The Men from the Ministry is a British radio 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 14 series, totalling 147 half-hour episodes. 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.