A classic piece of tabloid rubbish has been floating around today: ‘Don’t panic! Props for Dad’s Army play were live grenades‘ (Daily Mail); ‘Dad’s Army props were live grenades‘ (Daily Mirror) and ‘DON’T PANIC! OUR DAD’S ARMY PROPS ARE LIVE GRENADES‘ (Daily Express).
As soon as I saw this story I thought what a huge amount of free publicity this production has received, and I had a nagging feeling that it was a set up. The original story does make it clear that the actors did suspect that the grenades were live and did call the army. However, as the original article makes clear, although a controlled detination was carried out the grenades turned out to not be live and actually survived the explosion intact. Nonetheless the original article still uses a misleading headline: ‘‘Corporal Jones’ actor doesn’t panic after finding live grenades’.
The Express, Mirror and Daily Mail do not mention at any point that the grenades were found to not be live and the Express and Daily Mail both contain the exact sentence:
The devices – both dating from 1918 – were detonated in a controlled explosion which was heard for miles around.
One wonders whether this group of actors planned this story or just got extremely lucky. Either way, they got a huge amount of free publicity from journalists who just don’t care about factual accuracy – because as far as they are concerned: if the grenades were not live, then there wouldn’t be any story.