Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Got His Goat! 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 Got His Goat!
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Got His Goat!
We, a Field Company of the R.E.'s in France, were on the move to a new sector, and amongst our "properties" was a mobile "dairy" - a goat.
"Nanny" travelled on top of a trestle-wagon containing bridging gear, with a short rope attached to her collar to confine her activities. But a "pot-hole" in the narrow road supplied a lurch that dislodged her, with the result that she slid overboard, and the shortness of the rope prevented her from reaching the ground.
The driver of the wagon behind saw her predicament, and, dismounting, ran to her assistance, shouting for the column to halt. Then he took Nanny in his arms to relieve the weight on her neck, whilst others clambered aboard and released the rope.
Nanny was then put on her legs while her rescuer stood immediately in front, watching her recover.
This she speedily did, and, raising her head for a moment, apparently discerned the cause of her discomfiture peering at her. At any rate, lowering her head, she sprang and caught Bermondsey Bill amidships, sending him backwards into a slimy ditch at the side of the road.
As he lay there amidst the undergrowth he yelled, "Strike me pink, Nanny! You'll hang next time."
E. Martin, 78 Chelverton Road, Putney, S.W.15
A Difficult Top Note
Somewhere in Palestine the band of a famous London division had been called together for very much overdue practice. The overture "Poet and Peasant" called for a French horn solo ending on a difficult top note.
After the soloist had made many attempts to get this note the bandmaster lost his temper and gave the player a piece of his mind.
Looking at the battered instrument, which had been in France, the Balkans, and was now in the Wilderness, and was patched with sticking-plaster and soap, the soloist, who hailed from Mile End, replied: "Here, if you can do it better you have a go. I don't mind trying it on an instrument, but I'm darned if I can play it on a cullender."
D. Beland, 17 Ridgdale Street, London, E.3
Home by Underground
A cold, wet night in France.
My company was making its way up a communication trench on the right of the Arras-Cambrin road. It was in some places waist deep in mud.
I was in front next to my officer when the word was passed down that one of the men had fallen into the mud and could not be found. The officer sent me back to find out what had happened.
On reaching the spot I found that the man had fallen into the mouth of a very deep dug-out which had not been used for some time.
Peering into the blackness, I called out, "Where are you?"
Back came the reply: "You get on wiv the blinkin' war. I've fahnd the Channel Tunnel and am going 'ome."
I may say it took us six hours to get him out.
H. F. B. (late 7th Batt. Middlesex Regt.), London, N.W.2
A Job for Samson
During Allenby's big push in Palestine the men were on a forced night march, and were tired out and fed up.
An officer was trying to buck some of them up by talking of the British successes in France and also of the places of interest they would see farther up in Palestine.
He was telling them that they were now crossing the Plains of Hebron where Samson carried the gates of Gaza, when a deep Cockney voice rang out from the ranks, "What a pity that bloke ain't 'ere to carry this pack of mine!"
C. W. Bowers, 25 Little Roke Avenue, Kenley, Surrey
Jerry Wins a Bet
In the Salient, 1916: Alf, who owned a Crown and Anchor board of great antiquity, had it spread out on two petrol cans at the bottom of a shell-hole.
Around it four of us squatted and began to deposit thereon our dirty half and one franc notes, with occasional coins of lesser value.
The constant whistle of passing fragments was punctuated by the voice of Alf calling upon the company to "'ave a bit on the 'eart" or alternately "to 'ave a dig in the grave" when a spent bullet crashed on his tin hat and fell with a thud into the crown square.
"'Struth," gasped Alf, "old squarehead wants to back the sergeant-major."
He gave a final shake to the cup and exposed the dice - one heart and two crowns.
"Blimey," exclaimed Alf, "would yer blinkin' well believe it? Jerry's backed a winner. 'Arf a mo," and picking up the spent bullet he threw it with all his might towards the German lines, exclaiming, "'Ere's yer blinking bet back, Jerry, and 'ere's yer winnings."
He cautiously fired two rounds.
G. S. Raby (ex-2nd K.R.R.C.), Shoeburyness, Essex
"Drum Fire" was an artillery barrage fired not in salvo but by each gun in succession.
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