Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Room for the Comforter 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 Hospital, led by Room for the Comforter.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Room for the Comforter
At Etaples in 1916 I was in a hospital marquee with nothing worse than a sprained ankle.
A Y.M.C.A. officer was visiting us, giving a cheery word here and there, together with a very welcome packet of cigarettes.
In the next cot to me was a young Cockney of the "Diehards," who had been well peppered with shrapnel. His head was almost entirely swathed in bandages, openings being left for his eyes, nose, and mouth.
"Well, old chap," said the good Samaritan to him, "they seem to have got you pretty badly."
"I'm all right, guv'nor - ser long as they leaves me an 'ole to put me fag in."
A. E. Jeffreys (late 4th Q.O. Hussars), 24 Byne Road, Sydenham, S.E.26
"War Worn and Tonsillitis"
My son, Gunner E. Smith (an "Old Contemptible"), came home on leave in September 1918, and after a day or two had something wrong with his throat. I advised him to see the M.O.
He went and came back saying, "Just look at this." The certificate said "War worn and tonsillitis."
He went to the hospital, and was kept in for three weeks. The first time I went to see him, he said, "What do you think of it? A 1914 man, and knocked over by a kid's complaint."
F. Smith, 23 Saunders Road, Plumstead, S.E.18
"...Fort I was in 'Ell"
It was at the American General Hospital in Rouen. There was the usual noise created by chaps under anaesthetic, swearing, shouting, singing, and moaning; but the fellow in the next bed to me had not stirred since they had brought him from the operating theatre many hours before.
Suddenly he sat up, looked around him in amazement, and said, "Strike, I've bin a-lying 'ere fer abaht two 'ours afraid ter open me peepers. I fort I was in 'ell."
P. Webb (late E. Surreys), 68 Rossiter Road, Balham, S.W.12
Pity the Poor Fly!
Amongst my massage patients at one of the general hospitals was a very cheery Cockney sergeant, who had been badly damaged by shrapnel. In addition to other injuries he had lost an eye.
One morning he was issued with a new eye, and was very proud of it. After admiring himself in a small mirror for a considerable time he turned to me and said, "Sister, won't it be a blinkin' sell for the fly who gets into my glass eye?"
(Mrs.) A. Powell, 61 Ritherdon Road, S.W.17
Temperature by the Inch
I was a patient in a general hospital in 1918, when a Cockney gunner was put into the bed next to mine. He was suffering from a severe form of influenza, and after ten days' treatment showed little sign of improvement.
One evening the Sister was going her rounds with the thermometers. She had taken our friend's temperature and registered it on the chart hanging over his head.
As she passed to the next bed he raised himself and turned round to read the result. Then he looked over to a Canadian in a bed in the far corner of the ward, and this dialogue ensued:
Gunner: "Up agin."
Canadian: "Go on! How much?"
Gunner: "'Arf inch."
E. A. Taylor (late 4th London Field Ambulance), Drouvin, The Chase, Wallington, Surrey
Observation balloons were referred to as 'sausages'.
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