Definitions

know ones onions

We Know Our Onions

We know our Onions is the fourth episode of the sixth series of the British comedy series Dad's Army that was originally transmitted on the 21 November 1973.

Synopsis

The platoon take part in a Home Guard efficiency test. If the men pass with flying colours, they will be graded a 12-star platoon. Travelling with their Smith Gun in the back of Jones' van, they notice a huge mass of onions - Walker's order for Hodges - and decide to use them as a novel form of ammunition.

Plot

The platoon are examining their new Smith Gun, which they have to take on a Home Guard proficiency test for a weekend. Wilson is told off by Mainwaring when he complains 'do we have to drag that gun about, what an awful fag'. Godfrey and his sisters have made an inappropriate cover for the gun out of a flowery old sofa cover.

They are going to the test in Jones's van, but Walker has been using it to fulfil a Black Market order for Hodges, the greengrocer, and it is half full of onions. These cause the platoon (especially Pike) some discomfort on the journey, and Hodges is so incensed about the non-delivery of the onions that he follows them.

Prior to the test, Wilson shares some information from a previous participant, that the test officer fires lots of questions at you, then leaves the room, then someone comes in in disguise and plants a bomb. Jones shows them his 'rummel', a thuggee scarf used to throttle a victim from behind.

Once on the test, which is run by a fierce officer called Captain Ramsay (played by Fulton Mackay), the platoon are informed that their target for the weekend should be to become a twelve star platoon, and stars will be awarded for their success through the weekend.

He asks them lots of questions, sneers at Pike for crying (it is the onions). He attempts a role play where he is a Gestapo officer and Wilson is a captured agent, but Wilson is so languid and diffident that he doesn't do very well. When pretending to be a Gestapo officer with Jones, Jones attempts to throttle him from behind with his scarf and makes a complete fool of himself.

Mainwaring is asked by Ramsay which of his platoon he would throw out of a sinking balloon, and he says Godfrey, but Wilson ruins this exercise by saying that they could wait until it gently hits the ground and Godfrey could step out.

Ramsay gives up, goes out and sends in the tea lady. The platoon attack her, knocking over her trolley and attempting to pull off her wig. Told to get rid of the urn, Pike throws it through the (closed) window, where it hits Hodges and the Verger, and empties all over the Verger. Hodges and the Verger constantly pester the platoon during the day to try and get Hodges's onions from Jones's van.

The next exercise is to get one man over a tall electric fence in half an hour just by using the equipment provided, wood, oildrums etc. Jones inevitably volunteers to be the man over the fence, and tries to get Walker to catapult him over the fence, but in doing so they break the only decent long length of wood, thus dooming all attempts to failure. After half an hour the platoon still have not done it, so they plead for more time. They try until midnight, with no success. Ramsay is not impressed the next morning, but awards them half a star for persistence.

The next exercise is using the Smith Gun (an artillery piece unique to the Home Guard to repel an assault by some regular troops. To obtain ammunition for the gun, the platoon have to get over the same sort of fence that defeated them day before. Meanwhile Hodges and the Verger have finally got the key to Jones's van from Walker, and they rush off to transfer the onions to Hodges's van. Suddenly the platoon realise that the onions could be fired by the Smith Gun. They rush to Hodges's van, and Mainwaring demands some onions "in the name of the King". They rush back to the Smith Gun, load and fire the onions at the advancing troops, who retreat in confusion. The platoon are jubilant. Ramsay returns, and congratulates Mainwaring, "I take my hat off to you" , saying he has never seen such initiative displayed by a Home Guard unit, and awards Mainwaring's platoon twelve stars outright. Then they all rush to retrieve the fallen onions.

It has often been said that Dad's Army was often very close to the truth and this fictional story echoes a real incident in which an enthusiastic Home Guard unit involved in an exercise repeled the enemy by discharging small green apples from a Northover Projector.

Cultural References

The centre of this plot is based around the scarcity of onions in 1942

References

Notes

General references

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Cast

Cast Characters
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
Edward Sinclair The Verger
Fulton Mackay Captain Ramsay

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