Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Help from Hindenburg 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 Lull, led by Help from Hindenburg.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Help from Hindenburg
I was serving with the M.G.C. at Ecoust.
Two men of the Middlesex Regiment had been busy for a week digging a sump hole in the exposed hollow in front of the village and had excavated to a depth of about eight feet.
A bombardment which had continued all night became so severe about noon of the next day that orders were given for all to take what cover was available.
It was noticed that the two men were still calmly at work in the hole, and I was sent to warn them to take shelter.
They climbed out, and as we ran over the hundred yards which separated us from the trench a high explosive shell landed right in the hole we had just left, converting it into a huge crater.
One of the men turned to me and said, "Lumme, mate, if old Hindenburg ain't been and gone and finished the blooming job for us "
J. S. F., Barnet, Herts
Raised his Voice - And the Dust
In the early part of 1917, while the Germans were falling back to the Hindenburg line on the Somme, trench warfare was replaced by advanced outposts for the time being.
Rations were taken up to the company headquarters on mules.
Another C.Q.M.S. and I were going up with mules one night and lost our way. We wandered on until a voice from a shell-hole challenged us. We had passed the company headquarters and landed among the advanced outposts.
The chap implored us to be quiet, and just as we turned back one of the mules chose to give the Germans a sample of his vocal abilities.
The outpost fellow told us what he thought of us. The transport chap leading the mule pulled and tugged, using kind, gentle words as drivers do.
And in the midst of it all my C.Q.M.S. friend walked up to the mule, holding his hands up, and whispered:
"S-sh For 'eaven's sake be quiet."
F. W. Piper (ex-Sherwood Foresters), 30 The Crescent, Watford, Herts
Mademoiselle from - Palestine
After the fall of Gaza our battalion, on occupying a Jewish colony in the coastal sector which had just been evacuated by the Turks, received a great ovation from the overjoyed inhabitants.
One of our lads, born well within hearing of Bow Bells, was effusively greeted by a Hebrew lady of uncertain age, who warmly embraced him and kissed him on each cheek.
Freeing himself, and gesticulating in the approved manner, he turned to us and said: "Strike me pink! Mademoiselle from Ah-my-tears."
Edward Powell, 80 Cavendish Road, Kentish Town, N.W.
"Ally Toot Sweet"
At the latter end of September 1914 the 5th Division was moving from the Aisne to La Bassee and a halt was made in the region of Crepy-en-Valois, where a large enemy shell was found (dud).
A Cockney private was posted to keep souvenir hunters from tampering with it. When he received his dinner he sat straddle-legged on the shell, admired by a few French children, whom he proceeded to address as follows:
"Ally! Toot sweet, or you'll get blown to 'ell if this blinkin' shell goes orf."
E. P. Ferguson, "Brecon," Fellows Road, S. Farnborough, Hants
Luckier than the Prince
In the autumn of 1916, while attending to the loading of ammunition at Minden Post, a driver suddenly exclaimed, "'Struth, Quarter; who's the boy officer with all the ribbons up?"
Glancing up, I recognised the Prince of Wales, quite unattended, pushing a bicycle through the mud.
When I told the driver who the officer really was, the reply came quickly:
"Blimey, I'm better off than he is; they have given me a horse to ride."
H. J. Adams (ex.-B.Q.M.S., R.F.A.), Highclare, Station Road, Hayes, Middlesex
"Drum Fire" was an artillery barrage fired not in salvo but by each gun in succession.
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