Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - On the Somme and Other Stories

Atlas - On the Somme 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 Atlas - On the Somme.

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

Atlas - On the Somme

During the Somme offensive we were holding the line at Delville Wood, and a Cockney corporal fresh from England came to our company.

He was told to take charge of a very advanced post, and our company officer gave him all important instructions as to bomb stores, ammunition, rifle grenades, emergency rations, S O S rockets, gas, and all the other numerous and important orders for an advanced post.

After the officer asked him if he understood it all, he said, "Blimey, sir, 'as 'Aig gone on leave?"

Ex-Sergt. Geary, D.C.M. (East Surrey Regt.), 57 Longley Road, Tooting

Putting the Lid on It

On the Struma Front, Salonika, in September 1916, I was detailed to take a party of Bulgar prisoners behind the lines.

Two Bulgars, one of them a huge, bald-headed man, were carrying a stretcher in which was reposing "Ginger" Hart, of Deptford, who was shot through the leg.

The white bursts of shrapnel continued in our vicinity as we proceeded.  One shell burst immediately in front of us, and we halted.

It was at this juncture that I saw "Ginger" leave his stretcher and hop away on one leg.  Having picked up a tin hat, he hopped back to the big Bulgar prisoner and put the hat on his bald head, saying, "Abaht time we put the lid on the sooit puddin', corp: that's the fifth shot they've fired at that target."

G. Findlay, M.M. (late 81st Infantry Brigade, 27th Division), 3a Effie Place, Fulham, S.W.6

Taffy was a - German!

In the confused fighting round Gueudecourt in 1916 a machine-gun section occupied a position in a maze of trenches, some of which led towards the German line.

The divisional pioneer battalion was the Monmouthshire Regiment, all of whose men were Welsh and for the most part spoke Welsh.

A ration party of the M.G.C. had gone back one night and had been absent some time when two members rushed into the position, gasping: "We took the wrong turning! Walked into Jerry's line! They've got Smiffy - and the rations!"

We had hardly got over the shock of this news when Smiffy came staggering up, dragging the rations and mopping a bleeding face, at the same time cursing the rest of the ration party.

"Luv us, Smiffy, how did you get away?  We thought the Germans had got you for sure!"

"Germans," gasped Smiffy. "GERMANS! I thought they was the Monmouths!"

S. W. Baxter (late 86th M.G.C.), 110 Bishopsgate, E.C.2

A Tea-time Story

At the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 my regiment, the London Irish Rifles, was undergoing a terrific bombardment in Bourlon Wood.

The Germans had been plastering us for about 12 hours with "all calibres," to say nothing of continual gassing.

As we had been wearing gas-masks almost all day without respite, we were nearly "all in" as the afternoon wore on.

I was attending to a man with a smashed foot, when I felt a touch on my shoulder, and, blinking up through my sweat-covered mask, I saw our mess-orderly with his hand over a mess-tin (to keep the gas out, as he said).

I could hardly believe my eyes, but when I heard him say, "Tea is ready, Sarg.  Blimey, what a strafe!"

I lifted my mask and drank deeply.

From that day till this it has been a wonder to me how he made it.

S. Gibbons, 130 Buckhold Road, Southfields, S.W.18

A Tip to a Prisoner

The object of our raiding party near Gouzeaucourt in 1917 was to obtain a prisoner.

One plucky, but very much undersized, German machine gunner blazed away at us until actually pounced upon.

A Cockney who was well among the leaders jumped down beside him, and heaving him up said:

"Come on, old mate, you're too blinkin' good for this side!" - and then, noticing his lack of inches, "and if yer wants ter make the 'old man'' larf tell him you're a 'Prussian Guard.'

Walter S. Johnson (late R.W.F.), 29 Southwold Road, Upper Clapton, E.5

Next - Cockney Logic and four other stories

"Beachy Bill" was the name given to one of the Turkish guns which regularly shelled Anzac Cove.

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Cockney War Stories