! Help folks, I’m drowning.

CRUN: What did you say sir?

ECCLES: (Distant) I said, he-eeeelp, he-eeeelp, he-eeeeelp! I’m drowning. He-eeeelp!

CRUN: I can’t hear you sir.

ECCLES: (Distant) Just a minute.

GRAMS: Splashing. Growing quickly louder. (Under FX)

FX: Boots hurriedly running up wooden stairs. Rapid knocking on door. Door opens.

CRUN: Yes?

ECCLES: (Close) He-eeeelp!

CRUN: Thank you. Get back in the water and we’ll be out in a flash. Min, Min-Min- Minnie-Min, prepare the life-boat.

BANNISTER: Alright Henry. Quick. We must hurry, a man’s drowning.

CRUN: Yes. Get that long piece of wood and lay it down. Now that’ll be the keel.

FX: Genteel hammering.

BANNISTER: Right Henry.

CRUN: That’s right Min. Nail those pieces of wood on each side with all speed!

FX: Genteel hammering continues under.

BANNISTER: (Hot rhythm singing and hammering.)

CRUN: Min, Min! Please leave off that sinful brown singing. Leave it to coxswain Ray Ellington.

SEAGOON: Yes girl. Get your skates on and round the back for the ‘ol brandy there.



RAY ELLINGTON – “I Reckon it’s Love.”


GREENSLADE: If listeners with pneumatic drills will kindly lay them aside, they’ll be able to hear this announcement. A-hem. Mister Seagoon, hell bent on burning the English channel, stoops low over a tinder box and struggles to make a fire.

GRAMS: Seagulls. Distant waves.

FX: Matches striking.

SEAGOON: Curse this wind. I should never eaten those balloons.

GRAMS: Fire engine pulling up. Fire bell.

BLOODNOK: Aeeeeeoooooough! Oh! Oh! So – caught you in the act you incendiary fool you!

SEAGOON: The speaker was dressed as a fireman, riding a tricycle and carrying a photograph of a fire bell.

BLOODNOK: Allow me to introduce myself with this gramophone record.

GRAMS: Recording – BLOODNOK: “Have you put me on?”

BLOODNOK: Yes! Tell him who I am.

GRAMS: Recording – BLOODNOK: “A-hem. This is Major Dennis Bloodnok, winner of the Golden Richard [17] and Eye-Watering Champion supreme.”

BLOODNOK: So that’s who you are.

SEAGOON: No. That’s who you are!

BLOODNOK: What! Nonsense. I am sir, the fire prevention officer for the Pevensey sewerage farm.

SEAGOON: Now listen Bloodnok…

BLOODNOK: Don’t talk to me about ‘listen!’ I’ve got better things…

SEAGOON: Ten thousand pounds is yours if you help me set fire to the English channel. Here’s a shilling on account.

FX: Cash register. Coin in till.

BLOODNOK: Thank you. Now, you ahead lad and I’ll turn a deaf ear.

SEAGOON: I didn’t know you had a deaf ear.

BLOODNOK: Yes, I found it on the floor of a barber’s shop in Penge. Now Neddie…

ECCLES: (Distant) He – eeeeeelp folks! He-eeeelp.

BLOODNOK: Shut up you fool.

ECCLES: (Distant) Shut up you fool but he-eeeelp!

BLOODNOK: Shut up as well. Neddie, light that channel.

SEAGOON: Right. Let’s start a fire with these two twigs here.

FX: Matches.

BLUEBOTTLE: Yeeougheeehehe! You rotten swines you – those are my legs!  I was practicing knot tying under a pebble when my legs were attacked.

SEAGOON: Why – it’s a pudding bowl haircut with loose boots.

BLUEBOTTLE: Do not insult Bluebottle. You do not know that I am the brains behind the Finchley Mother’s Christmas Drawers.

ECCLES: (Distant) He – eeeeeelp!

BLUEBOTTLE: Shut up Eccles!

