Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Jack and his Jack Johnsons 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 Here and There, led by Jack and his Jack Johnsons.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Jack and his Jack Johnsons
In September 1915 our battery near Ypres was crumped at intervals of twenty minutes by 18-inch shells. The craters they made could easily contain a lorry or two.
One hit by the fifth shell destroyed our chateau completely. Leaving our dug-outs I found a gunner smoking fags under the fish-net camouflage at Number One gun.
Asked sternly why he had not gone to ground, he replied, "Well, yer see, sir, I'm really a sailor and when the earth rocks with Jack Johnsons I feels at 'ome like. Besides, the nets keeps off the flies."
G. C. D. (ex-Gunner Subaltern, 14th Div.), Sister Agnes Officers' Hospital, Grosvenor Crescent, S.W.1
Even Davy Jones Protested
Towards the final stages of the Palestine front operations, when Johnny Turk was retreating very rapidly, I was detailed with others to clear and destroy enemy ammunition that had been left behind.
When near the Sea of Galilee there was discovered a dump of aerial bombs, each approximately 25 lb. in weight. Thinking it quicker and attended by less risk than the usual detonation, I decided to drop them in the sea.
About ten bombs were placed aboard a small boat, and I with three others pushed out about two hundred yards. Two of the bombs were dropped overboard without ever a thought of danger when suddenly there was a heavy, dull explosion beneath us, and boat, cargo, and crew were thrown into the air.
Nobody was hurt. All clung to the remains of the boat, and we were brought back to our senses by one of our Cockney companions, who remarked: "Even Davy Jones won't have the ruddy fings."
A. W. Owen (late Corporal, Desert Corps), 9 Keith Road, Walthamstow, E.17
"Parti? Don't blame 'im!"
One summer afternoon in 1915 I was asked to deliver an official letter to the Mayor of Poperinghe.
The old town was not then so well known as Toc H activities have since made it. At the time it was being heavily strafed by long-range guns. Many of the inhabitants had fled.
I rode over with a pal. The door of the mairie was open, but the building appeared as deserted as the great square outside.
Just then a Belgian gendarme walked in and looked at us inquiringly. I showed him the buff envelope inscribed "Monsieur le Maire," where-upon he smiled and said, "Parti."
At that moment there was a deafening crash outside and the air was filled with flying debris and acrid smoke. In a feeling voice my chum quietly remarked, "And I don't blinkin' well blame 'im, either!"
F. Street, 13 Greenfield Road, Eastbourne
A "Communication Trench" was a narrow trench constructed at an angle to a defensive trench to permit concealed access to the defensive trench.
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