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

Not Croquet 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 Not Croquet.

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

Not Croquet

We were occupying a support line, early in 1918, and a party of us was detailed to repair the barbed wire during the night.

A Cockney found himself holding a stake while a Cornish comrade drove it home with a mallet.

Suddenly a shell exploded a few yards from the pair and both were very badly wounded.

When the Cockney recovered consciousness he was heard to remark to his comrade in misfortune, "Blimey, yer wants to be more careful wiv that there mallet; yer nearly 'it my 'and wiv it when that there firework exploded."

A. A. Homer, 16 Grove Place, Enfield Wash, Middlesex

Sausages and Mashed

At the end of 1914 we were in the trenches in the Ypres Salient.

As we were only about 30 yards from the enemy lines, bombing went on all day.  The German bombs, shaped like a long sausage, could be seen coming through the air.

Our sentries, on the look-out for these, would shout: "Sausage right!" or "Sausage left!" as they came over.

One night we were strengthened by reinforcements, including several Cockneys.  The next morning one of our sentries saw a bomb coming over and shouted "Sausage right!"

There followed an explosion which smothered two of our new comrades in mud and shreds of sandbag.  One of the two got up, with sackcloth twisted all round his neck and pack.

"'Ere, Bill, wot was that?" he asked one of our men.

"Why, one of those sausages," Bill replied.

"Lumme," said the new man, as he freed himself from the sacking, "I don't mind the sausages, but," he added as he wiped the mud from his eyes and face, "I don't like the mash."

H. Millard (late East Surrey Regt.), 3 Nevill Road, Stoke Newington, N.

Cheery to the End

We were lining up to go over in the Battle of Arras on April 9, 1917.

Ours being a Lancashire regiment, there were only two of us Cockneys in our platoon.  We were standing easy, waiting for the rum issue, and Tom, my pal (we both came from Stratford), came over to me singing "Let's all go down the Strand..."

Most of the Lancashire lads were looking a bit glum, but it cheered them up, and they all began to sing.  I was feeling a bit gloomy myself, and Tom, seeing this, said: "What's the matter with you, Jimmy?"

"I suppose I'll see you in London Hospital next week, Tom," I said.

"Oh, shut up," says he.  "If Jerry sends one over and it's got our names on it, why worry?  And if we get a bad Blighty one, then I hopes they buries us at Manor Park.  Here, Jim, tie this disc round me neck."

Then the rum came up, and he started them singing, "And another little drink wouldn't do us any harm!"

Off we went - and only ten minutes later he was gone.  He was buried at Blany, Arras, not Manor Park.

J. Pugh (late 1st King's Own Royal Lancasters), 27 Lizban Street, Blackheath, S.E.5

Souvenirs First

The following incident took place during the Battle of Loos, September 1915.

I had been to Battalion H.Q. with a message and whilst awaiting a reply stood with others on "Harrow Road" watching our wounded go by.

We frequently recognised wounded pals on the stretchers and inquired as to the nature of their wounds.

The usual form of inquiry was: "Hullo what have you got?"

In reply to this query one wounded man of our battalion, ignoring his wound as being of lesser importance, proudly answered: "Two Jerry helmets and an Iron Cross!"

A. H. Bell (late Private, 15th London Regt., T.F.), 31 Raeburn Avenue, Surbiton, Surrey

Seven Shies a Tanner!

It was near Hebuterne and very early in the morning of July 1, 1916.

A terrific bombardment by both the Germans and ourselves was in progress just prior to the launching of our Somme offensive.  We were in assembly trenches waiting for the dread zero hour.

Away on our right some German guns were letting us have it pretty hot, and in consequence the "troops" were not feeling in the best of spirits.

With us was a very popular Cockney corporal.  He took his tin hat from off his head when the tension was high and, banging on it with his bayonet, cried: "Roll up, me lucky lads! Seven shies a tanner! Who'll 'ave a go!"

That bit of nonsense relieved the tension and enabled us to pull ourselves together.

A. V. B. (late 9th Londons), Guildford

Next - Bill Hawkins Fights Them All 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