Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - The All-Seeing Eye 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 three stories from High Seas, led by The All-Seeing Eye.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
The All-Seeing Eye
My pal Pincher and I volunteered out of the destroyer Vulture for the Q-boats, and got detailed for the same mystery ship.
After a lot of drills - "Abandon ship," "Panic crews away," etc. - we thought we were hot stuff.
Knocking about the Channel one fine day the order came, "Panic crews to stations."
Thinking it was drill, Pincher and I nipped into our boat, when the after fall carried away, letting Pincher, myself, and crew into the "drink."
Pincher must have caught sight of the periscope of a U-boat, for on coming up (although he couldn't swim much) he said when I grabbed him: "Lumme, I'm in for fourteen penn'orth!" (14 days 10A, i.e. punishment involving extra work). "There's the skipper lookin' at me through 'is telescope, and they aven't piped 'ands to bathe yet."
P. Willoughby (late R.N.), 186 Evelyn Street, S.E.8
The Submarine's Gamps
While patrolling in the Sea of Marmora a British submarine came across several umbrellas floating in the sea, presumably from a sunken ship. Some of them were acquired by the crew.
On the passage down the Dardanelles the submarine was damaged in the conning tower by gun-fire from the Turkish batteries, and water began to come in.
At this critical stage I overheard one sailor remark to another, "I say, Bill, don't you think it is about time we put those blinkin' umbrellas up?"
Naval officer retired, Hampstead, N.W.3
Polishing up his German
About January 15, 1915, we were on patrol duty in the North Sea.
Near daybreak we came across a number of German drifters, with carrier pigeons on board, that were suspected of being in touch with submarines.
We were steaming in line abreast, and the order was signalled for each ship to take one drifter in tow. Our Jerry objected to being towed to England, and cut our tow-rope, causing us a deal of trouble.
Our captain was in a rage, and shouted down from the bridge to the officer of the watch, "Is there anyone on board who can speak German?"
The officer of the watch called back, "Yes, sir; Knight speaks German" - meaning an officer.
So the captain turned to the bos'n's mate and said, "Fetch him."
The bos'n's mate sends up Able Seaman "Bogey" Knight, to whom the captain says, over his shoulder: "Tell those fellows that I'll sink 'em if they tamper with the tow again."
With a look of surprise Bogey salutes and runs aft. Putting his hands to his mouth, Bogey shouts:
"Hi! there, drifterofsky, do yer savvy?" and makes a cut with his hand across his arm. "If yer makes de cut agin, I makes de shoot - (firing an imaginary rifle) - and that's from our skipper!"
Bogey's mates laughed to hear him sprachen the German; but Jerry didn't cut the tow again.
E. C. Gibson, 3 Slatin Road, Stroud, Kent
Next - Here and There section
A Flechette was an anti-personnel dart dropped from an aircraft.
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