The Men from the Ministry is a Britishradio comedy series broadcast by the BBC between 1962 and 1977, starring Wilfrid Hyde-White, Richard Murdoch and, from 1966, when he replaced Hyde-White, Deryck Guyler. Written and produced by Edward Taylor with contributions from John Graham, and with some early episodes written by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke, it ran for 13 series, totalling 145 half-hour episodes and two specials. A further 14 episodes were made by the BBC Transcription Service in 1980 but never broadcast in the UK, until 2012 on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Versions were made by Yle in Finland, Sveriges Radio (SR) in Sweden, and Springbok Radio in South Africa, where it was made into a feature-length film.
The series was about lazy, bungling, incompetent civil servants, "Number One" – Roland Hamilton-Jones (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and later Deryck Lennox-Brown (Deryck Guyler), "Number Two" – Richard Lamb (Richard Murdoch), with their dim, typo-prone, teenage secretary, Mildred Murfin (Norma Ronald), all watched-over by the lecherous, pompous, self-seeking Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Gregory Pitkin (Roy Dotrice and later Ronald Baddiley), all members of the British Civil Service based in Whitehall. The stories centered on their General Assistance Department (analogous to the "Department of Administrative Affairs" in the later Yes Minister), which helps other governmental departments. Instead of assistance, the department creates mix-ups, misunderstandings and cock-ups that lead to a telling-off from Sir Gregory, who sees his 'hard earned' Civil Service career and pension disappearing.
In one 1960s episode, "The Big Rocket", General Assistance Department is put in charge of publicity for Britain's almost non-existent space programme. In another episode, "The Whitehall Castaways", Lennox-Brown, Lamb and Mildred row to an island in a lake in Regent's Park, General Assistance having been told to ensure the safety of a great bustard, a rare bird that is nesting there.
The characters are portrayed as inept, subject to greed, selfishness and incompetence. However, malice was never a factor and all the humour was light-hearted. There was also a little broad satire in many episodes. Later series tended to recycle older scripts, just people and places being changed.
- "One" (Roland Hamilton-Jones) – Wilfrid Hyde-White (1962–65)
- "One" (Deryck Lennox-Brown) – Deryck Guyler (1966–77)
- "Two" (Richard Lamb) – Richard Murdoch
- "Mildred Murfin" – Norma Ronald
- Under-Secretary "Sir Gregory Pitkin", CBE – Roy Dotrice (1962–65), Ronald Baddiley (1966-77)
- "April Adams" – Secretary to Roland Hamilton-Jones – Diana Olsson (1962–65)
Other occasionally recurring characters include "Lord Stilton", Sir Gregory's equally pompous boss, "Mr. 'Whizzer' Wilkins", Lennox-Brown and Lamb's aged and absent-minded colleague, and "Mr. Stack" – "Mr. Stack of 'Records'" – in charge of the Ministry's Records department and prone to taking naps in the "S" section of his filing cabinets. In the 1970 episode, "Bye-bye Mildred", Sir Gregory does not appear and we hear instead "Sir Hector Gunn". Also appearing in some episodes are Mr. "Creepy" Crawley, a rather ingratiating member of the Department, and Miss Lusty, an elderly lady in the Pensions Department who lives up to her name. One of Sir Gregory's later paramours was "Daphne Bentwater" from the typing pool. The Ministry building's hall porter was the ancient and lazy "Mr Matthews" – "Old Matthews". Other named but non-appearing characters include "Mrs Bratby", Lamb's landlady, and the legendary Rudge of the Board of Trade, whose accomplishments include inventing the Rudge Defence in chess.
The antics of Lennox-Brown and Lamb would sometimes be reported in newsclips within the programme by "Forth Robinson", a parody of the then well-known Scottish reporter, Fyfe Robertson. Other 'news' items would be read out by the real BBC newsreaders Jon Curleand Bryan Martin. In the 1977 episode, "Not on Your Telly", Sir Gregory is interviewed for the BBC Panorama programme by "Robin Gay" a thinly-disguised parody of the broadcaster Robin Day. In "Under the Weather" a news item by "Alan Snicker" - a broadcaster modelled on Alan Whicker - is featured.
Actors who appeared in episodes of the series include Clive Dunn, Pat Coombs, Warren Mitchell, Bill Pertwee, Joan Sanderson and Nicolette McKenzie.
In three episodes John Laurie, playing Mr. Dougal, stood in for Deryck Guyler who was temporarily unable to take part.