Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - The General Goes Skating and Other Stories

The General Goes Skating 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 Lull, led by The General Goes Skating.

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

"'Ere chum, get up; this ain't a skatin' rink" (click to enlarge)

The General Goes Skating

One horribly wet day during the winter of 1915 I met the Brigadier paying his morning visit to the front line and accompanied him along my section of the trench.

Entering one fire-bay, the gallant General slipped and sat down uncommonly hard in the mud.

Discipline stifled any desire on my part for mirth, but to my horror, the sentry in that bay, without turning away from his periscope, called over his shoulder in unmistakable Cockney accents: "'Ere, chum, get up; this ain't a blinkin' skatin' rink!"

Fortunately the General's sense of humour was equal to the occasion, and he replied to the now horror-stricken sentry with an affable "Quite."

"Company Commander," Orpington, Kent

"To Top Things Up"

During the early part of 1916 a few picked men from the North Sea Fleet were sent on a short tour of the Western Front to get an accurate idea of the work of the sister Service.

One or two of these men were attached to my company for a few days in January when we were at Givenchy - a fairly lively spot at that time.

The morning after their arrival there was some pretty heavy firing and bombing, which soon died down to normal.

Later in the day, as I was passing down the line, I asked one of our guests (an out-and-out Londoner) what he thought of things.  He shook his head mournfully.

"I thought the blighters was coming over after all that gunfire this morning, sir," he said.  "I been in a naval action; I been submarined; I been bombed by aeroplanes; and, blimey, I did 'ope I'd be in a bay'nit charge, just to top things up."

L. V. Upward (late Capt. R.N.), 14 Lyndhurst Road, Hampstead, N.W.3

Luck in the Family

A cockney R.A.S.C. driver had been knocked down and badly injured by a staff-officer's car.

On recovering consciousness in hospital, he highly amused the doctor by exclaiming, "Well, me gran'farver was kicked by a Derby winner, me farver knew Dr. Crippen, an 'ere's me gets a blighty orf a brass-'at's Rolls-bloomin'-Royce.  It's funny 'ow luck runs in famblys!"

J. F. C., Langdon Park Road, N. 6

"I'm Drownded"

We were going into the line in front of Cambrai, in November 1917, and were walking in single file.  The night was pitch black.  Word came down at intervals from the leading file, "'Ware wire," "'Ware shell-hole."

My pal, a Cockney, was in front of me.  Suddenly I heard a muffled curse - he had deviated and paid the penalty by falling into a particularly deep shell-hole filled with mud and water.

I stumbled to the edge of the hole and peered down and saw his face.  I asked him if he was all right, and back came the reply, "Blimey, I'm drownded, so let the missus know I died like a sailor."

Three days later he did die... like a soldier.

Ex-Rfn. John S. Brown, 94 Masterman Road, East Ham, E.6

"There's only seven wonders" (click to enlarge)

Not a New World's Wonder

The regiment had reached Hebuterne after marching from St. Amand, and a party of us was detailed to carry stuff up to the front line.

One of our number, a hefty Cockney, besides being in full marching order, had a bag of bombs and a couple of screw pickets.

A sergeant then handed him some petrol tins.  With a look of profound disgust, the Cockney dropped the tins and remarked, "Chuck it, mate; there's only seven wonders in this blinkin' world."

W. G. H. Cox (late 16th London Regt.), 9 Longstaff Crescent, Southfields, S.W.18

Next - Lads of the Village and three other stories

Bulgaria mobilised a quarter of its male population during WW1, 650,000 troops in total.

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Cockney War Stories