Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Cockney Logic and Other Stories
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 Cockney Logic.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Early in the war aeroplanes were not so common as they were later on, and trench "strafing" from the air was practically unheard of.
One day two privates of the Middlesex Regiment were engaged in clearing a section of front line trench near the La Bassee road when a German plane came along and sprayed the trenches with machine-gun bullets.
One of the men (both were typical Cockneys) looked up from his digging and said: " Strike, there's a blinkin' aeroplane."
The other took no notice but went on digging.
By-and-by the machine came back, still firing, whereupon the speaker again looked up, spat, and said: " Blimey, there's annuver of 'em."
"No, 'tain't," was the reply, "it's the same blighter again."
"Blimey," said the first man, "so 'tis."
And both went on digging.
W. P. (late Middlesex Regt. and R.A.F.), Bucks
It was a warm corner on the Givenchy front, with whizz-bangs dealing out death and destruction. But it was necessary that communication be maintained between the various H.Q.'s, and in this particular sector "Alf," from Bow, and myself were detailed to keep the "lines" intact.
Suddenly a whizz-bang burst above us as we were repairing some shattered lines. We ducked instinctively, but friend "Alf" caught a bit of the shell and was thrown to the bottom of the slushy trench.
Being a football enthusiast he at once raised his arm in appeal, and, with the spirit that wins wars, shouted, "Penalty, ref!"
He was dazed, but unhurt.
W. G. Harris (late Sergt., R.E.), 34 Denmark Street, Watford
An Appointment with his Medical Adviser
During the battle of the Ancre in November 1916 the 51st Division were going over the top on our left while our battalion kept Jerry engaged with a raid.
Every inch of the rain-sodden landscape seemed to be heaving beneath the combined barrages of the opposing forces.
My sergeant, a D.C.M., had been lying in the trench badly wounded for some hours waiting for things to ease up before he could be got down to the dressing-station.
Presently our raiding party returned with six prisoners, among them an insignificant-looking German officer (who, waving a map about, and jabbering wildly, seemed to be blaming his capture to the faulty tactics of his High Command).
The wounded sergeant watched these antics for a while with a grin, driving the pain-bred puckers from his face, and then called out, "Oi, 'Indenburg! Never mind abaht ye map o' London; wot time does this 'ere war end, 'cos I've got an appointment wiv my medical adviser!"
Dear, brave old chap. His appointment was never kept.
S.T. (late 37th Div.), Fulham, S.W.6
One Up, and Two to Go
On the Struma front in 1917 a bombing plane was being put back into its hangar.
Suddenly there was a terrific bang. A dozen of us ran up to see what had happened, but a Cockney voice from inside the hangar cried out, "Don't come in. There's two more bombs to go off, and I can't find 'em."
A. Dickinson, Brixton
On the Parados
Dawn of a very hot day in September 1916 on the Balkan front.
We were in the enemy trenches at "Machine Gun Hill," a position hitherto occupied by the Prussian Guards, who were there to encourage the Bulgars.
We had taken the position the previous evening with very little loss.
As the day broke we discovered that we were enfiladed on all sides and overlooked by the Prussians not more than forty yards away. It was impossible to evacuate wounded and prisoners or for reserves to approach with food, water, and ammunition.
The enemy counter-attacked in overwhelming numbers; shells rained on us; our own were falling short; it was suicide to show one's head.
Towards noon, casualties lying about. The sun merciless. Survivors thoroughly exhausted.
Up jumped a Cockney bomber. "Blimey, I can't stick this," and perched himself on the parados.
"I can see 'em; chuck some 'Mills' up."
And as fast as they were handed to him he pitched bombs into the Prussians' midst, creating havoc.
He lasted about three minutes, then fell, riddled with bullets. He had stemmed the tide.
Shortly afterwards we retired. His pluck was never recorded or recognised, but his feat will never be forgotten by at least one of the few who got through.
George McCann, 50 Guilford Street, London, W.
Both British and German fleets had around 45 submarines available at the time of the Battle of Jutland, but none were put to use.
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