ECCLES: (Distant) Shut up Eccles but he – eeeeeelp!

BLUEBOTTLE: Shut up Eccles! Shut up Eccles! If you don’t shut up I’ll hit you with this water.

GREENSLADE: Meantime in the Royal Suite at the Y.M.C.A. at Eastbourne…

VIOLIN SOLO: (Very amateurish with lots of out-of-tune notes.)

GRYTPYPE: Ah, play on Moriarty. How delightful. Who wrote that tune?
MORIARTY: Fritz Kreisler.

GRYTPYPE: You’re not going to let him get away with that are you?

MORIARTY: Okay little Grytpype, we’ve got Neddie’s eighteen shillings insurance money and the world lies before our feet, and there’s room for it…

FX: Knocking on door.

GRYTPYPE: Quick Moriarty, cover the soap dish.

MORIARTY: But it’s empty.

GRYTPYPE: We don’t want people to know that. Entrays, silvoo plate!

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Hands up you devils. That fire insurance you sold me was a fake.

GRYTPYPE: What do you mean Neddie?

SEAGOON: This morning I accidentally dropped fifty lighted matches in the channel and it wouldn’t accidentally catch fire.


GRYTPYPE: It – er… it must be damp Neddie.

MORIARTY: Yes. That’s it Neddie – the English channel must be damp. It’s all this rain we’ve been having.

SEAGOON: Gentlemen, I want my eighteen shillings back or I aim to shoot to fire to kill.

BLUEBOTTLE: Yes, we aim to shoot to fire to kill. BANG we will go. BANG…

SEAGOON: Get out….

GRAMS: Body falling into water.

LITTLE JIM: He’s fallen in the water.

GRYTPYPE: Neddie, you devil instrument incarnate. Why did you throw that child into the sea?

SEAGOON: To give brown Milligan a chance to say his new catch phrase. That’s why.[19]

GRYTPYPE: Now look here Neddie…

ECCLES: (Distant) He – eeeeeelp!

GRYTPYPE: Shut up you brown fool!

MORIARTY: Neddie, you must give the channel a chance to dry out.

GRYTPYPE: Yes, I tell you – you flannelled fool. One hot summer and the English channel will be a fire trap.

SEAGOON: Well, alright. I’ll wait till then.

GRYTPYPE: Thank heavens. That’s put him off.

MORIARTY: Yes, that’s put him off. That’s the end of our bit of the story.

GRYTPYPE: Alas. Alas.

SEAGOON: Let’s listen to the rest of it on the wireless, eh?

GRAMS: Radio set being tuned in.

GRAMS: (Recording) GREENSLADE: Insurance – the White Man’s Burden part three.

                                    GRAMS: Distant waves. Sea breeze.

                                    GRAMS: (Recording) GREENSLADE: With Neddie fobbed off, coxswains Crun and Bannister pull Eccles ashore.

                                     ECCLES: (Approaching) Oooohh! Oh, thank you Min and Hen for pulling me out of the English channel. Another month out there and I’d have drowned of starvation.

                                    CRUN: Min, would you join me in the next line?

                                    BANNISTER: Yes, I’ll help you Henry.

                                    CRUN & BANNISTER: Yes. We’d never have got the boat out to you if we hadn’t pumped a thousand gallons of oil on the sea to calm it. Yes Henry. We’d better set fire to it to get rid of it.

FX: Match being struck.

GRAMS: Loud explosion. Flames etc.

MORIARTY: Grytpype! Turn that radio off. Didn’t you hear? The channel’s on fire!

SEAGOON: What a bit of luck. My policy’s matured. FORTY-EIGHT THOUSAND POUNDS!

GRYTPYPE: Yes! (Moriarty, pack the jam tins and open the door.)

MORIARTY: I’m off.

GRYTPYPE: Yes Neddie. Forty-eight thousand pounds. But before we pay you the forty-eight thousand pounds you must – for your own protection, insure it.

SEAGOON: Against what?


