Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Met His Match and Other Stories

Met His Match 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 Met His Match.

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

Poilu: "Allumette?"  Tommy: "'Allo, mate" (shakes) (click to enlarge)

Met His Match

A London Tommy was standing near the leave boat at Calais, which had just brought him back to France on his way to the firing line.  It was raining, and he was trying to get a damp cigarette to draw.

Just then a French soldier approached him with an unlighted cigarette in his hand, and, pointing to Tommy's cigarette, held out his hand and exclaimed "Allumette?"

The Tommy sadly shook hands and replied "Allo, Mate."

A . J. Fairer, Mirigama, Red Down Road, Coulsdon, Surrey

Why Jerry was "Clinked"

On August 8, 1918, as our battery began the long trail which landed us in Cologne before Christmas we met a military policeman who had in his charge three very dejected-looking German prisoners.

"Brummy," our battery humorist, shouted to the red-cap: "'Ullo, Bobby, what are yer clinkin' those poor old blokes for?"

"Creatin' a disturbance on the Western Front," replied the red-cap.

Wm. G. Sheppard (late Sergeant, 24th Siege Bty., R.A.), 50 Benares Road, Plumstead, S.E.18


We were in reserve at Roclincourt in February 1917, and about twenty men were detailed to carry rations to the front line.  The trenches were knee-deep in mud.

After traversing about two hundred yards of communication trench we struck a particularly thick, clayey patch, and every few yards the order "Halt in front!" was passed from the rear.

The corporal leading the men got very annoyed at the all-too-frequent halts.  He passed the word back, "What's the matter?"

The reply was, "Shorty's in the mud, and we can't get 'im out."

Waiting a few minutes, the corporal again passed a message back: "Haven't you got him out yet?  How long are you going to be?"

Reply came from the rear in a Cockney voice: "'Eaven knows!  There's only 'is ears showin'."

G. Kay, 162 Devonshire Avenue, Southsea, Hants

"If That can stick it, I can!"

Owing to the forced marching during the retreat from Mons, men would fall out by the roadside and, after a rest, carry on again.

One old soldier, "Buster" Smith, was lying down puffing and gasping when up rode an officer mounted upon an old horse that he had found straying.

Going up to "Buster" the officer asked him if he thought he could "stick it."

"Buster" looked up at the officer and then, eyeing the horse, said: "If that can stick it, I can," and, getting up, he resumed marching.

E. Barwick, 19 St. Peter's Street, Hackney Road, E.2

Wheeling a Mule

In November '15 we were relieved in the early hours of the morning.  It had been raining, raining most of the time we were in the trenches, and so we were more or less wet through and covered in mud when we came out for a few days' rest.

About two or three kilometres from Bethune we were all weary and fed-up with marching.  Scarcely a word was spoken until we came across an Engineer leading a mule with a roll of telephone wire coiled round a wheel on its back.

The mule looked as fed-up as we were, and a Cockney in our platoon shouted out, "Blimey, mate, if you're goin' much furver wiv the old 'oss yer'll 'ave to turn it on its back and wheel it."

W. S. (late Coldstream Guards), Chelsea, S.W.3

Next - Three Brace of Braces and four other stories

Observation balloons were referred to as 'sausages'.

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Cockney War Stories