Memoirs & Diaries - The Best 500 Cockney War Stories - Not a Single Cockney and Other Stories

Not a Single Cockney 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 Not a Single Cockney.

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

Not a Single Cockney

In 1917, when we were acting as mobile artillery, we had halted by the roadside to water and feed our horses, and were just ready to move off when we were passed by a column of the Chinese Labour Corps, about 2,000 of them.

After they had all passed, a gunner from Clerkenwell said: "Would yer believe it?  All that lot gorn by and I never reckernised a Townie!"

C. Davis (late Sergeant, R.A., 3rd Cavalry Division), 7 Yew Tree Villas, Welling, Kent

Sanger's Circus on the Marne!

On the way from the Marne to the Aisne in September 1914 the 5th Cavalry Brigade passed a column of Algerian native troops, who had been drawn up in a field to allow us to continue along the nearby road.

The column had all the gaudy appearance of shop windows at Christmas.  There were hooded vehicles with stars and crescents blazoned on them, drawn by bullocks, mules, and donkeys.

The natives themselves were dressed, some in white robes and turbans, others in red "plus four" trousers and blue "Eton cut" jackets; and their red fezzes were adorned with stars and crescents.  Altogether a picturesque sight, and one we did not expect to meet on the Western Front.

On coming into view of this column, one of our lead drivers (from Bow) of a four-horse team drawing a pontoon wagon turned round to his wheel driver, and, pointing to the column with his whip, shouted, "Alf!  Sanger's Circus!"

H. W. Taylor (late R.E.), The Lodge, Radnor Works, Strawberry Vale, Twickenham

"Contemptible" Stuff

When the rumour reached us about a medal for the troops who went out at the beginning, a few of us were sitting in a dug-out outside Ypres discussing the news.

"Mac" said: "I wonder if they'll give us anything else beside the medal?"

Our Cockney, Alf, remarked: "You got a lot to say about this 'ere bloomin' 'gong' (medal); anybody 'd fink you was goin' ter git one."

"I came out in September '14, any way," said Mac.

Alf (very indignant): "Blimey, 'ark at 'im!  You don't arf expect somefink, you don't.  Why, the blinkin' war was 'arf over by then."

J. F. Grey (late D.L.I. and R.A.O.C.), 247 Ducane Road, Shepherd's Bush, W.12

A Cockney on Horseback - Just

We were going out to rest after about four months behind the guns at Ypres, and the drivers brought up spare horses for us to ride.

One Cockney gunner was heard to say, "I can't ride; I've never rode an 'orse in me life."

We helped him to get mounted, but we had not gone far when Jerry started sending 'em over.  So we started trotting.  To see our Cockney friend hanging on with his arms round the horse's neck was quite a treat!

However, we eventually got back to the horse lines where our hero, having fallen off, remarked: "Well, after that, I fink if ever I do get back to Blighty I'll always raise me 'at to an 'orse."

A. Lepley (late R.F.A.), 133 Blackwell Buildings, Whitechapel, E.1

"They want to come to bed wiv us" (click to enlarge)

A Too Sociable Horse

We were asleep in our dug-out at Bray, on the Somme, in November 1915.  The dug-out was cut in the bank of a field where our horse lines were.

One of the horses broke loose and, taking a fancy to our roof, which was made of brushwood and rushes, started eating it.

Suddenly the roof gave way and the horse fell through, narrowly missing myself and my pal, who was also a Cockney.

After we had got over the shock my pal said, "Well, if that ain't the blinkin' latest.  These long-eared blighters ain't satisfied with us looking after them - they want to come to bed with us."

F. E. Snell (late 27th Brigade, R.F.A.), 22 Woodchester Street, Harrow Road, W.2

Next - General Salute! and four other stories

'minnie' was a term used to describe the German trench mortar minnenwerfer (another such term was Moaning Minnie).

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Cockney War Stories