THE ROYAL NAVY RUM ISSUE

THE TRUE ADMIRALTY STORY! A page with some facts and figures, several photographs and links to relevant URL's. 

NOTE. In some of these files suffixed with .htm, you need only read the Description and the Date. Others are main pages!

NOTE: If you want to read line and verse about the Admiralty History of the Rum Issue then you need to acquire this Admiralty file - see HISTORIC RUM.htm

Quite recently I was dragged by my wife to a local village women's group, and on this occasion husbands were invited, especially my wife's husband - me!

The speaker was a so-called raconteur [his introduction] and this evening his talk, with one or two common and proverbial aides [measures, and a fanny] which for pretty obvious reasons, the word fanny got a polite smile but no verbal comment, was to be on the Navy Rum Issue. He was an ex Royal Marine and seemingly made enough over the year to keep his "spirit room" well charged, but like in the service, was always under lock and key!

I got a bit worried at the beginning when he appeared not to know when the issue actually finished and was confused between the last issue date and the date on which there was to be no further issues, the official cessation 1st August 1970 see END_OF_RUM.htm except, for the odd splices of course for all the usual important events, so he got that part right.  I thought, well done Royal, let's hope no more confusion. As a point of interest only, the official grand announcement concerning the stoppage of the rum issue was made here

HANSARDS_FINAL_RUM_STATEMENT.htm

although it had been seriously considered from as far back as 1966 - see details in this Admiralty file 1966_RUM_RATION_CONSIDERATION.htm and again here RUM_CONSIDERATION_1969.htm

But, and regrettably, it wasn't to be, {credit where credit is due, what he said was well delivered} for he had obviously prepared his talk on the hype to be found widely, and specifically on web sites like Wikipedia's "GROG" page, which like so many other Wikipedia pages,  lacks facts and pumps the crap or lamp swinging versions, conveniently missing out the interesting parts all based on fact, with not one lamp swinger in sight!  There are of course thousands of excellent Wikipedia pages on other subjects!

Have you ever seen errors on a web page and have you bothered to tell the webmaster in the hope that the error is corrected, and as soon as possible? Over the years I have received helpful emails steering me in the right direction albeit on small but important points, but as often as not to point out a typo which I do my level best to correct pronto. Have you ever tried to contact Wikipedia about their pages?  It's nigh on impossible!

Incidentally, I spoke after the event with the Royal thanking him but without mentioning the content of his talk, but I did reveal that I was ex RN and had partaken of Nelson's Blood for twelve years from my 20th birthday until the last day 31st July 1970, to which he remarked that he had been warned-off that there was a sailor in the audience. I asked him what other subjects did he talk about and he rattled off an impressive list, and when he had finished, I asked whether he had to modify each talk to fit the audience to which he answered "no, one size fits all."  If you live in the East, are ex navy of the relevant period and belong to groups who invite speakers to their meetings, watch out. At a rough guess I would say he is no older than 60, but even at 65, born in 1952, his 20th birthday wouldn't have been until 1972. I did add a bit of advice to him namely that rum still had a very important part to play at Christmas time. The chefs of large ships and shore establishment always make a Christmas pudding and into it, during the stirring process goes a goodly amount of proper navy rum!

That, the Wikipedia page, plus all the other hype and internet pages, was the catalyst for me to write this page in defence of the history of the Naval Rum Issue and also to add in one or two things of interest rarely if ever talked about, so here goes from a good deal of personal experience and with the support of Admiralty and MOD[N] sources.

Note from the word go I have said naval rum issue, because the practice of issuing rum for a great part of the 19th century inter alia, involved shipping lines giving rum to the mercantile mariners.  Drunkenness in the merchant marine was rife [note, not as much in the navy but sky high nonetheless] and extremely difficult to control and monitor, so the shipping companies withdrew the free issue very early on, although it didn't solve their problem!

Who or what formed the Royal Navy in these times, and especially from the enthroning of Queen Victoria in 1837 onwards until the first decade of the 20th century?

