It's That Man Again

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Recording ITMA, 1945: Conductor Charlie Shadwell (right) laughs at Tommy Handley and Dorothy Summers during the recording of an episode of 'It's That Man Again'. The BBC Variety Orchestra is visible behind them on the stage.

It's That Man Again (or, commonly, ITMA) was a BBC radio comedy programme which ran from 1939 to 1949. The title refers to a contemporary phrase concerning the ever more frequent news-stories about Hitler in the lead-up to World War II, and specifically a headline in the Daily Express written by Bert Gunn.[1] This was humorously transferred to Tommy Handley, the popular comedian around whom the programme was developed. The scripts were written by the prolific Ted Kavanagh. ITMA is believed to have played a major role in sustaining morale on the UK's "home front" during World War II.


The headline which inspired the name of the show appeared in the Daily Express of 2 May 1939, on the bottom of the front page, above a story about Adolf Hitler leaving his Chancellery on a mystery journey.[2] The first show was broadcast on 12 July 1939, part of an initial run of four shows which were fortnightly.[3]

The show was broadcast for much of the war from the BBC Wales studios in Bangor, Caernarfonshire in Wales, where the BBC's Light Entertainment Department was based during World War II after an initial brief relocation to Bristol.

Other performers in the show included Jack Train, a master of voices; Clarence Wright, who played the commercial traveller and the man from the ministry; Deryck Guyler, and Joan Harben (sister of Philip Harben) as Mona Lott. Hattie Jacques, who played Sophie Tuckshop (the earliest of Jacques' roles dependent upon her physical size) joined the cast towards the end of the run. The programme featured dozens of other characters, such as Mrs Mopp and Colonel Chinstrap. The speed at which the performances were delivered is still considered remarkable, even given later technical developments. Many gags were dependent on breaking news – Ted Kavanagh once admitted to being unable to understand some jokes in earlier scripts.

Charlie Shadwell (right) prepares to conduct the BBC Variety Orchestra during the recording of an episode of 'It's That Man Again' in 1945. On his left is Ann Rich, the 'ITMA' singer who succeeded Paula Green. To the left of the photograph, producer Francis Worsley chats to broadcaster Ronnie Waldman.

Some years later, Train reprised the role of Colonel Chinstrap for a couple of guest appearances on The Goon Show including the episode "Shifting Sands". Train would recount how the character was created. Shortly before the show started he was in the office of senior announcer John Snagge having a chat when the door opened and a slightly bleary-eyed gentleman entered. They were introduced, the man being a retired Indian army officer. He then turned to Snagge and said, "John. I have just done the most marvellous piece of business. I’ve bought a water-heater on ten year’s hire-purchase and what the gas company doesn’t know is I am drinking myself to death".

Train, along with scriptwriter Kavanagh, developed this into Colonel Chinstrap. The officer on whom Chinstrap was based heard the programme and reputedly totally failed to connect the character with himself but commented: "Wonderful character. I knew silly buggers like that in India".

Then, nine years and five months after the first meeting, Train received a telegram saying: THE COLONEL BEAT THE GAS COMPANY BY SEVEN MONTHS SNAGGE.

ITMA ran for over 300 episodes between 1939 and 1949. When Handley died from a sudden stroke, announced immediately after the usual second repeat, it was cancelled because he was considered irreplaceable as its star.

Mrs Mopp is referenced in the Kinks song "The Village Green Preservation Society" from their 1968 album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1943 a film adaptation was made of the series, also titled It's That Man Again.


ITMA is remembered for a number of catchphrases, some of which entered popular vocabulary.[4]

This catchphrase was apparently inspired by a diver who solicited pennies on pier from seaside crowds, saying "Don't forget the diver sir. Every penny makes the water warmer".[6]
New Brighton is a sea-side resort on the Wirral Peninsula. during the late 40's, during the holiday season,there was a man on a bicycle on the landing stage of the New Brighton Ferry from Liverpool. When the ferry approached, he rode off the end of the landing stage, some 10 to 20 feet, into the river Mersey. His accomplice stood on the stage with a collecting box and cried out "Don't forget the diver." as the passengers left the boat.

