Senior Army NCO gives action figures authentic voice

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Army Sergeant Majors are world famous for bawling orders that can be heard a mile away. Now, London District's Garrison Sergeant Major, WO1 Bill Mott, has lent his ear-splitting bark to an infantryman action toy.

Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) William Mott joined the Army in 1979, and is a veteran of state occasions, including Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament, the annual Remembrance Day Service and Parade, and the Festival of Remembrance. During the recent royal wedding, Mr Mott trained and drilled troops in the royal guard of honour with military precision. Indeed, days after the wedding, Horse Guards was still abuzz. Mr Mott said:

It was a wonderful day and there was definitely the camaraderie that all troops feel on days like that.

He cites the royal wedding as a highlight in his long, distinguished career, but now he can add voice artist to his roll call of heady accomplishments.

When he got the call asking him to provide the voice for the army doll, Mr Mott, who radiates a can-do army ethic, instantly said:

Not a problem!

Recording took just one day with Mr Mott squeezing into a tiny sound booth in Soho:

It was quite funny. They put me in a booth, which was just like you see on telly. I sat in front of a mike and the sound engineer asked me to do a sound check. I asked if he wanted me to read aloud and he advised: ‘No, just shout like you would normally’.

Taking them at their word, Mr Mott bellowed:

Throw smoke - GRENADE!

which forced the crew to whip off their headphones, fearing for their eardrums.

I tried it again but lowered my volume.

The 10-inch (25cm) infantry figure comes kitted out with Anti-Structure Munition (ASM), desert combat kit and combat boots, and its authentic army orders capture extraordinary attention to detail, but Mr Mott modestly brushes off praise, insisting that he was just being himself:

I’d normally be shouting orders in a battlefield or on exercise so being in a sound booth was a bit odd, but it wasn’t difficult.

So, how realistic are the orders? Press his belly (the toy, not Mr Mott) and the diminutive doll barks:

Take cover - contact!

accompanied by a crunch of army boots. Press again, and he yells:

Cease firing, enemy withdrawing.

Later, back in the office, one wag joked:

Hang on, if the toy doesn’t moan ‘Cutbacks!’ it can’t be that realistic.

Garrison Sergeant Major Bill Mott shares his London District office in Horse Guards with an HM Armed Forces infantryman action figure
Garrison Sergeant Major Bill Mott shares his London District office in Horse Guards with an HM Armed Forces infantryman action figure [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

Back in the 60s/70s, Action Man was the mainstay of every boy’s childhood with its replica gun and gripping rubber hands. As a boy, Mr Mott treasured his own Action Man but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that one day he would voice a modern-day doppelganger.

In 2009, the MOD spearheaded a revival of the toys by launching its own similar range, but were quick to emphasise that the HM Armed Forces toys, which is designed by the Character Group toy firm, has no connection with the original Action Man.

In the film world, voice actors are paid millions and regularly receive fan mail. For his part, Mr Mott wasn’t paid a bean but he is chuffed that a share of the royalties is donated to army welfare projects.

Wild horses won’t allow the Army’s real life action man to gush just how much he secretly enjoyed his brush with fame, though Mr Mott has already passed down his complimentary doll to his tiny grandson:

I can’t wait for him to get big enough to play with it, but my son wanted it really!

For toymakers, there can be no better role model than WO1 Bill Mott to front up their diminutive doll.

Mr Mott hails from a trio of army-barmy brothers; John is a former Regimental Sergeant Major and Nick, a serving Major, who have all served Queen and Country.

Earlier this year, Nick was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), and Bill plans to sneak into the Buckingham Palace investiture:

I’ll heckle him and shout, ‘Get your heels together!’

Turning back to the action figure perched on his desk, the down-to-earth army veteran dismisses any notion that he had to get into character:

I’ve been an infantry soldier now for 33 years, so getting into character happened a long time ago. I am still Garrison Sergeant Major of London District. There is no change, and I won’t be switching to any other mentality.

For a legendary soldier like WO1 Bill Mott, acting out the role of an infantryman must be child’s play.