Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Tale of a Cook and a Crump 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 Action, led by Tale of a Cook and a Crump.
Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.
Tale of a Cook and a Crump
Our cook was having the time of his life. The transition from trench warfare to more or less open warfare in late October 1918 brought with it a welcome change of diet in the form of pigs and poultry from the deserted farms, and cook had captured a nice young porker and two brace of birds.
From the pleasant aroma which reached us from the cottage as we lay on our backs watching a German aeroplane we knew that cook would soon be announcing the feast was ready.
Suddenly from the blue came a roar like that of an express train. We flung ourselves into the ditch... K-k-k-k-r-r-r-ump!
When the smoke and dust cleared away the cottage was just a rubbish heap, but there was cook, most miraculously crawling out from beneath a debris of rafters, beams, and bricks!
"Ruddy 'orseplay!" was the philosopher's comment.
I.O., 19 Burnell Road, Sutton, Surrey
--- Returns the Penny
When my husband commanded the 41st Division in France he was much struck by the ready wit of a private of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) in a tight corner.
A bomb landed in a crowded dug-out while the men were having a meal. Everyone stared aghast at this ball of death except one Tommy, who promptly picked it up and flung it outside saying: "Grite stren'th returns the penny, gentlemen!" as he returned to his bully beef.
Lady Lawford, London, S.W.1
"In Time for the Workman's?"
A night wire-cutting party in the Arras sector had been surprised by daylight. All the members of the party (21st London Regiment) crawled back safely except one Cockney rifleman.
When we had reached the trenches and found that he was missing, we were a bit upset. Would he have to lie out in No Man's Land all day? Would he be spotted by snipers?
After a while our doubts were answered by a terrific burst from the German machine guns. Some of the bolder spirits peered over the top of the "bags" and saw our Cockney pal rushing, head down, towards our line while streams of death poured around him.
He reached our parapet, fell down amongst us in the mud, uninjured, and immediately jumped to his feet and said, "Am I in time for the workman's?"
D.F., Acton, W.3
A Lovely Record
THE TIME: March 1916.
THE SCENE: The Talus des Zouaves - a narrow valley running behind Vimy Ridge from Neuville St. Vaast through Souchez. The weather is bleak, and there is a sticky drizzle - it is towards dusk.
THE MAN: A native of "somewhere just awf the Bricklayers Arms - you know where that is, sir." Height, just over 5 feet; complexion, red; hair, red and not over tidy; appearance, awkward; clothes don't seem to fit quite. Distinguishing marks - a drooping red moustache almost concealing a short clay pipe, stuck bowl sideways in the corner of the mouth. On the face there is a curious - whimsical - wistful, in fact, a Cockney expression.
THE OCCASION: The Boche is putting down his evening "strafe"
- an intense and
very accurate barrage laid like a curtain on the southern
slope of the valley. Our hero, his hands closed round the stock of his rifle held between his knees, is squatting unconcernedly on the wet ground in the open on the northern side of the valley, where only a shell with a miraculous trajectory could have scored a direct hit, watching the shells burst almost every second not a great distance away. The din and pandemonium are almost unbearable. Fragments of H.E. and shrapnel are dropping very near.
THE REMARK: Removing his pipe to reveal the flicker of a smile, he remarked, in his inimitable manner: "Lor' blimey, guv'nor, wouldn't this sahnd orl rite on a grammerphone?"
Gordon Edwards, M.C. (Captain, late S.W.B.), "Fairholm," 48 Alexandra Road, Wimbledon, S.W.19
Logic in No Man's Land
Fritz had been knocking our wire about, and a party of us were detailed to repair it.
One of our party, a trifle more windy than the rest, kept ducking at the stray bullets that were whistling by.
Finally, 'Erb, who was holding the coil of wire, said to him, "Can't yer stop that bobbin' abaht? They won't 'urt yer unless they 'its yer."
C. Green, 44 Monson Road, New Cross, S.E.14
The German word "U-Boat" was derived from "Unterseeboot" (undersea boat).
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