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Even in the midst of the death and destruction of war there are strange and funny occurrences. Occurrences made hilarious and farcical because of the circumstance in which they occur. These hilarious occasions are more often than not recalled with greater ease and much mirth long after the war has ended and everyone has gone home. Their recall is made easier if only because soldiers would prefer not to recall the painful memories that come with the experience of having been in battle.Herein are over 300 short stories, anecdotes, pranks, jokes and laughable affairs recalled by servicemen after the Great War patiently collated and published with care by Carleton B. Case in 1919.
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As Told By The Soldiers
PRANKS, JOKES AND LAUGHABLE AFFAIRSOF OUR BOYS AND THEIR ALLIESDURING THE GREAT WAR
The Victors in Their Cheerful Moments
CARLETON B. CASE
SHREWESBURY PUBLISHING CO.Chicago
FUNNY STORIES of the GREAT WAR
AS TOLD BY THE SOLDIERS
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2017
This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.
33% of the net profit
from the sale of this book will be donated to the
Abela Publishing acknowledges the work that
Carleton B. Case
did in compiling, translating and retelling
FUNNY STORIES OF THE GREAT WAR
in a time well before any electronic media was in use.
* * * * * * *
YESTERDAY’S BOOKS for TODAY’S CHARITIES
Now that the dread of awful war has passed with the coming of welcome peace, we can turn our minds with renewed cheerfulness to the merry side of the great world’s conflict and enjoy with our boys the funny things they saw and did and said while “over there.”
The comedy side of the war has been quickly seen and readily interpreted by the world’s great writers, as well as by the very officers and men, in all departments of the service, who themselves participated in both the serious and the frivolous affairs of warfare as developed day by day.
It is the humorous experiences of which these warriors and writers have told us in speech and print that we have sought to gather into one volume for the edification and delectation of a humor-loving public. Enough and too much has been told of the horrors of war. To hear the pleasanter side, the merry doings of our soldiers and their allies, the victorious hosts of freedom, is a welcome relief to war-weary hearts, freed now, and forever, from the dire dread of the awfulness of modern slaughter.
So this collection of funny stories has come into being; its mission to cheer us all with the merry tales told by and about our conquering soldiers.
“The neat and even elegant appearance of the American soldier isn’t maintained,” said War Secretary Baker in an address, “without hard work. Yes, the work is hard, but doesn’t the result more than justify it?
“On the train the other day a private sat with his tunic unbuttoned, for the temperature was high. A sergeant strode up to him and said:
“‘Button up that tunic! Did you never hear of by-law 217, subsection D? I’m Sergeant Jabez Winterbottom!’
“A gentleman in the seat behind tapped the sergeant sternly on the shoulder.
“‘How dare you issue orders with a pipe in your mouth?’ he asked. ‘Go home and read paragraph 174, section M, part IX. I am Major Eustace Carroll.’
“Here a gentleman with a drooping white mustache interposed from the other side of the aisle:
“‘If Major Carroll,’ he said coldly, ‘will consult by-law 31 of section K, he will learn that to reprimand a sergeant in the presence of a private is an offense not lightly to be overlooked.’”
A woman, one of the 30,000 British working for the Y. M. C. A., was assigned to scrub the Eagle hut floor in London. She had done little manual labor in her life, but accepted the job without protest and went down on her knees with a pail of hot water, a cloth, and a cake of soap. Soon the water in the pail was black. A man in uniform passed. The woman looked up and asked if he would mind emptying the pail and refilling it with clean water.
There was a pause, then his reply:
“Dammit, madam, I’m an officer!”
This time there was no pause, but like a flash the scrubwoman retorted:
“Dammit, officer, I’m a duchess!”
When General O’Neill, of Allentown, first went to Spartanburg, S. C., his train was three hours late. The negro escort appointed to receive him at the station had been dismissed. The general walked. Presently he was accosted by a sentry.
“Who is you?”
“Well, you cut the buck and go up there to headquarters to beat de debbil and see my captain and explain yosself. We’s been waitin’ three hours fer you.”
In the field hospital:
Doctor—Save me a sample of everything your patient takes.
