Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Not Yet Blasť 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 Not Yet Blasť.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Not Yet Blasť
We arrived at the Cambrai front in 1917 - just a small bunch of Cockneys - and were attached to the Welsh Brigade of Artillery, being told to report to B.H.Q. up the sunken road in front of Bapaume.
En route our escort of Welshmen were telling us of the "terrible" shelling up the line. It was no leg pulling, for we quickly found out for ourselves that it was hot and furious.
Down we all went for cover as best we could, except one Cockney who stood as one spellbound watching the bursting of the shells. One of the Welshmen yelled out, "Drop down, Cockie!"
The Cockney turned round, to the wonderment and amusement of the rest, with the retort, "Blimey! Getaway with yer, you're windy. I've only just come out!"
Driver W.H. Allen (attached 1st Glamorgan R.H.A.), 8 Malden Crescent, Kentish Town, N.W.1
Paid With a Mills
During severe fighting in Delville Wood in August 1916 our regiment (the East Surreys) was cut off for about three days and was reduced to a mere handful of men, but still we kept up our joking and spirits.
A young Cockney, who was an adept at rhyming slang, rolled over, dead as I thought, for blood was streaming from his neck and head. But he sat up again and, wiping his hand across his forehead, exclaimed "Strike me pink! One on the top of my loaf of bread (head, and one in the bushel and peck (neck)."
Then, slinging over a Mills bomb, he shouted: "'Ere, Fritz, my thanks for a Blighty ticket."
A. Dennis, 9 Somers Road, Brixton Hill, S.W.2
The Guns' Obligato
The day after the Canadians attacked Vimy Ridge my battalion of the Royal Fusiliers advanced from Bully Grenay to a chateau on the outskirts of Lieven under heavy shell fire.
At the back of the chateau a street led to the main road to the town. There, despite the bombardment, we found a Cockney Tommy of the Buffs playing "Tipperary" on a piano which had been blown out of a house into the road.
We joined in - until a shell took the top off the chateau, when we scattered!
L.A. Utton, 184 Coteford Street, Tooting, S.W.
In the Garden of Eden
We had reached the district in "Mespot" reputed to be the Garden of Eden. One evening I was making my way with six men to relieve the guard on some ammunition barges lying by the bank of the Tigris.
We had approached to within about one hundred yards of these, when the Turks started sending over some "long-rangers." The sixth shell scored a direct hit on the centre barge, and within a few seconds the whole lot went up in what seemed like the greatest explosion of all time.
Apart from being knocked over with the shock, we escaped injury, with the exception of a Cockney in our company. Most of his clothing, except his boots, had been stripped from his body, and his back was bleeding. Slowly he struggled to his hands and knees, and surveying his nakedness, said: "Now where's that blinkin' fig tree?"
F. Dennis, 19 Crewdson Road, Brixton, S.W.
Santa Claus in a Hurry
A forward observation officer of the Artillery was on duty keeping watch on Watling Crater, Vimy Ridge, towards the end of 1916. The observation post was the remains of a house, very much battered.
The officer had to crawl up what had once been a large fireplace, where he had the protection of the only piece of wall that remained standing.
He was engrossed on his task when the arrival of a "Minnie" shook the foundations of the place, and down he came in a shower of bricks and mortar with his shrapnel helmet not at the regimental angle.
A couple of Cockney Tommies had also made a dive for the shelter of this pile of bricks and were crouching down, when the officer crawled from the fireplace.
"Quick, Joe," said one of the Cockneys, "'ang up yer socks - 'ere comes ole Santa Claus!"
A.J. Robinson (late Sergeant, R.F.A.), as Clowders Road, Catford, S.E.6
'minnie' was a term used to describe the German trench mortar minnenwerfer (another such term was Moaning Minnie).
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