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Ian Lavender death: Dad’s Army Private Pike actor, dies aged 77

Ian Lavender death: Dad’s Army Private Pike actor, dies aged 77

Ian Lavender, who played Private Frank Pike in BBC sitcom Dad’s Army, has died aged 77.

The actor. who died on Friday, was cast in the show in 1969, when he was just 22, and played the role for 10 years. His cause of death is yet to be disclosed.

Lavender’s foolish Pike was the youngest member of the platoon depicted in the sitcom, and the series made him a household name in the UK. Just years before he was cast, he was training at the Bristol Old Vic.

Over the decades, Lavender would often appear at Dad’s Army fan conventions and reunions alongside his fellow cast members. In 2016, he made a cameo appearance as Brigadier Pritchard in the film version of the sitcom, which starred Toby Jones, Bill Nighy and Tom Courtenay.

Lavender was the last surviving member of the main cast of the British sitcom following the death of Frank Williams, who played Reverend Timothy Farthing, in 2022.

He also appeared in several other sitcoms, namely Yes Minister, Keeping Up Appearances and Goodnight Sweetheart in the 1980s.

Ian Lavender as the foolish Pike in ‘Dad’s Army’ (Michael Fresco/Shutterstock)
Ian Lavender as the foolish Pike in ‘Dad’s Army’ (Michael Fresco/Shutterstock)

Lavender joined the cast of EastEnders in 2001, playing Derek Harkinson, the best friend of Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard). He left the series in 2005 and returned briefly in 2016.

As well as screen credits, Lavender performed on stage numerous times throughout his career, appearing alongside Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman in a production of The Merchant of Venice in the early 1970s.

He also played Monsignor Howard in the West End theatre production of Sister Act, which first launched at the London Palladium in 2009, and starred as the Narrator in a touring production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

In 2013, he led a production of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado in three performances, which occurred in London, Birmingham and Manchester, and made his Edinburgh Fringe debut that same year, in a stage adaptation of 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption.

Dad’s Army, a much loved series about a home guard platoon during the Second World War, ran on BBC One from 1968 to 1977. It also starred Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring, Arnold Ridley as Private Godfrey, John Le Mesurier as Sergeant Wilson, and Clive Dunn as Lance Corporal, among others.

The hapless Pike was the youngest member of the troop and a bank clerk. His most famous moment was in the episode The Deadly Attachment – Mainwaring was competing with a German U-boat captain over who will win the Second World War.

Pike chimes in with a reworked version of “Whistle While You Work”, rhyming about the Nazi leader: “Whistle while you work, Hitler is a twerp, he’s half-barmy, so’s his army, whistle while you work.”

When the German, played by Philip Madoc, then demands his name to add to a list of those who “will be brought to account” if Hitler is victorious, Mainwaring says: “Don’t tell him, Pike.” Pike had frequent run-ins with Mainwaring, who would shout at him: “You stupid boy!”

The series regularly attracted more than 18 million viewers in the 1970s, and has had a long-lasting impact on British popular culture. Some of its other catchphrases are also still used, such as “don’t panic!”, “put that light out!”, and “they don’t like it up ‘em!”.

The actor had some tough bouts with sickness throughout his life. In 1993, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which was operated on successfully, and he also survived a heart attack in 2004.

Ian Lavender as Monsignor Howard in ‘Sister Act’ at the London Palladium (Alan Davidson/Shutterstock)
Ian Lavender as Monsignor Howard in ‘Sister Act’ at the London Palladium (Alan Davidson/Shutterstock)

In 2017, while filming Channel 5 series A Celebrity Taste of Italy alongside Rula Lenska, Johnny Ball, Judith Chalmers and Diana Moran, Lavender contracted sepsis.

Lavender was married twice – to actor Suzanne Kerchiss, and then Miki Hardy, whom he wed six days after his cancer diagnosis. At the time, he said: “We had been living together for 16 years and it was something I should have done a long time before, these things change you, they help you to see what is important in life.”

Samuel West, the actor and director, paid tribute to Lavender on X: “Very sad to hear Ian Lavender has left the stage. My Ma did a series with him, MR. BIG, in the mid-70s (she played his mum, despite only being 13 years older than him). I met him several times when I was a kid. He was always lovely. Funny and friendly and kind. RIP.”

Fellow 1970s comedy star Robin Askwith said: “My dear dear friend & fairly constant work mate has died. Ian Lavender. I have no words or funny stories for the moment just this. His timing was sublime from Shakespeare to Cooney and to have shared the stage with him through literally hundreds of performances was a privilege.”

Hi-Di-Hi star Jeffrey Holland posted: “So sad to hear Ian Lavender has left us. Had the privilege of understudying him in the Dads Army stage show back in the day. Went on for him at one performance and didn’t get a laugh all afternoon proving there was only one Private Pike! Sending love to Miki and the family.”