Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Answered and Other Stories

Answered 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 Here and There, led by Answered.

Other sections within the collection can be accessed using the sidebar to the right.


We were a working party of British prisoners marching through the German barracks on our way to the parcel office.

Coming towards us was a German officer on horseback.  When he arrived abreast of us he shouted in very good English: "It's a long way to Tipperary, boys, isn't it?"

This was promptly answered by a Cockney in the crowd: "Yus! And it's a ruddy long way to Paris, ain't it?"

C. A. Cooke, O.B.E. (late R.N.D.), 34 Brandrana Road, Lee High Road, S.E.

A Prisoner has the Last Laugh

Scene: A small ward in Cologne Fortress, occupied by about twelve British prisoners of war.

Time: The German M.O.'s inspection.

Action: The new sentry on guard in the corridor had orders that all must stand on the M.O.'s entry.

Seeing the M.O. coming, he called out to us.  We jumped to it as best we could, except one, a Cockney, who had just arrived minus one leg and suffering from other injuries.

Not knowing this, the sentry rushed over to him, yelling that he must stand.  Seeing that no notice was being taken, he pointed his rifle directly at the Cockney.

With an effort, since he was very weak and in great pain, the Cockney raised himself, caught hold of the rifle and, looking straight at it, said: "Dirty barrel - seven days!"

The M.O., who had just arrived, heard the remark, and, understanding it, explained it to the sentry, who joined in our renewed laughter.

A. V. White, 35 Mayville Road, Leytonstone, E.11

Not Yet Introduced

We were prisoners of war, all taken before Christmas 1914, and had been drafted to Libau, on the Baltic coast.  Towards the end of 1916 a party of us were working on the docks when a German naval officer approached and began talking to us.

During the conversation he said he had met several English admirals and named some of them.

After a little while a Cockney voice from the rear of our party said, "'Ave you ever met Jellicoe, mate?"

The officer replied in the negative, whereupon the Cockney said, "Well, take yer bloomin' ships into the North Sea: he's looking for yer."

F. A. F. (late K.O.Y.L.I.), 4 Shaftesbury Road, W.6

On the Art of Conversation

In 1916 the British R.N.A.S. armoured cars, under Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson, went from Russia to Rumania to help to stem the enemy's advance.

One day, at the frontier town of Reni, I saw a Cockney petty officer engaged in earnest conversation with a Russian soldier.  Finally, the two shook hands solemnly, saluted, and parted.

"Did he speak English?" I asked when the Russian had gone away.  "Not 'im," said the P.O.

"Perhaps you speak Russian?" I asked, my curiosity aroused.  "No bloomin' fear!" he said, for all the world as if I had insulted him.

"Then how do you speak to each other?"

"That's easy, sir," he said. "'E comes up to me an' says 'Ooski, kooski, wooski, fooski.'  'Same to you,' says I, ' an' many of 'em, of cock.'  ' Bzz-z-z, mzz-z-z, tzz-z-z,' says 'e.  'Thanks,' I says.  'Another time, ol' boy.  I've just 'ad a couple.'  'Tooralski, looralski, pooralski,' 'e says.  'Ye don't say!' says I.  'An' very nice, too,' I says, 'funny face!'

"'Armony," he explained.  "No quarrellin', no argifyin', only peace an 'armony.  Of course, sir, every now an' again I says ' Go to 'ell, y' silly blighter!'"

"What for?"

He looked at me coldly.  "'Ow do I know but what the blighter's usin' insultin' words to me?" he asked.

R. S. Liddell, Rosebery Avenue, E.C.1

Down Hornsey Way

Here is a story of the Cockney war spirit at home.

We called him "London" as he was the only Londoner in the troop.  Very pale and slight, he gave the impression of being consumptive, yet he was quite an athlete, as his sprinting at the brigade sports showed.

We had been on a gunnery course up Hornsey way, and with skeleton kit were returning past a large field in which were three gas chambers used for gas drill.

No one was allowed even to go in the field unless equipped with a gas-mask.  Suddenly a voice called out, "Look, there's a man trying to get in yon chamber."

We shouted as loud as we could, but beyond waving his arms the figure - which looked to be that of a farm labourer - continued to push at the door.

Then I saw "London" leap the gate of the field and sprint towards the chamber.  When he was about 50 yards off the man gave a sudden lurch at the door and passed within.

We called to "London" to come back, but a couple of seconds later he too was lost from view.

One minute - it seemed like an hour - two, three, five, ten, and out came "London."

He dragged with him the bulky labourer.  Five yards from the chamber he dropped.

Disregarding orders, we ran to his assistance.  Both his eyes were swollen, his lip was cut, and a large gash on the cheek-bone told not of gas, but of a fight.

He soon came to - and pointing to his many cuts said, "Serves me right for interfering.  Thought the fellah might have been gassed, but there's none in there; and hell - he can hit."

"Selo-Sam," late Yorks Dragoons

Next - "...Wouldn't Come Off" and four other stories

A Battery was a group of six guns or howitzers.

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Cockney War Stories