Nurse—He took a kiss this morning.
A young Canadian officer, who had lived for years in China, was deputed to take to France for service behind the lines a company of Chinese coolies. On the ocean voyage over, which was a turbulent one, a row developed between the coolies and the Cantonese cooks, and the coolies decided to kill the cooks. Hearing of it the Canadian called in several of the coolies and told them if they killed the cooks they would have nothing to eat until they reached France.
“What’s the matter?” asked the Canadian of the coolie ringleader. “Isn’t the food good?” Yes, the food was good.
“Isn’t there enough food?”
Yes, there was plenty of food.
“Isn’t it well cooked?”
Yes, it was well cooked.
“Well, then, what the devil is the matter? Why do you want to kill the cooks?”
“Well,” replied the coolie, “we don’t know exactly why, but somehow or other the food won’t stay down.”
An elderly Colonel, about to retire, was holding “officer hours” for the last time and four old offenders were brought in for punishment.
The Colonel looked them over wearily, and then said:
“I’ve been listening to the yarns and excuses you men have concocted for the past three years and I’m tired of them all. If any of you can think of something new, I’ll let you off without punishment. If you can’t, I’ll give you the limit.”
“I took just one drink, and it made me ill, Colonel,” began the first.
“Old stuff,” said the Colonel.
The second offenders alarm-clock had failed to work, and the third offender had bad news from home. There was nothing new in this, and each was given the limit.
However, the Colonel’s eyes brightened at the approach of the fourth culprit, an Irishman.
“Be original, Duffy. Tell me something new,” urged the Colonel.
“Well, Colonel,” Duffy began, with his eyes a-twinkle, “when Oi heard the sad news that you was goin’ to l’ave us, it made me so down-hearted that Oi wint to the nearest public house and drowned me sorrows.”
“You win!” exploded the Colonel. “Now get out!”
A long and patient but vain effort on the part of a khaki-clad driver to induce a mule, drawing what appeared to be a load of laundry, through the gateway of a local hospital, afforded considerable amusement to the doughboys who were watching the proceedings. The mule would do anything but pass through the gateway.
“Want any ’elp, chum?” shouted one of the boys to the driver, as he rested a moment.
“No,” replied the driver, “but I’d like to know how the devil Noah got two of these blighters into the Ark!”
American tourists who are shaky as to their French have often been embarrassed by the voluble replies which their carefully studied phrases bring forth from French lips. Just now the tables are frequently turned, and the Frenchman or woman is puzzled by the fluent American vernacular. An example:
Yankee Trooper—“Parly-voo English, mademoiselle?”
French Maid—“Yes, a vairl leetle.”
Yankee Trooper—“Good work! Say, could you put me wise where I could line up against some good eats in this burg?”
Captain (sharply)—“Button up that coat.”
Married Recruit (absently)—“Yes, my dear.”
A cow strayed one day between the German and the English trenches. Both sides coveted the cow for its milk and meat, but it was sure death to go out and get the cow. So the English threw a note wrapped around a stone into the German trenches: “You throw a mark in the air, we will shoot at it. If we hit it, it is our cow. If we miss, we will throw a shilling in the air. If you hit it, the cow is yours.” In a few moments a sign was lifted over the German trenches reading “O. K.,” and a mark shone in the air. But Tommy missed. Then a shilling flashed and Fritz missed. Five marks and five shillings flashed in the air and all were missed. Finally the sixth mark flashed and Tommy “scored.” Up came a sign from the German trenches: “Cow is yours, but we want our marks.” So Tommy went out, picked up the shillings and marks and carried the marks over to the German trenches. “Good shot,” came from a Teuton. “Here is some beer for you,” and out came six bottles of beer, which Tommy took over to the English lines—with the cow!
The Crown Prince mourns the passing of “The Day,”
“The low-down herd winds back to Germany.
“The loot-squad homeward plods its swagless way,
“And leaves the world to Peace and Victory.
“Now fades the glimmering Weltmacht on the sight,
“And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
“Save where the Kaiser wheels his bonehead flight,
“And frowsy princelings streak for distant folds.
