Today in Masonic History William Arnold Ridley passes away in 1984.
William Arnold Ridley was a British actor and playwright, most famous for playing Private Godfrey, the gentle platoon medic in the popular British comedy Dad’s Army (1968–1977). The actress Daisy Ridley is his great niece.
Ridley was born on January 7th, 1896 in Walcot, Bath, Somerset, England. He attended the Clarendon School and the Bath City Secondary School. He graduated from the University of Bristol where he studied in the education departement. After graduation he took a job as a teacher at an Elementary School in Bristol.
In 1914, Ridley volunteered for the Army to fight in World War I. He was initially rejected because of a toe injury. In 1915 he enlisted again and was accepted into the Army as a private in the Somerset Light Infantry. He saw active combat during the war and was wounded several times. His left hand was virtually useless because of injuries he sustained during World War I. He also had shrapnel in his leg and was bayoneted in the groin. Due to a blow to the head by the butt of a German soldier’s rifle he suffered the rest of his life from blackouts.
In 1918, Ridley joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He remained there for two years and played more than 40 parts.
One night Ridley was stranded in a train station and was inspired to write the play The Ghost Train, a story about a group of travellers who are stranded in a haunted railway station. The play would enjoy 665 performances in London’s West End and two revivals. It would also be made into a move twice. In addition to The Ghost Train, Ridley would write 30 other plays in his life.
During World War II, Ridley would re-enlist in the Army. He would serve during the begining of World War II in a period known as the “phoney war.” This was a period of about 8 months when Germany had invaded Poland and technically the United Kingdom and France had declared war, although they did nothing do prevent the invasion of Poland.
Ridley was a member of the Savage Club Lodge No. 2190 in London, England.