Windsor Davies, It Ain't Half Hot Mum actor, dies aged 88

Windsor Davies
Windsor Davies worked as a teacher and a miner before becoming an actor. Photograph: South Coast Press/Rex/Shutterstock

The actor Windsor Davies, best known for his role as the sergeant major in TV series It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, has died at the age of 88.

His family said he died peacefully on Thursday, with his daughter saying her parents left a large family “who will all remember them with love, laughter and gratitude”.

In a statement, his daughter Jane said: “His wife of 62 years, Eluned, passed away in September. They leave a large and very close family who will all remember them with love, laughter and gratitude.” He had retired to France with his wife before her death. They had five children.

Born in 1930 in Canning Town, east London, Davies grew up in Nant-y-Moel, Bridgend, and worked as an electrical engineer in the mines, completed national service in Libya and Egypt and then trained as a teacher before becoming an actor.

He spent about a decade trying to make it as an actor, playing a number of supporting roles in dramas, before his big break arrived when he was cast as Battery Sergeant-Major “Shut Up” Williams in BBC show It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

In his role as a ferocious disciplinarian, which he played for around seven years, he was determined to impose his authority upon his subordinates in the Royal Artillery Concert Party.

The comedy star, whose catchphrases included the mocking “Oh dear, how sad, never mind”, once said the show was “my saviour” and “saved me from being a great actor”.

He also appeared in the TV series Ring Out an Alibi, The New Statesman, Terrahawks and Never the Twain, as well as the films Carry On England and Carry On Behind. His most recent credited appearance was in an episode of My Family in 2004.

He also topped the pop charts in 1975 with sitcom colleague Don Estelle for the novelty track Whispering Grass, which soon became the UK’s sixth-biggest selling duet of all time, selling well over a million copies. A follow-up album by the comedy duo, Sing Lofty, sold more than 80,000 copies.

Tributes were paid to Davies after news of his death emerged on Saturday. Actor Tony Robinson wrote on Twitter: “‘Whispering grass don’t tell them who kissed there long ago. Why tell them all your secrets, the trees don’t have to know.’”

Producer Jonathan Sothcott wrote: “Oh no! RIP that wonderful comedy actor Windsor Davies: unforgettable in 70s sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and the lead in two of the later Carry Ons. Impeccable comic timing. Just his voice made me smile. Thanks for all the laughs.”

His It Ain’t Half Hot Mum co-star Melvyn Hayes told BBC News: “I considered him my best friend, even though we hadn’t been in contact for many years. To work with him was a pleasure, a sheer delight because he was so generous in his work.

“You couldn’t buy him a drink because you’d go into a public house and they’d say, ‘Windsor has put some money behind the counter for you.’ He was nothing like the character he played – he was a charming, quietly spoken, gentle human being.”

’Allo ’Allo star Vicki Michelle wrote on Twitter: “So so sad to hear about Windsor Davies, one of my favourite people. A Genuinely lovely generous man. Such fond memories of working with him. Had a huge presence and a huge heart. Will be missed by all who knew him.”