William Arnold Ridley OBE was born in Walcot, Bath, Somerset, England in 1896. A graduate of the University of Bristol, his passion for acting began when he played Hamlet in a student production.
During the First World War, Ridley sustained several wounds in close-quarter battle. His left hand was left virtually useless by wounds sustained on the Somme and he was forced to give up a budding acting career and turn to writing.
He hit the jackpot with the play 'The Ghost Train' which was a great West End success and has been filmed and adapted several times. This was followed by a number of other plays including ‘The Wrecker’ during the 1920s and 1930s.
He served again during the Second World War as Acting Major the British Expeditionary Force in the first few weeks of the war. After the German invasion of France, he was in the last boat to escape from Boulogne. In 1940 Ridley was discharged on health grounds and joined the Home Guard and ENSA.
His attempts to return to acting by joining the Old Vic Theatre company were scuppered once again by war when a bomb hit his home in Caterham, Surrey, with the shock leaving him without a voice for almost two years.
He was persuaded back to the stage in the late 1940s, and returned to acting, including playing Doughy Hood, the village baker, in the radio soap opera ‘The Archers’ for seventeen years.
In later life Ridley continued acting, often as kindly and gentle old men such as his most famous role, drawing upon his Home Guard experience as Private Godfrey in the BBC comedy series ‘Dad's Army’ from 1968 to 1977, and the stage shows that followed it.
Ridley was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen's New Year's Honours List of 1982, for services to drama. He died aged 88 in 1984.
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