Arnold Ridley OBE (1896-1984)

Arnold Ridley

 

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Arnold Ridley was born in Bath in 1896 and educated at Bath & Bristol University. On graduating, he did a short stint at teaching before making an acting debut in "Prunella" at Bristol's Theatre Royal.

The First World War soon beckoned and he saw active service but was invalided out in 1917 after been severely wounded in the Somme. By 1918, Arnold had resumed his acting career and appeared in Birmingham Rep in over 40 productions up until 1920. Because of his war injuries his acting career was put on hold again, working for his father in a boot shop Arnold began writing plays.

In 1923, he wrote 'The Ghost Train', which was inspired by having to wait for several hours in a West Country railway station. Although 'The Ghost Train' made Arnold's name as a playwright, Arnold also wrote many other plays including 'Beggar My Neighbour' and 'Easy Money'.

By the mid 1930's, Arnold had established his own film company along with a partner, however this was dissolved after the financial backers were declared bankrupt. It took nearly 20 years to clear the debt Arnold had amassed because of the situation.

The outbreak of the Second World War saw Arnold back in service, this time in France; he suffered shellshock and was discharged again. For the remainder of the war he worked with ENSA and whilst directing a production of 'The Ghost Train' met his future wife Althea. When the war ended he resumed his acting career and made an eventual progression from stage to film to television and radio.

His film work included 'Interrupted Journey' and 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'. His radio work included a regular role in the radio drama "the Archers" and TV roles in both 'Crossroads' and 'Coronation Street'. By 1968, Arnold was into his 7th decade when he was offered the role of Private Godfrey in 'Dad's Army'.

Arnold's gentle approach made him a firm favourite with young and old alike, so much so, that he appeared in all versions of the show, even the stage show which coincided with his 80th birthday in 1976. After 'Dad's Army', Arnold's appearances became fewer, he died in 1984 at the age of 88.