Following a standard exercise on the stealthy approach to an enemy soldier, Captain Mainwaring calls Sergeant Wilson into his office. He has received an alarming letter from Pvt. Godfrey, informing the captain of Godfrey's intent to resign from the unit at the earliest possible convenience. Given Godfrey's vital role in the platoon (as the soldier who makes the tea), Mainwaring is unwilling to let Godfrey go, and demands an explanation. Godfrey thus tells him that his decision emerges from a recent incident in which he found a mouse in his kitchen, but found himself unwilling and incapable of killing it; and if he can't kill a mouse, how can he be expected to kill a German? During the telling of the story, Godfrey reveals that in the previous war, he was a conscientious objector who refused to fight.
Mainwaring, appalled and disgusted, orders Godfrey to get out of his sight; whilst Wilson is tolerant and understanding of Godfrey's need to follow his conscience, Mainwaring is sickened at the thought of a man not wanting to fight and, assuming Godfrey to be a coward, determines to shame and humiliate him in front of the troops. With characteristic pompousness, he convenes a parade of the remainder of the platoon in which to inform them of Godfrey's apparent cowardice, but his thunder is stolen by the unimpressed ARP Warden Hodges, who wants to discuss upcoming an ARP / Home Guard drill.
Once the platoon learns of Godfrey's past, he is ostracised by the other men. Whilst many - including Corporal Jones - are undecided about their response to Godfrey's decision, and some, including Pvts. Pike and Walker, do not seem to mind, Pvt. Frazer is characteristically vocal in his condemnation of Godfrey's cowardice, and has no hesitation in expressing his disgust to the other man's face. It is decided that Godfrey will remain in the unit until a replacement can be found.
The ARP / Home Guard training drill arrives, during which Warden Hodges will teach the men how to retrieve unconscious bodies (represented by sacks of straw) from burning buildings filled with smoke. Naturally, Mainwaring is unimpressed by the volume of smoke in the building and fills the boiler with burning rags, thus filling the building with far more smoke than safely required. He also informs Godfrey that he has no intention of letting the other man use his 'conchy tricks' to get out of this exercise (not that Godfrey had any intention of trying to get out of it), and intends to follow Godfrey through the hut to make sure that he completes the exercise.
The remainder of the unit having passed through the hut, Godfrey makes it through, being the second-to-last member to conduct the exercise. He is left to wait for Mainwaring - who doesn't show up, despite taking longer to conduct the exercise than should be taken. Without hesitation, Godfrey re-enters the smoke-filled hut in order to find Mainwaring who collapsed from smoke inhalation.
Later, Godfrey recuperates from his experiences in bed, having experienced mild smoke inhalation, and is visited by the entire platoon, having overcome their earlier distaste for him in concern for his welfare. As Mainwaring attempts to express rather uncomfortable gratitude to Godfrey for saving his life, he notices a photo of a younger Godfrey, in military uniform, wearing the Military Medal. Whilst refusing to fight in the First World War, Godfrey instead joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer, and was responsible, during the Battle of the Somme, for a tremendous act of heroism in rescuing several wounded soldiers from No man's land under heavy fire (which, with characteristic modesty, he downplays, and he refuses to wear his medal on the grounds that it feels ostentatious). Suitably ashamed at their earlier treatment of him as a coward (although Frazer, typically, insists that he knew it would be the case all along), the platoon apologise, and at Wilson's suggestion, Mainwaring has no hesitation in declaring Godfrey the platoon's medical orderly, having learnt that heroism is not a matter of appearance.
|Arthur Lowe||Captain Mainwaring|
|John Le Mesurier||Sergeant Wilson|
|Clive Dunn||Lance Corporal Jones|
|John Laurie||Private Frazer|
|James Beck||Private Walker|
|Arnold Ridley||Private Godfrey|
|Ian Lavender||Private Pike|
|Bill Pertwee||ARP Warden Hodges|
|Nan Braunton||Miss Godfrey|
|Stuart Sherwin||Bill (2nd ARP Warden)|