Uncle Albert might have been constantly regaling never-ending tales about his time in the navy ‘during the war’ to the Trotter family - but it turns out that it was Grandad who could have had a dramatic impact on the history of Europe in the 20th Century.
According to Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Rodney Trotter on the beloved sitcom Only Fools and Horses, actor Lennard Pearce, who performed the role of Grandad in the first 23 episodes of the show, could have shot Nazi leader Adolf Hitler before his ruinous march across Europe in the Second World War.
Lyndhurst makes the revelation in an episode of The Story of Only Fools and Horses, currently running on Gold, recounting a story that Pearce told him on the show.
“He was a young actor touring Europe and they were playing some German city and the Nazis walked in. The top honchos of the Nazi party had seen the play and came to congratulate them afterwards. Lennard shook hands with Adolf Hitler. He only ever told me once, but he said, ‘Had I known then what I know now, I would have drawn the pistol from one of the bodyguards and I’d have done my best to kill him.’”
Lennard would have been in his early twenties when he had his encounter with the Nazi dictator.
Steve Clark, author of Only Fools and Horses – The Official Inside Story, commented: “We’re used to hearing Uncle Albert’s stories about his rather dubious wartime service in the navy, but it’s incredible that Lennard Pearce actually met Hitler during his rise to power and could have put a stop to him before he was able to do so much evil.”
Lennard was cast as Grandad - full name Edward Kitchener “Ted” Trotter - in the show by writer John Sullivan immediately after seeing his audition, having been looking for an actor similar in style to Wilfrid Brambell, who had played the role of Albert Steptoe in Steptoe and Son. After becoming an integral character in the show, Pearce died in 1984, whilst filming the series four episode ‘Hole in One’. Sullivan subsequently wrote a new episode, ‘Strained Relations’, which featured Grandad’s funeral.
Uncle Albert, played by Buster Merryfield, was then brought in to the show after it was decided that a new older family member was required to maintain the comedy dynamic. He was written in as Grandad’s long-lost younger brother, and appeared for the first time at Grandad’s funeral, moving in with Del and Rodney soon after. Merryfield himself died in 1999, with Albert’s death, like Grandad’s, written in to the following episode.
Seven series of Only Fools and Horses were originally broadcast on BBC One in the UK from 1981 to 1991, with sixteen Christmas specials aired until the show finally ended in 2003.