Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - The "Garden Party Crasher" and Other Stories

The "Garden Party Crasher" 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 The "Garden Party Crasher".

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

The "Garden Party Crasher"

In April 1917 two companies of our battalion were ordered to make a big raid opposite the sugar refineries at 14 Bis, near Loos.  Two lines of enemy trenches had to be taken and the raiding party, when finished, were to go back to billets at Mazingarbe while the Durhams took over our trenches.

My batman Beedles had instructions to go back to billets with all my kit, and wait there for my return.  I was in charge of the right half of the first wave of the raid, and after a bit of a scrap we got into the German front line.

Having completed our job of blowing up concrete emplacements and dug-outs, we were waiting for the signal to return to our lines when, to my surprise, Beedles came strolling through the German wire.

When he saw me he called out above the row going on: " I 'opes yer don't mind me 'aving come to the garden party wivout an invertition, sir?"

The intrepid fellow had taken all my kit back to billets some four miles, made the return journey, and come across No Man's Land to find me, and see me safely back; an act which might easily have cost him his life.

L.W. Lees (Lieut.), late 11th Batt. Essex Regt., "Meadow Croft," Stoke Poges, Bucks.

Those Big Wasps

Salonika, 1918, a perfect summer's day.  The 2/17th London Regiment are marching along a dusty road up to the Dorian Lake.  Suddenly, out of the blue, three bombing planes appear.  The order is given to scatter.

Meanwhile, up comes an anti-aircraft gun, complete with crew on lorry.  Soon shells are speeding up, and little small puffs of white smoke appear as they burst; but the planes are too high for them.  A Cockney of the regiment puts his hands to his mouth and shouts to the crew "Hi, don't hunch 'em; let 'em settle."

A.G. Sullings (late 2/171h London Regiment), 130 Cann Hall Road, Leytonstone, E.11

Why He Looked For Help

On July 1, 1916, the 56th (London) Division attacked at Hebuterne, and during the morning I was engaged (as a lineman) in repairing our telephone lines between Battalion and Brigade H.Q.

I had just been temporarily knocked out by a flat piece of shell and had been attended by a stretcher-bearer, who then left me and proceeded on his way back to a dressing station I had previously passed, whilst I went farther on down the trench to get on with my job.

I had not gone many yards when I met a very young private of the 12th Londons (the Rangers).  One of his arms was hanging limp and was, I should think, broken in two or three places.  He was cut and bleeding about the face, and was altogether in a sorry plight.

He stopped and asked me, "Is there a dressing station down there, mate?" pointing along the way I had come, and I replied, "Yes, keep straight on down the trench.  It's a good way down.  But," I added, "there's a stretcher-bearer only just gone along.  Shall I see if I can get him for you?"

His reply I shall never forget: "Oh, I don't want him for me.  I want someone to come back with me to get my mate.  He's hurt!"

Wm. R. Smith, 231 Halley Road, Manor Park, E.12

The Winkle Shell

Above the entrance to a certain dug-out somewhere in Flanders some wit had fixed a board upon which was roughly painted, "The Winkle Shell."

The ebb and tide of battle left the dug-out in German hands, but one day during an advance the British infantry recaptured the trench in which "The Winkle Shell" was situated.

Along the trench came a Cockney with his rifle ready and his bayonet fixed.  Hearing voices coming from the dug-out he halted, looked reflectively at the notice-board, and then cautiously poking his bayonet into the dug-out called out, "Nah, then, come on aht of it afore I Bits me blinkin' 'pin' busy."

Sidney A. Wood (late C/275 Battery, R.F.A.), 32 Lucas Avenue, Upton Park, E.13

Forgot His Dancing Pumps

We were in a trench in front of Carney on the Somme when the Germans made a raid on us.  It was all over in a few minutes, and we were minus eight men - taken away by the raiders.

Shortly afterwards I was standing in a bay feeling rather shaky when a face suddenly appeared over the top.  I challenged, and was answered with these words:

"It's orl right.  It's me.  They was a-takin' us to a dance over there, but I abaht-turned 'arfway acrorst an' crawled back fer me pumps."

E. Smith (late Middlesex Regt.), 2 Barrack Road, Aldershot

Next - Lift Out of Order and four other stories

A "Grand Slam" was British slang for an impending attack or battle.

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Cockney War Stories