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The Silent Bugler

‘The Silent Bugler’ sounded his instrument (or rather, didn’t) on 15 March 1954 in episode 25 of the fourth series. The Radio Times listing is here.

This episode was featured in the Vintage Goons series but was not initially broadcast in the UK. Spike Milligan also included its script in his 1987 book, The Lost Goon Shows.

The episode is announced as “the case of Agent X2”, who is revealed to be Neddie Seagoon – although he is not named as such. In any case, his problems start when catching the train to MI5 headquarters.

Conductor (Sellers): All tickets please. Seagoon: Tickets? Oh. Hahaha. Oh yes, well, there we are. Conductor: ‘Ere. This is a platform ticket. Seagoon: That’s right, I always travel by platform. Conductor: ‘Ere, wait a minute – this was issued in 1902. Seagoon: Yes, running late aren’t we? Conductor: But it’s for Brighton-London stagecoach. Seagoon: Well, well, well. Conductor: This isn’t a stagecoach. Seagoon: You mean this train isn’t horsedrawn? Conductor: No. Seagoon: I demand my money back!

Seagoon is tasked with investigating Russians who, it is believed, have invented a time machine that will allow them to travel forward in time and obtain faster-than-light technology. Probably by watching Star Trek.


Mr Crun fills Seagoon in on who he is tracking down. Or at least he tries to – Peter Sellers is suffering from a serious case of the giggles for about five minutes while trying to deliver his lines.

Seagoon’s targets are the Russian master spy, Igor Blimey, and “the most hated man in Russia”, Charlie Chester – he of several successful radio and TV entertainment shows.

Finally, he is introduced to the Silent Bugler. How to spot him? “If ever you here nothing – look out.”

Next, Seagoon visits Major Bloodnok to get a crash course in disguise materials, based on the major’s successful escape from prison during the war. (“Where from?” “Dartmoor.”)

Bloodnok: I have the very outfit. Stand by to check. Seagoon: Right. Bloodnok: One scarlet beard with detachable bells. Seagoon: Yes. Bloodnok: One pair of reversible plastic socks easily convertible into dog cardigan. Seagoon: Brilliant! Bloodnok: One rubber dagger. Seagoon: What’s the use of a rubber dagger? Bloodnok: We don’t want to shed blood needlessly lad… Now finance. Three thousand lira in rupees payable in pesetas at any Mongolian bank whilst wearing tennis shoes in a thunderstorm. Seagoon: You’ve thought of everything.

The final stage is to obtain a secret weapon from arms expert Bluebottle.

Seagoon: I understand you have a secret weapon for me. Bluebottle: I have it! Yes I have! I have it! Unscrews false kneecap, takes out secret gun. Am in agony as I have not got false kneecaps.

The secret weapon is a backshot pistol, meaning whoever fires it at you gets deaded instead of you. As you can probably guess by now, the demonstration doesn’t go quite how Bluebottle wanted.

[FX: Bang] Bluebottle: You rotten swine you! You have deaded me! You have shotted me! You have punctured my guaranteed Flash Gordon bulletproof space vest with cardboard lapels. Priced one and nine at all good chemists. Ooohh aaii! Dies. Exits left to register for next year’s radio award.

Fully kitted out, Seagoon heads off for his undisclosed destination. Dropped into enemy territory, he proceeds with Eccles and Bloodnok to open his sealed orders.

Seagoon: What do my orders say? ‘The man standing before you is Major Bloodnok.’ Bloodnok: What do mine say? ‘The man standing before you is Captain Seagoon who has just been informed who you are.’ Eccles: Let’s see what mine say. ‘Mix two eggs, add sugar’ – ‘ere, I’ve picked up the wrong envelope! I’ve got Philip Harben’s act.

Philip Harben was the first TV celebrity chef, who you may recall was not deaded during ‘The Greatest Mountain in the World’ a couple of episodes previously.

The trio hasten to Dresden Opera House where a symphony concert is taking place featuring “Relgub Tneliseht” – or “the silent bugler” backwards. But! It turns out that the orchestra members are all fakes – including the bugler himself.

Seagoon, Eccles and Bloodnok split up to search for the time machine. Meanwhile, in an abandoned underground boot-stewing factory, two Russian agents are found: Ivan Itchybonce, and Vladimir Shotitov. (Ouch. Take that, BBC censors.)

These are played by Milligan, babbling gibberish, and Max Geldray, speaking actual Dutch. They plan to lay a trap for the British agents.

Eccles and Bloodnok have found the time machine and place a bomb inside.

Bloodnok: Now then, any idiot who opens that lid is a goner. You sure it’s going to work all right? Eccles: I’ll just try it. [FX: Metal door opening] [FX: Explosion]

Eccles has lost his legs for nothing, though, as this was a fake put there by Seagoon to fool the Russians. (Are you following this? If so, you’re more with it than I am.) The three of them escape through several doors, into a taxi, swim across a river, onto race horses, into racing cars, and back through a door.

Russian spy (Sellers): So, you have come back. Eccles: Oh no! Russian spy: Hands up! Down! Up! Down! Up! Down! Seagoon: What’s all this for? Russian spy: We believe in keeping our prisoners fit.

With but one option available to them, the trio jump into the time machine to travel forward in time. With the cast vanished into the future, that’s the end of the show. Those that want to know how it ended are advised to listen on 18 March 1984 – whereupon I presume we’d find Milligan still trying to finish the script…


Title: The Silent Bugler

Series 4, Episode 25

Written by: Spike Milligan

Producer: Peter Eton

Available on The Goon Show Compendium 14

Vintage Goons version

Title: The Silent Bugler

Producer: Charles Chilton

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