Light relief on Messines front for Larne soldier Robert McGookin

The young Robert McGookin. INLT 52-626-CON
The young Robert McGookin. INLT 52-626-CON

Continuing our serialisation of Larne soldier Robert McGookin’s WW1 diaries, from the book, It Wasnt All Sunshine.

After taking a course in signalling, I returned to the Messines front.

In the trenches, I joined the Signalling Section at a dugout named Boyle Farm.

A man called Streight was always grousing, and cadging cigarettes. I used to take the small sticks of cordite out of the cartridges and push them down into cigarettes and leave these in the dugout where Streight would be sure to see them.

Streight was waxing eloquent when, without warning, the dugout was filled with sparks and he nearly pushed his head up through the roof.

Then we heard some language that one would not have found in an English dictionary, and I was threatened with a dig on the nose.

I think this man invited me out to fight times without number, but I only laughed at him and talked him over until he would have forgotten all about the matter; he was a very small man and a schoolboy could have walloped him.

Once, when cigarettes very scarce, I was fortunate to be given a packet and filled every cigarette with cordite, then gave the pack to Streight.

He went to his post and, to the astonishment of his comrades, not only did he have fags, but he actually offered them around. When they had all lighted up and were listening to Sammy telling about the hard times that he had on the lines, the cigarettes started spluttering all over the place. I can tell you there was a rumpus. Then there was language, again not to be found in a dictionary, floated up to where we were standing.

A chap, named Stitt grabbed Streight by the back of the neck and threw him out into the trench.

This man Streight was very frightened of rats, and my mate and I used to tie old bones and lumps of cheese on a piece of string and tie them to the foot of his bunk.

After we had blown the candles out, the rats would come out and have a good fight below his bed for the bones and cheese.

It was little incidents like these that made us forget the grimmer happenings round about us.