Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - A Short Week-end and Other Stories

A Short Week-end Published in London in 1921, The Best 500 Cockney War Stories comprised, in the words of its newspaper publisher (The London Evening News) "a remembering and retelling of those war days when laughter sometimes saved men's reason".

The collection of short memoirs, some 500 in total, is divided into five categories - Action, Lull, Hospital, High Seas and Here and There.  This page contains five stories from Action, led by A Short Week-end.

Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.

A Short Week-end

One Saturday evening I was standing by my dug-out in Sausage Valley, near Fricourt, when a draft of the Middlesex Regiment halted for the guide to take them up to the front line where the battalion was.  I had a chat with one of the lads, who told me he had left England on the Friday.

They moved off, and soon things got lively; a raid and counter-raid started.

Later the casualties began to come down, and the poor chaps were lying around outside the 1st C.C.S. (which was next to my dug-out).  On a stretcher was my friend of the draft.  He was pretty badly hit.

I gave him a cigarette and tried to cheer him by telling him he would soon be back in England.  With a feeble smile he said, "Blimey, sir, this 'as been a short week-end, ain't it?"

Pope Stamper (15th Durham L.I.), 188A Upper Richmond Road, East Sheen, S.W.14

Simultaneous Chess

At Aubers Ridge, near Fromelles, in October 1918, my chum and I were engrossed in a game of chess, our chessboard being a waterproof sheet with the squares painted on it, laid across a slab of concrete from a destroyed pillbox.

The Germans began to drop 5.9's with alarming regularity about 150 yards to our rear, temporarily distracting our attention from the game.

Returning to the game, I said to my chum, "Whose move, Joe?"

Before he could reply a shell landed with a deafening roar within a few yards of us, but luckily did not explode (hence this story).

His reply was: "Ours" - and we promptly did.

B. Greenfield, M.M. (late Cpl. R.F.A., 4gth (London) Division), L.C.C. Parks Dept., Tooting Bee Common, S.W.

Fire-step Philosophy

On July 1, 1916, I happened to be among those concerned in the attack on the German line in front of Serre, near Beaumont Hamel.

Our onslaught at that point was not conspicuously successful, but we managed to establish ourselves temporarily in what had been the Boche front line, to the unconcealed indignation of the previous tenants.

During a short lull in the subsequent proceedings I saw one of my company - an elderly private whose melancholy countenance and lank black moustache will ever remain engraved on my memory - seated tranquilly on the battered fire-step, engrossed in a certain humorous journal.

Meeting my astonished eye, he observed in a tone of mild resentment: "This 'ere's a dud, sir.  'S not a joke in it - not what I calls a joke, anyway."

So saying, he rose, pocketed the paper, and proceeded placidly to get on with the war.

K.R.G. Browse, 6B Winchester Road, N.W.3

"A quarter to seven, sir." (click to enlarge)

"Teddie" Gets the Last Word

Sergeant "Teddie" was rather deaf, but I am inclined to think that this slight affliction enabled him to pull our legs on occasions.

Our company of the London Regiment had just taken over a part of the line known as the Paris Redoubt, and on the first evening in the sector the company commander, the second in command, Sergeant "Teddie," and myself had a stroll along the observation line, which was just forward of the front line, in order to visit the various posts.

Suddenly a salvo of shells came over and one burst perilously near us.  Three of the party adopted the prone position in record time, but on our looking round "Teddie" was seen to be still standing and apparently quite unconcerned.

"Why the dickens didn't you get down?" said one of the party, turning to him.  "It nearly had us that time."

"Time?" said "Teddie," looking at his watch.  "A quarter to seven, sir."

J.S.O. (late C.S.M., 15th London Regiment)

"Nobbler's" Grouse

Just before the battle of Messines we of the 23rd Londons were holding the Bluff sector to the right of Hill 60.  "Stand down" was the order, and the sergeant was coming round with the rum.

"Nobbler," late of the Mile End Road, was watching him in joyful anticipation when... a whizz-bang burst on the parapet, hurling men in all directions.  No one was hurt... but the precious rum jar was shattered.

"Nobbler," sitting up in the mud and moving his tin hat from his left eye the better to gaze upon the ruin, murmured bitterly: "Louvain-Rheims-the Lusitania-and now our perishin' rum issue.  Jerry, you 'eathen, you gets worse and worse.  But, my 'at, won't you cop it when 'Aig knows abaht this!"

E.H. Oliver, Lanark House, Woodstock, Oxford

Next - Dust in 'Indenburg's Sauerkraut! and four other stories

"Beachy Bill" was the name given to one of the Turkish guns which regularly shelled Anzac Cove.

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Cockney War Stories