Crooning, trumpeting, writing, campaigning, and even drawing, were just some of the talents of this Great ‘Briton' - but it is for his comedy and calling Prince Charles a ‘little grovelling bastard' that Spike Milligan is remembered for best.
Born Terence Alan Patrick Seán Milligan in India, 1918, baby Spike was the son of an Irish-born captain in the British Army, and an English mother. The Milligan's moved back to the UK in the early Thirties, where Spike worked as a clerk by day, and a trumpeter and crooner by night.
The onset of war saw Spike called-up for service with the Royal Artillery, and these times were captured in the first of a series of best-selling of war autobiographies, Adolf Hitler: His Part in My Downfall.
War took Spike to North Africa and then to Italy, where he came under mortar fire whilst trying to lay a communications cable. The resultant shell-shock saw Milligan taken off the front line and into service with an entertainment troop, where he became the central figure of the Bill Hall Trio – a musical comedy act.
Back in the UK Spike began writing for the Derek Roy Show, before performing as well in the Crazy Gang, and then onto the hugely successful Goon Show with Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine.
Although incredibly successful, the burden of being the focal point of the Goons, both in performing and writing, took its toll first with end of his first marriage, and then with his health as Spike suffered a massive nervous breakdown.
The Sixties saw Milligan move into television and in 1969 he was commissioned by the BBC to write and star in the first of the ‘Q’ series which ran into the Eighties, and was considered by many to be the show that broke the comedic ground for Monty Python’s Flying Circus to follow.
Milligan’s writing also won many fans, with his series of war autobiographies becoming bestsellers. Other works, adaptations, poetry, and silly verse also won national accolades. Spike was also a fervent peace campaigner following the horrors he had witnessed during the WWII.
Spike’s personal life wasn’t helped by his philandering ways and his bi-polar disorder, which resulted in numerous hospitalisations, three marriages, and four children.
In 1994, Milligan shocked the showbiz world when he called the Prince of Wales a ‘little grovelling bastard’ live on TV. However, in reality, Milligan and the Prince were good friends.
Spike Milligan died of liver disease in 2002. He is buried in Winchelsea, East Sussex. His tombstone reads: I told you I was ill (in Irish)
Despite living most of his life in England, Spike Milligan held an Irish passport. He was never granted a UK passport because he refused to swear an oath to the king, on the grounds that his military service and subsequent injury were allegiance enough. Today You2uk.com is proud to make the father of modern comedy, Spike Milligan, not just a Briton, but a Great Briton.