An early episode of classic BBC radio comedy The Navy Lark has been discovered along with better copies of a number of other episodes.
The long-running show, about the exploits of the hopeless crew of HMS Troutbridge, ran to over 200 episodes between 1959 and 1977. Well-remembered for its catch-phrases and innuendo, The Navy Lark featured the likes of Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee, Ronnie Barker, and Stephen Murray among its crew.
According to The Navy Lark Appreciation Society, 40 episodes are officially missing from the archives, either completely or in broadcast quality, but that number is now set to be reduced following the discovery of a number of early shows recorded off-air on reel-to-reel.
The website, part of The British Comedy & Drama Website, has published the following statement about the find:
“It is always gratifying to hear from fans of the show, but even more so when the email contains the line – ‘I have these reels of tape that may have missing shows on.’
“Arrangements were quickly made for the tapes to be sent to our tape engineer and restorer, who spent a profitable weekend working on the four reels and the results were quite amazing. Not only is there a previously lost show, Series 3, Episode 20, but many of the other shows are improvements on those recordings that are known to exist and have been issued on CD.
“It is all the more satisfying because they cover the third and fourth series, so are relatively early in terms of home recording.”
Posting on The Mausoleum Club, The Navy Lark Appreciation Society’s Steve Arnold gave some more details about the quality of the new recording compared to the currently held copies, most of which have been issued on CD as part of the BBC Radio Collection:
Series 3/ episode 7 – BBC CD perfect, so no improvement.
3/12 – Improvement on BBC CD, which was an off air. 3/14 – ditto
3/17 – BBC CD was the archive copy, so no improvement.
3/19 – Slightly better than CD, but hardly any difference.
3/20 – This was missing from the CDs, so a genuine find.
4/3 – Much better than the CD copy
4/5 – Bit better than the CD
4/12 – Much better than the CD
4/19 – Huge improvement. Poor AM copy used with all sorts of problems, this new one is FM and only slightly hissy
4/23 – Both copies off air, and about the same really, prefer the new one though.
4/24 – About the same as CD copy
The previously missing episode – “The Surprise Wedding” (tx 15/03/60) – means that all episodes of series three are now accounted for in one form or other.
All the episodes found on the reels have been offered to the BBC.
- If you have any recordings of The Navy Lark APART from mp3 files downloaded off the Internet, the The Navy Lark Appreciation Society would like to hear from you. You can get in touch via its website.