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Dad’s Army star Ian Lavender dies aged 77

Ian Lavender, who played Private Frank Pike in classic comedy series Dad’s Army, has died at the age of 77.

The Birmingham-born actor, who was the last remaining main cast member from the wartime-set BBC show, died on Friday morning, his agent confirmed.

Hilary Gagan told the PA news agency Lavender had been ill for some time and that his wife and sons were by his side.

He is best known for playing the hapless Pike, who frequently had run-ins with Captain George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe), calling him “Stupid Boy”, and who was looked after by Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier).

Pike, the youngest member of the Home Guard troop and a bank clerk, would often refer to Wilson as Uncle Arthur as he was in a relationship with his overprotective mother Mavis Pike (Janet Davies).

He also acted in other TV comedies such as Yes Minister, Keeping Up Appearances and Goodnight Sweetheart and in a Carry On film.

He also appeared on stage, including in The Merchant Of Venice with Dustin Hoffman, and as the narrator in a touring production of The Rocky Horror Show.

Lavender also played Derek Harkinson, a gay friend of Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard) in BBC One soap EastEnders from 2001 to 2005.

Ian Lavender death
Ian Lavender on the set of EastEnders (Jack Barnes/BBC)

He returned to Walford in 2016 but left in 2017 after he became ill with sepsis, having previously battled cancer and a heart attack.

In the 1970s, Dad’s Army regularly attracted more than 18 million viewers, becoming one of the most-watched television programmes of its time.

Royal Mail marked the 50th anniversary of the TV comedy classic with a collection of stamps in 2018, featuring the main characters.

That same year, Lavender cleared up a long-standing mystery from the show during an interview with the Radio Times.

When asking creator David Croft if Uncle Arthur was Pike’s father, Lavender said: “He looked at me and said, ‘Of course he is!’.”

Chris Daniels, director of the annual Bristol comedy film festival Slapstick – which Lavender supported, said the actor “gave our audiences some truly unforgettable moments.”

In a statement seen by PA, he said: “Everyone involved with Slapstick has been deeply saddened to learn of the death of Ian Lavender – a long-standing patron of the festival, regular visitor and valued contributor of programming ideas.”

BBC director of comedy Jon Petrie said: “Ian was a much-loved actor and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.

“In his role of Private Pike, in Dad’s Army, he delivered some of the most iconic and loved moments in the history of British comedy. Our thoughts are with his family.”

In an Instagram post, EastEnders paid tribute and said: “We are deeply saddened to hear that Ian Lavender has passed away.

“Ian created a wonderful character in Derek Harkinson and quickly became a favourite amongst the viewers.

“Those that worked with him at EastEnders will remember him fondly for his warmth, kindness and compassion and our love and thoughts are with Ian’s family and friends.”

Actress Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia in the long-running BBC One soap, commented on the post and called Lavender a “truly gorgeous human being”.

He is survived by his wife, choreographer and stage director Michelle Hardy, and their sons Sam and Daniel.