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Elizabeth Mainwaring

First Apperance

Never Seen

Last appearance

Never Seen

Portrayed By

N/A

Occupation

Housewife

Affiliated With

George Mainwaring (husband)

Elizabeth Mainwaring was the highly-strung and reclusive wife of George Mainwaring, of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard. She did not actually appear 'properly' in a single episode of Dad's Army, but a picture of her personality and character was formed throughout the series.

BiographyEdit

Background and marriageEdit

Mrs Mainwaring was the daughter of the suffragan Bishop of Clegthorpe (a fictional see). She married George Mainwaring, son of an Eastbourne tailor, shortly after the First World War. He had been stationed in France in 1919, the year after the war ended, and, as later became an issue on formal occasions, possessed no medals. They spent their honeymoon on a remote Scottish island where Mainwaring learnt to play the bagpipes because "there was nothing else to do".

The couple lived at 23, Lime Crescent, Walmington-on-Sea, a fictional seaside resort in Kent with a pier and such other attractions as Stone's amusement arcade and a novelty rock emporium. Mrs Mainwaring's parents evidently looked down on their grammar school-educated son-in-law, even after he had become assistant manager, with a partitioned cubicle of his own, at the Walmington branch of Swallow Bank. In one episode Mainwaring tells Wilson that Elizabeth is only fond of silent movies because she was so shocked when she heard a character on a film speak a line (this was sometime in the late '20s) she did not go back to the cinema (she may have seen The Jazz Singer (1927), the first 'talkie' ever released).

According to Mainwaring, his wife had led a sheltered life ("she hadn't even tried tomato sauce before she met me".) One of her hobbies was making lampshades. The marriage was childless, although Mainwaring, who often referred to his wife as "the little woman" (in spite of the evidence both that she was actually quite large and that, of the two, she was clearly the domineering figure in the marriage), claimed, rather unconvincingly, that it had been "blissful".

The Second World WarEdit

In 1940, in response to a radio broadcast by the Secretary for War Anthony Eden, her husband George (who by then was manager of the bank) set himself up as Captain of the local Home Guard (initially known as the Local Defence Volunteers).

Mainwaring's various attempts to involve his wife in the extramural activities of the platoon usually came unstuck. On one occasion he arrived at a function with a black eye which had plainly been acquired during a domestic dispute. His excuse that he had struck his eye on the linen cupboard door was greeted by the cheerful remark of Private Walker "hasn't your old woman got a rolling pin then?". Mainwaring usually comes up with some convoluted reason why his wife is not joining in the platoon's social functions.

He once remarked that Mrs Mainwaring had not left the house "since Munich" (in 1938). Even so, much to her husband's horror (he fainted), she ended up playing the part of Lady Godiva Leofric (who, in the 11th century had, according to tradition, ridden naked through the streets of Coventry) during a carnival to raise money for Spitfire fighter planes. This was intended as a tribute to the city of Coventry which had suffered heavy German bombing in 1941, though the rather stuffy Mainwaring had tried to prevent the town clerk, vicar and others from assessing the merits of predominantly young candidates for the role who were dressed only in their bathing costumes.

There were frequent misunderstandings involving Mrs Mainwaring. When Mainwaring was holding a small party at his house for a section of his platoon, Mrs Mainwaring was heard coming downstairs, but she went back again as soon as an air raid siren sounded. Mainwaring's calls for her to come down to say "hello" were ignored. When he went upstairs to encourage her, the Chief ARP Warden Bert Hodges (played by Bill Pertwee and snobbishly dismissed by Mainwaring as "a greengrocer") arrived to complain that, contrary to blackout regulations, a light was showing in the house. On being told of Mainwaring's whereabouts, Hodges misconstrued his motives: "Oh, it's one of those sorts of parties".

In another episode, Mainwaring obtained some cheese (a treat due to rationing) and telephoned his wife, a vegetarian, to say that he "might have a surprise for her tonight". Predictably, this suggestion was misunderstood and Mainwaring ended up sharing the cheese in his office with his urbane, long-suffering Sergeant, Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier).

The closest anyone gets to seeing Elizabeth is when Mainwaring is sleeping on the bottom bunk in his Anderson Shelter. Elizabeth is above and the heavily sagging mattress gives a clue as to her figure. She is also heard groaning.

Mainwaring's "brief encounter"Edit

That Mainwaring was starved of affection was well illustrated when, having established a women's section of the platoon, his took a fancy to one of his new recruits, the elegant Mrs Fiona Grey (Carmen Silvera), with whom, out of character it seemed, he embarked upon a platonic affair. After snatched meetings in the Marigold Tea Rooms and much gossip in Walmington, he and Mrs Grey eventually parted at the local railway station, despite Mainwaring's pleas for her to stay, in a scene reminiscent of the film Brief Encounter (1945). In A Soldier's Farewell, Mainwaring becomes attracted to a bus conductress, an when he has a dream in which he is Emperor Napoleon I of France, the bus conductress is also his mistress (Bonaparte's mistress).

The writer Graham McCann has likened Mainwaring to Charles Pooter, the City clerk in George and Weedon Grossmith's novel, The Diary of a Nobody (1892) (of which Arthur Lowe made an audiobook recording), but with the essential difference that Mainwaring had no equivalent of Pooter's devoted wife Carrie. When the hapless Private Frank Pike (Ian Lavender) broke a bottle containing Mrs Mainwaring's sleeping tablets and Mainwaring was advised that eating glass could mean "instant death", he replied, "Yes ... Just dust them over a bit".

Post-warEdit

According to scripts for It Sticks Out Half a Mile, a radio sequel to Dad's Army, prepared by Perry and Croft before Arthur Lowe's death in 1982, the Mainwarings spent two years immediately after the war in Switzerland (which had been neutral during the conflict), where Mainwaring supervised the manufacture of cuckoo clocks. They returned to Britain because the Swiss air did not suit Mrs Mainwaring's health and, in 1948, settled in Frambourne, a coastal resort near Walmington.

It seems likely that the Mainwarings (assuming Mrs Mainwaring was still alive) subsequently moved back to Walmington where, in 1968, Alderman George Mainwaring (as he had become) was chairman of the town's I'm Backing Britain campaign (as seen in The Man and the Hour, 1968).

Dad's Army (2016) Edit

In this film, Mrs Mainwaring is first seen near the start of the film.
Elizabeth Mainwaring Dad's Army 2016

Felicity Mantagu as Elizabeth in the 2016 film.






PersonalityEdit

Mrs Mainwaring is shown to be slightly homicidal an individual. She is frequently giving her husband a black eye with whatever object within reach. She is extremely shy and is embarassed by the idea of being seen in public.

Behind-the-scenesEdit

  • Mrs Mainwaring (pronounced "Man-ering", as her husband frequently pointed out) was a very good example of an unseen character. In none of the 80 episodes of Dad's Army (scripted by David Croft and Jimmy Perry) was she seen (though her outline was sometimes present, such as in A Soldier's Farewell when she is in the bunk above her husband) or her voice clearly heard (muffled extracts of her conversing with George via telephone were sometimes heard, however). Despite her notorious reclusiveness, it is because of the longevity of the series possible to construct a picture of what Mrs Mainwaring was like and the nature of her relationship with her pompous, civically-minded husband.
  • Elizabeth makes an appearance in The Dad's Army Annual 1975, however this appearance may be considered non-canon to the TV show.

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