“Save that from Nauen’s undismantled tower
“The moping Hun does to the Yanks complain
“Of such as, having tasted of his power,
“Decline to load him up with grub again.
“Beneath those powdered walls, that abri’s shade,
“Where blasted dug-outs hide a mouldering heap,
“Each in his nameless hole forever laid,
“The Kultur-spreaders of the Rhineland sleep.
“For them no more the Louvain fires shall burn,
“Or strafing Zepp’lins ply their evening care;
“No Yank machine-guns shall their fire return,
“Or Anzac bayonets drive them from their lair.
“Oft did the poilu sweep them from the field,
“Their line full oft the stubborn English broke:
“How frantic did they to the doughboys yield!
“How bowed their ranks to Foch’s giant stroke!
“Now let Derision mock their fiendish toil,
“Their swinish joys, and destiny obscure;
“Let ransomed Europe, with a peaceful smile,
“Collect her war-debts from the vanquished boor.
—James Pontifex, in The Chicago Tribune.
No doughboy in the charming Champs Elysees theater, Paris, laughed harder than President Wilson when the “Argonne players” put all officers on the gridiron. It was Broadway’s own 77th division that presented a snappy bill before the dignified peace commissioners with the exception of Col. House, who was ill. The play was entitled “Annex Revue, 1918.”
Here are some of the sallies at which Mr. Wilson laughed:
“If they don’t send me home soon I’ll be so full of service stripes that I’ll look like a zebra.”
“I don’t mind if they miss me over there, just so the Germans miss me over here.”
“Paris girls—take it from me—they take it from you. One girl took my identification tag. She thought it was a franc.”
“By the time you pay your insurance and allotment you owe yourself money.”
The division’s song, “They Didn’t Think We’d Do It, but We Did,” will soon be heard on Broadway.
Two men riding in a street car were talking about the war. “Well, how much longer do you think this thing will last?” asked one of the men of his friend. “Pretty hard to tell,” was the answer. “But as for me it can go right on for years. I’m making big money out of it all right.” And he looked it!
A well-dressed middle-aged woman sat next to the man who had just spoken and, as he finished his speech, she took off her gloves, stood up and hit the man a stinging blow across his face. “That is for my boy in France,” she said; and before he could recover she hit him another one, and added: “And that is for my other boy who is about to sail.”
Then she sat down, while the red-faced man looked about at a carful of people whose approving glances of the woman’s act led him to feel that he had better leave the car.—Ladies’ Home Journal.
Everything was ready for kit inspection; the recruits stood lined up ready for the officer, and the officer had his bad temper all complete. He marched up and down the line, grimly eyeing each man’s bundle of needles and soft soap, and then he singled out Private MacTootle as the man who was to receive his attentions.
“Tooth-brush?” he roared.
“Hm! You’re all right, apparently,” growled the officer. Then he barked:
“Oh, very well, thank you,” said the recruit amiably. “How’s yours?”
A British officer who was inspecting the line in Flanders came across a raw-looking yeoman.
“What are you here for?” asked the officer.
“To report anything unusual, sir.”
“What would you call unusual? What would you do if you saw five battle cruisers steaming across the field?”
“Take the pledge, sir.”
A negro drill sergeant was addressing a squad of colored “rookies” under him. He said: “I wants you niggers to understan’ dat you is to car’y out all o’ders giben on de risin’ reflection ob de final word ob comman’. Now when we’s passin’ dat reviewin’ stan’, at de comman’ ‘Eyes Right!’ I wants to hear ever’ nigger’s eyeballs click.”
Dear Old Lady—“I suppose you’ll follow in your father’s footsteps when you grow up?”
“I can’t; he’s an airman.”
The very prosperous-looking gentleman stopped and permitted the very pretty girl to fasten a carnation in his buttonhole. Then he handed her a quarter.
“What is this for?” he asked.
“You have fed a Belgian baby,” was the reply.
“Nonsense,” said the other, adding a $5 bill to his contribution, “you can’t do it. Here, take this, and buy a regular meal for the baby.”