Well first and foremost of course were the various fleets and their reserves plus support facilities, with submariners from the start of the 20th century, with, and not forgetting those brave sailors who for many years and in various wars [Crimea, Boer, WW1] fought as land-soldiers in the RND [Royal Naval Division]   Then, in no specific order, came the Coastguard, the Troopships and finally the HEIC [Honourable East India Company] officered by officers with RN commissions. Technically speaking, fulltime members of the Admiralty Courts system were also part of the navy. All these services were manned by RN officers and crews [HEIC not all the crew were naval] chief among which were the bluejackets, with engine room staff [from approx 1855 onwards] cooks and stewards etc. There were many stores ships in the navy e.g. HMS Assistance, which when necessary doubled as troopships [soldiers, wives and kids] to distant parts, but there were five permanent troopships HMS Serepis, HMS Malabar, HMS Euphrates, HMS Jumna and HMS Crocodile whose full time role was to ferry troops between England [always Portsmouth from the South Railway Jetty] and India to feed the insatiable demand of defending the Raj. It wasn't a popular appointment or draft for any RN personnel, but only the ships were permanently tied to the job and not individual officers/sailors. All those mentioned in this paragraph were entitled to a free daily rum issue.  Note this import file from Admiralty records TROOPSHIPS.htm . Other smaller divisions of the navy and rum drinkers, were the Surveying Squadrons; the Naval Transport Services and the Naval Harbour Services - no RMAS in those days! - note not the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst who first laid claim to the acronym, but the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, essentially a group of civilians who run small harbour craft on behalf of the navy.

Later on RFA's [Royal Fleet Auxiliaries] became part of the navy proper and during wars and hostilities were issued with rum. Rum was also available to RFA's in certain circumstances after the war for stressful conditions at sea see RFA's.htm. Commencing prior to WW1 the Admiralty Transport Department [swallowed up by other Admiralty Departments over the year since] had many responsibilities to ensure that the navy could receive a continuous supply chain of everything from a nut and bolt to the supply of massive armaments so that their various caches were kept full. What follows is one aspect of their undertakings and its implication to the issue of rum: there were several 'special' needs of this sort! See TANK_STEAMER_PETROLEUM.htm. Also of significance, which in all things concerning rum and the demands on it, needs to be factored into the sheer cost of supply, freight, distribution and storage, for the ever increasing number of users, was the adverse effect of the wars. This file, self explicit, tells of a time when the Admiralty system is near to bursting point and the money is running out so there needs to be great changes. See RUM_AND_MONEY.htm. The records show that for large time periods, the voyage from Kingston Jamaica for contracted civilian ships carrying rum and other goods, terminated in the River Lune at Lancaster where the goods were offloaded. It was surely nearer and safer to make landfall at Falmouth or Plymouth, and obviously much cheaper to get the goods down south to Chatham and Portsmouth!  Other worries the Admiralty had, and perhaps at several times in history, was the adulteration of rum, meaning that it had been doctored by the distillers and its quality had been changed for the worst, made the more worrying because the prices were still the same and as ever, climbing with time. This is just one of those cases. See ADULTERATION.htm.

Now since my story will concentrate on approximately 1837 onwards, first a little introduction to the times before this period. Quenching the crew's thirst was always a major sea-going headache no matter the owner and operator of a vessel. Water was the obvious answer but it had two great disadvantages, one being the source of the supply [it was often polluted even when sourced from home UK ports] but even unpolluted water, only lasted a few weeks at best before it turned slimy and dangerous to drink without doctoring it in some way or other. The alternatives were alcoholic beverages which came in many forms. Sailor's work was much more physical than that of officers resulting in larger thirsts to quench, so the beer option was chosen for them, and a routine issue was a gallon of beer per day - eight pints, and this, for many years, in addition to the rum issue!  In my time in the navy I had several men in my Division who would regularly drink eight pints when ashore. Some of these could be branded as OD's [meaning 'ordinary' sailors suggesting youth and inexperience showing-off as though they were mature men-sailors] but most were, within their limitations, out enjoying themselves and were never a cause for concern once back in their mess wanting only a good nights kip. You'll have gathered that I am not a beer drinker the sheer bulk of the liquid is too much for me to really enjoy, but I do like a glass of red wine and an occasional gin and tonic.

