Monday, January 17, 2011


This Wednesday (19th January), a film called Hattie will be shown on BBC4.

The film stars Ruth Jones (of Gavin and Stacey fame) as comedienne and actress Hattie Jacques.

It tells the story of her complex love life during her marriage to actor John Le Mesurier.

Unbeknown to the public at the time, Hattie's young lover John Schofield was living openly in the house at the same time as her husband John Le Mesurier who had moved into the attic!

Hattie Jacques and John Le Mesurier were two of my favourite actors when I was growing up and are sorely missed. Both had strong connections with the county of Kent.

Hattie was born Josephine Edwina Jaques in Sandgate, Kent on 7th February 1922. Her father was an RAF pilot who died in a plane crash when Hattie was still only a toddler and her mother an amateur actress.

During the Second World War, Hattie served as a nurse with the Red Cross and also worked as a welder in a factory in London.

At the age of twenty she made her debut on stage at the Players Theatre in London. She became a regular on stage and in 1947 was spotted by a scriptwriter from the radio show It's That Man Again (ITMA) and invited to join the cast.

She later appeared in other popular radio shows such as Educating Archie and later Hancock's Half Hour.

In the early 1950's she appeared in a number of films including Norman Wisdom comedies.

In 1958 she joined the Carry On team and appeared in Carry On Sergeant - the first of fourteen Carry On films in which she would star. She is probably best remembered for playing the part of the battleaxe matron in films such as Carry On Nurse and Carry On Doctor.

In 1960 Hattie teamed up with lifelong friend Eric Sykes, They appeared as brother and sister in the long running TV comedy Sykes together for nearly twelve years.

In 1965 Hattie divorced John Le Mesurier but they remained on good terms. She even actively encouraged him to marry his third wife Joan.

Following the break up of her relationship to Schofield (he ran off with another woman), Hattie started to put on weight and her health deteriorated.

On 6th October 1980 she died of a heart attack in London aged only 58.

John Le Mesurier was born John Elton Le Mesurier Halliley in Bedford on 5th April 1912. His father was a solicitor. His mother's family came from Alderney in the Channel Islands and he later used her maiden name as his stage name.

John was educated at Sherborne public school and studied acting at drama school from the age of twenty. In 1941 he joined the Royal Tank Regiment serving in the UK and India rising to the rank of Captain. In 1949 he married his second wife Hattie Jacques.

He appeared in over a hundred films during his long career but is of course best known and loved for his role as Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army. The scriptwriters very cleverly closely based the character's background on John's own.

Even though I've probably seen every episode ten times over I still enjoy them just as much today as I did when I first saw them as a kid.

At the time of his divorce from Hattie in 1965, ever the gentleman and to maintain his ex wife's reputation, John always gave the impression to the public that he was at fault. (News of her tangled love life did not emerge until many years later).

John Le Mesurier was a very heavy drinker. Although he never appeared drunk, it may have had something to do with his trademark vague demeanor.

In the late 1970's he gave up drink on medical advice but became very ill. As a consequence he resumed drinking, regained his health and enjoyed life to the full for another seven years until his death on 15th November 1983.

He is buried in the churchyard at St George the Martyr in Ramsgate, Kent.

Before he died, he wrote his own typically laconic obituary which later appeared in The Times -

"John Le Mesurier wishes it to be known that he conked out on 15th November. He sadly misses family and friends"

If you have enjoyed reading this post, you may also like -

Kitty Gordon - Kent's Colourful Silent Movie Star

Viscount Northcliffe - Pioneer Press Baron

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell


  1. A very interesting post, Glen. I'll be sure to watch that film. I remember him - vaguely -from repeats of Dad's Army. I'd never heard of her!

  2. Ana - Don't know Hattie Jacques! Now you're making me feel very old :-)

  3. well what a lively lass she was then!

  4. I first encountered Hattie in Sykes, and for years I thought they actually were brother and sister.

  5. Glen, I finally caught it on iPlayer. Here's my own assesment, not of the drama, but what it dramatised.