Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Three Brace of Braces 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 Three Brace of Braces.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Three Brace of Braces
While I was serving with the 58th Siege Battery at Carnoy, on the Somme, in 1916, a young Cockney of the 29th Division was discovered walking in front of three German prisoners. Over his shoulders he had three pairs of braces.
A wag asked him if he wanted to sell them, and his reply was: "No, these Fritzies gets 'em back when they gets to the cage. But while I got their 'harness' they can't get up to any mischief."
E. Brinkman, 16 Hornsey Street, Holloway Road, N.7
"Bow Bells" Warning
At the beginning of March 1918, near Flesquieres, we captured a number of prisoners, some of whom were put in the charge of "Nipper," a native of Limehouse.
I heard him address them as follows: "Nah, then, if yer wants a fag yer can have one, but, blimey, if yer starts any capers, I'll knock 'Bow Bells' aht of yer Stepney Church."
J. Barlow (10th London. Regt.), 18 Roding Lane, Buckhurst Hill, Essex
"'Ave a Sniff"
My father tells of a raw individual from London Town who had aroused great wrath by having within a space of an hour given two false alarms for gas.
After the second error everyone was just drowsing off again when a figure cautiously put his head inside the dug-out, and hoarsely said: "'Ere, sergeant, yer might come and 'ave a sniff."
R. Purser, St. Oama, Vista Road, Wickford, Essex
The Dirt Track
While my regiment was in support at Ecurie, near Arras, I was detailed to take an urgent message to B.H.Q.
I mounted a motor-cycle and started on my way, but I hadn't gone far when a shell burst right in my path and made a huge crater, into which I slipped.
After going round the inside rim twice at about twenty-five miles an hour, I landed in the mud at the bottom. Pulling myself clear of the cycle, I saw two fellows looking down and laughing at me.
"Funny, isn't it?" I said.
"Yus, matey, thought it was Sanger's Circus. Where's the girl in the tights wot rides the 'orses?"
Words failed me.
London Yeomanry, Brixton, S.W.
Babylon and Bully
After a dismal trek across the mud of Mespot, my batman and I arrived at the ruins of Babylon.
As I sat by the river under the trees, and gazed upon the stupendous ruins of the one-time mightiest city in the world, I thought of the words of the old Psalm - "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept-"
And this was the actual spot!
Moved by my thoughts, I turned to my batman and said, "By Jove, just think. This is really Babylon!"
"Yes, sir," he replied, "but I'm a-wonderin' ow I'm goin' to do your bully beef up to-night to make a change like."
W. L. Lamb (late R.E., M.E.F.), "Sunnings," Sidley, Bexhill-on-Sea
Britain introduced conscription for the first time on 2 February 1916.
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