“D’oh!” and Diana Morrison[edit]

More ejaculation than catchphrase, D'oh! was the explosive parting shot of the character Miss Hotchkiss as played by Diana Morrison in numerous episodes from 1945 (series 8/166 onwards)[19] to the demise of the programme in January 1949.[20]

‘D’oh!’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, largely in response to the much later publicizing of it in the television programme The Simpsons, although ITMA is credited with the earliest recorded use of the term. [21]

Diana Morrison was already a cast member before the advent of the character Miss Hotchkiss in 1945. Miss Hotchkiss was Tommy Handley’s stentorian and authoritarian secretary. Authoritarian she may have been but she was susceptible to the amorous blandishments of Handley which however would lead on to an inevitable put-down.[22] The explosive ‘d’oh!’ would signal her exasperated exit.[23]


On Wednesday 19th February 1947 Mrs Jean Mann, MP for Coatbridge, introduced the epithet ‘twerp’ to the House of Commons when referring to Tommy Handley during a debate on, of all things, supplementary estimates. [24][25] She was apparently taking exception to the risqué character of Handley’s jokes that, according to her, were based on the kind that made families feel they should switch off the radio. The next day ITMA responded by opening the show with the overture revamped to “It’s That Twerp Again”.


  1. ^ Charles Wintour, "Gunn, Herbert Smith", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ "It's That Man Again . . . !". Daily Express. 2 May 1939. p. 1. 
  3. ^ Roger Wilmut, "Kindly leave the stage!: The story of variety, 1919-1960", Methuen, 1985, p. 132.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "ITMA catchphrases", Local History Liverpool, BBC, July 2002, retrieved 30 August 2011 
  5. ^ a b Partridge, Eric (2005. First published 1977), "'Don't forget the diver' catchphrase origin", in ., A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day, UK: Taylor & Francis, p. 108, ISBN 0-415-05916-X Alternative ISBN 0-203-37995-0 
  6. ^ Lewis, Peter (1986), "'Don't forget the diver' origin", in ., A People's War, Thames Methuen, p. 184, retrieved 1 September 2011 
  7. ^ Freedman, Jean Rose (1999), "Funf catchphrase background", in ., Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London, Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, p. 68, ISBN 0-8131-2076-4 
  8. ^ Partridge 2005, p.211
  9. ^ Freedman 1999, p.69
  10. ^ Partridge 2005, p.214
  11. ^ Partridge (2005), p.263
  12. ^ Aldgate, Anthony & Richards, Jeffrey (2007), "'Morning, nice day' origins", in ., Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War, New York: I.B. Tauris & Co, p. 92, ISBN 978-1-84511-445-9, retrieved 1 September 2011 
  13. ^ Partridge, Eric; Beale, Paul (2002), "Commercial traveller's catchphrase", in ., A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: Colloquialisms and Catch Phrases (8th ed.), p. 1384, ISBN 0-415-06568-2 Paperback ISBN 0-415-29189-5 
  14. ^ Partridge 2005, p.3
  15. ^ Curran, James & Seaton, Jean (1997), "'After you, Claude' usage in Wartime Britain", in ., Power Without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain (5th ed.), London: Routledge, p. 135, ISBN 0-415-16810-4 See also 2009 edition, p.127 
  16. ^ Briggs, Asa (1961), "'I'll have to ask me dad' ITMA origins", in ., The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: The War of Words, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press 
  17. ^ ITMA catchphrases at BBC website, per other catchphrase refs. See also p.60 in Partridge 2005 (no preview for that page, but shows up in Google search)
  18. ^ Ferguson, Rosalind (1994), "Origin of TTFN", in ., Shorter Dictionary of Catch Phrases, London: Routledge, p. 125, ISBN 0-415-10051-8 
  19. ^ The ITMA Years, A Compilation of Scripts: 2/13, 4/28, 5/8, 8/34, 9/17, 12/6 (Woburn Press, 1974)
  20. ^ The Last ITMA Script, Author Kavanagh (Riddle Books, 1949)
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  22. ^ BBC Sound Archive 1947.12.04 (BBC Audiobooks Ltd ISBN0563504390 ℗1988, ©1988 & 2005)
  23. ^ British Library Sound Catalogue Find Formats [Diana Morrison] T5636R 1947.12.04, C353/17 1945.5.10 and T3670W 1947.11.07, 1948.09.23 & 1949.01.06
  24. ^
  25. ^

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