GRAMS: Massed boots running away.

SEAGOON: Curse! Fooled by insurance the white man’s burden, and the Goon Show’s end.

COMMISSIONAIRE: Your brandy bottle’s at the stage door sir.

SEAGOON: Thanks.

GRAMS: Pair of boots running off.

GREENSLADE: Well, you can tell it’s getting near the end of the series can’t you? Good night.

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, Max Geldray and the orchestra conducted by Wally Stott. Script by Spike Milligan and Larry Stephens, announcer Wallace Greenslade, the programme produced by Pat Dixon.




[1] This episode takes its title from the poem by Rudyard Kipling “The White Man’s Burden”, written in 1896 and published in 1899. No two people can agree on the underlying meaning of the poem – it can be taken either as a hymn to imperialism or a paean to enlightened benevolence. What matters is that the poem itself was interpreted at the time as an expression of the responsibilities of empire; colonial government, colonial trade, colonial security, missionary work, education, plus the moral responsibility that the majority of British people felt they owed the ‘savages’ of their dominions as caretakers, both spiritual and temporal.

But by the late 50’s, Britain was a changed place. The Colonies were disintegrating fast and immigrants from her failing states were beginning to appear on the streets of the big cities. And the English had changed too. Drab, with an enormous foreign debt courtesy of ‘lend-lease,’ ordinary English life had never recovered from the war. Instead of being the hub of empire and the conquerors of Hitler and Mussolini, Great Britain was the land of the great broke – scrimping, saving, ‘making-do’, stretching food and clothes beyond their use-by-date, mean minded, unglamorous and dispirited. By the time Spike scrawled the words “White Man’s Burden” on the top of this script, the line had lost its lustre and become a wry dig at the fate of England and the English themselves.


[2] ‘Hep’ was the earlier form of the word ‘hip’. According to etymological sources, ‘hep’ went out of fashion after WWII. In 1947 ‘Harry “the hipster” Gibson’ actually wrote a song about the switch from ‘hep’ to ‘hip.’


[3] Written in 1955 by Robert Guidry. It became a huge hit for ‘Bill Haley and His Comets’ in 1956.

[4] Milligan says off mic: “Put that pelvis back!” He was of course referring to Elvis Presley (1935-1977) the singing sensation who had recently broken the record for the most number of top 100 hits. His TV appearances in 1956 had attracted huge attention in the USA, culminating in an offer to appear on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in September of 1956 for the extraordinary fee of $50,000. In his earlier TV performance on ‘The Milton Berle Show,’ Presley had gyrated around, under and against the microphone-stand in such a fashion that he managed to push the ‘commie menace’ off the front pages of US newspapers as they clamoured to condemn his histrionics and express the publics self righteous indignation..

While the press called it vulgar and obscene, the growing legion of screaming fans across the USA went mad for this new style of hard driven southern rock. Females in particular developed a type of mania that was akin to sexual ecstasy – the moment Presley would commence was the signal for an explosion of teenage feminine screams that became a signature of his concerts.

As for Presley, he considered the expression ‘Elvis the pelvis’ to be “one of the most childish expressions I ever heard.”


[5] Just before he finishes, Sellers says “Next dance please.” Peter was hopeless at the piano. He sent his first teacher packing and refused to even meet his replacement. He had no patience but plenty of highhandedness.


[6] Sellers does this in his ‘White Hunter” voice. He had used it for Trader Horn in  King Solomon’s Mines.”


[7] I have not managed to discover what instrument makes the penguin sound. Sellers makes encouraging sounds over the performance; “Go on, play up!” – “Lovely! Lovely!” – “Won’erful i’nnit?”


[8] I suggest that this strange conjugation – ie: To look in the penguin log he needs a ‘saw,’ is Milligan playing round with the verb look/see/saw. (I ‘look’ – becomes I ‘see’ – becomes I ‘saw.’) This  Milliganesque wordplay and its application to the verb ‘see’ is noticeable in ‘Emperor of the Universe’ (14/7th) seven shows previously, when Grytpype tells Moriarty to take a letter but advises him not to use a typewriter because he may be overheard. Moriarty then says “Right – I’ll use a saw, then no-one will saw it except me.”