Binks—“Ah, what a loss I have suffered in the death of my mother-in-law!”
Jinks—“She meant a good deal to you?”
Binks—“Yes; she was a vegetarian, and gave us her meat-card.”
This story is from London: A young woman in khaki uniform and cap met a Scotch kilty. She saluted. He curtsied.
Frank Proudfoot Jarvis has been at the Front with the First Canadian Mounted Rifles for three years, and his sense of humor and the joy of life still survive. In a letter dated, “Somewhere in Mud, 17th of Ireland,” he writes to his brother, Paul Jarvis, of New York:
“Dear Old Top:
“I had expected to be in gay (?) Paree on furlough at this time, swinging down the Boys de Belogne with girls de Belogne on each arm, but this is postponed till April. The papers say that von Hindy has ordered dinner for himself and the Crown Prince on April Fools’ day, and, if we meet, there will be a sound of deviltry by night and a Waterloo that will cause the princelet to wireless his dad:
“‘Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these, we’re ”soaked“ again.’
“However that may be, here I am sitting in a shed, with a sheepskin over my shoulders, looking like a lady—but not smelling like one. Fritz is acting rather nasty, sending us his R. S. V. P.’s by the air-line, and we reply P. D. Q., and the ‘wake’ is a howling success as the big bulls and the little terriers ‘barcarole.’ And speaking of wakes, I was awake myself the other night in my hut and the Gothas were whirring overhead and Fritz pulling the string every now and then. It was pitch-dark and a big Bertha had just shaken all creation, when I overheard two ‘blimeys’ fanning buckwheat while they hunted a shell-hole.
“‘Where are yer, Bill?’ asked one.
“I’m ’ere,’ says Bill.
“‘Where’s ’ere?’ says his pal.
“‘Ow the blinkin’ ’ell do I know where ’ere is?’ says Bill.
“Just then Fritz put one alongside of my hut and snuffed out all the candles, but thanks to the good old soft mud—and how we have cussed that mud!—I am writing to you, Old Top, tonight. I expect to be on the hike again in a day or so, I know not where and I do not care. All places look alike to this old kid. They can set me down in a field of mud and inside of forty-eight hours I have got a home fit for a prince, or a ground-hog—sometimes I am living several feet under ground and other times I am living in a tent, a hut, a stable, barn, shed, and, when in luck, in some deserted chateau.”
Jarvis, lying on his back looking up at a twinkling star through a hole in the roof seems to have started a train of verse in his brain, for he writes:
“I got to cogitating about a lot of things, and for the first time in my life I found rimes running through what I am pleased to call my mind. So, I lighted my dip and jotted down the enclosed doggerel. They say it is a bad sign when a man starts to write poetry, but I don’t for a moment think anyone would call this by that name or that I shall even be acclaimed a Backyard Kipling. Besides, as I flourish under the sobriquet ‘Bully Beef,’ owing to my major-general proportions, I am certainly no Longfellow. But here it is, such as it is:
I’ve slept in cradles,
I’ve slept in arms,
I was a baby then—
Unconscious of war’s alarms.
I’ve slept on the prairie
Shooting the duck and the goose,
I’ve slept in the bush
Hunting the elk and the moose.
I’ve slept on steamboats
With my bed on the deck,
And I’ve slept in church
With a kink in my neck.
I’ve slept in fields,
Under the stars,
And I’ve slept on trains
In old box cars.
I’ve slept in beds
Of purple and gold,
I’ve slept out in Flanders
In the mud and the cold.
I’ve slept in dugouts
With the rat and the louse,
And I’ve slept in France
In a fairly good house.
I’ve slept in barns
On beds of straw,
I’ve slept in sheds
Wi nae bed at a’.
I’m sleeping now
On a stretcher of wire,
And I pray my last sleep
Will be near a fire.
I’m tired of the wet,
The mud, and the cold,
And I won’t be sorry
When I sleep in the Fold.
“‘Taps,’ Bon swear,
The sergeant halted the new sentry opposite the man he was to relieve.
“Give over your orders,” he said.
The old sentry reeled off the routine instructions with confidence, but one of the special orders baffled him.
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