The proof that Milligan was perusing that particular script whilst writing this one is that the next gag “Here we are!” – “Thank heavens. I can throw away this map of China” is identical to a Bluebottle /Seagoon gag in the same show.

[9] Milligan is writing Italian probably in the same manner in which he spoke it to his war-time lover, Maria Antoinetta Fontana. He means “Listen my dear” but has written “You listen, I love dear.” Volume VI of the War Memoirs concerning her, is some of Spike’s most sincere and touching writing.


[10] Milligan loved these descriptive Christian names. He writes of a fellow soldier in the War Memoirs Vol III, that he had a “man-of-action-sport-and-labour-exchange” look. (Vol 3, p.74) The idea of ‘leaping’ tickled Spike’s sense of humour too. From rock-hopper penguins, (‘Round the World in 80 Days’) to leaping blocks (War Memoirs Vol 2, p.25) to ‘the cocking of the leg’ highland dances (War Memoirs Vol 1, p.100) he found the action totally absurd.

However the ‘crabs’ have a different source. ‘Crabs’ are the common name for pubic lice (phthirus pubis,) a parasite which lives on human hair and feeds exclusively on blood. Twice during the War Memoirs Milligan tangles with these creatures – reputably able to leap from groin to groin across crowded rooms.

[11] Moriarty was obsessed with this song. It was a 1932 number by Duke & Hamburg from the Broadway Musical “Walk a Little Faster.” Count Basie made a recording of it in 1955.


[12] A ‘nicker’ is an English pound.


[13] A Rodgers and Hart number from the 1939 Broadway musical “Too Many Girls” starring Desi Arnaz, Eddie Bracken and Van Johnson. It became a feature film in 1940 starring Lucille Ball who eloped with Arnaz a short time after meeting him on set.


[14] Norman’s Bay Halt is a small railway stop on the East Coastway Line in East Sussex. The local publican urged the authorities to build a small siding here for Londoner’s coming down to see the sea during Victorian times. The station before it is Pevensey Bay, a small village five miles from Eastbourne. There are marshes in the vicinity known as the ‘Pevensey Levels’ classified as ‘Special Interest Areas’ and managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Milligan first mentions Pevensey Bay in the War Memoirs Vol. 1 p34. It was the site of one of their Observation Posts during training. He liked life at Pevensey Bay – the birds were easier to lay.


[15] Eccles is singing “Almost Like Falling in Love” from “Brigadoon,” (Lerner & Loewe – 1947.) The original West End production had opened in 1949 and the film, starring Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse had premiered in 1954. In 1957 a full cast recording was released, and this number went on to become one of the favourite numbers of a generation of singing sensations – not least Eccles.


[16] Unfortunately I cannot trace this song. Eccles has a tendency to sing snatches of songs throughout the shows. In the last episode (“Round the World in Eighty Days”) he was on mic for an aggregate of less than 2 minutes, but during that time sung two ditties and said almost nothing.

[17] An extremely scatological line. A ‘richard’ is rhyming slang for a turd (Richard the third = turd) and the addition of the word ‘golden’ is used in other slang contexts to indicate a superlative. 

[18] Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) Austrian born violinist and composer. His expressive phrasing and exquisite tone still marks him out as one of the great performers of his age. The music he wrote was very much of its period – romances, intermezzi and pastiches of other composers works. His final recordings were made in the 1950’s.

[19] Since inserting this new catch phrase in episode #16 of this series, Milligan had used it in nos #18 (“The Moon Show”), #19 (“The Mysterious Punch-up-the-Conker”) and #20 (“Round the World in Eighty Days.”) By now it is greeted with a huge amount of laughter and quite a bit of applause. Milligan was clearly enjoying himself saying the line too.