Then to many sailors of that time came Admiral Vernon in the mid 1700's, whose grave I infrequently visit whilst in the vicinity of Ipswich Suffolk. He it was who championed the introduction of "grog" into the lives of mariners, although no one seems to know for certain just who first brought rum to the navy, whether a shrewd civilian Admiralty chandler or a serving naval officer whose daddy owned a plantation: it was certainly before 1740, the date Vernon is said to have made an attempt to resolve the perils of drinking large amount of the neat spirit, meaning that his actions were disciplinary as opposed to being a father Christmas type benefactor, as most sailors throughout the ages thought of him?  I'd stick my neck out here and say that a man who waters down a 'juice which sent one on a trip' is hardly a friend of the common man, now is he?  From the Restoration onwards and through the reigns of eight monarchs [Charles II to George III] Britain ruled not only the 'naval waves' but also the 'slaving trade waves' and even when the Battle of Trafalgar was in full swing many other of our warships were assisting in the protection of slaving ships crossing the Atlantic from our major slaving ports of Bristol, Liverpool and London to the West Indies and to the deep south of North America. We have to be naive to believe there was no tangible quid pro quo between grateful plantation owners during this period, and that rum, distilled from their core product of sugar-cane, wasn't involved ? Come 1740 when Admiral Vernon starts to crack-the-whip, rum, I suggest, would have been a well used naval morale booster to help  placate the harsh conditions of serving in the navy.  Thus, from the start of Britain's slaving trade from 1660 to 1740 [80 years] rum had already become a naval tradition. When Britain decided that slave trading was abhorrent it passed a law banning it in 1807, sixty seven years after the first drop of water was added to neat rum. From that date forward, the Royal Navy operated to arrest slaving ships and to release the slaves therein rather than to assist the owners to ensure free and safe passage. That resulted in a stand-off between the navy and the ports of Bristol and Liverpool in particular, but also London, where, as always, the paymasters operated! By 1807, it is reasonable to assume that the quid pro quo of slaves for rum [at give away prices to the Admiralty] had been established for approximately 147 years [1660 to 1807], and the worst that might have happened at the cessation of the British slave trade was the doing away with the generous cheap rum with a hike in prices!

 The plantation owners and the distiller owners [usually one and the same] pocketed large profits, whereas the slaves got virtually nothing for their labours. The Royal Navy got much from this innovation getting huge back-handers from the aforementioned owners which resulted in navy rum being a very cheap product, becoming a cheap 'gift' to their jack tars, who in turn, interpreted that gesture as a substantial gift. The procurement of rum became progressively cheaper to buy in bulk than was beer, the net result being a saving on annual naval estimates not made known even to officers of below post-captain rank, but was manifest to senior officer and to Their Lordships in the Admiralty. What is well recorded but appears not to be recognised today, is that when rum first came into the navy it was issued neat to all comers, twice a day: that's a pint a day for each man. No wonder that there was so much bickering, which turned to hostile arguments and then to fights, many times leading to deaths or severe injuries and more often than not involving weapons. In an endeavour to calm and moderate the effects of neat rum Vernon introduced what he became famous for and ordered that the same amount of neat rum would be diluted with water, starting, as we all know with a 4&1 mixture. It's romantic to think that the altercations were reduced ['watered down'] by the same amount, but not so!

At the time of his grog introduction, there was a premium to be paid by all onboard as the water consumption rose to meet Vernon's criteria of Grog, which was at that time, four measures of water to one measure of neat rum. The desired level of discipline with this new issue [clearly a more potent beverage than beer, itself watered down from shore supplies] was not forthcoming, and the Admiralty hankered for a greater mix, perhaps a 5 and 1, but this could not support the meager amount of fresh water available. 4 to 1 then it was, and remained so for many years. # To readily compare the mixed product, the '4' part was a quart of water [2 pints] and the '1' part was 2 gills [½ a pint] of neat rum making a 2½ pint concoction, the first daily whack coming at lunch time with a repeat issue coming at around the time we would called "tea time"].  As you will see, these two times [periods] coincided with a food issue, which made the horrible and dreadful food more palatable though of course still lacking in nutrition - it simply filled their bellies.  After the tea time issue the men were not fed again until 7am [twentyfour hour clocks/time keeping was not used in the navy until WW1 time] and this was to cause greater problems for the men than rum could ever do! I'll return to this important point later. The point of watering rum was basically three-fold. As a rank reward - chief petty officers, warrant officers and commissioned officers got their issue neat, while petty officers and below got grog - in 1850 petty officers also drew neat rum issues; to reduce its strength hoping for less drunkenness, and to make sure that it couldn't be kept overlong before one had to drink it, so it couldn't be accumulated. It is very convenient to associate Admiral Vernon's time [1740] with a pan-navy rum issue, but in truth, it took many a long year to establish an accounting system which had to address the supply, the shipping, the storeage and fleet issues from the main UK yards, specifically Royal William Yard at Devonport, the Clarence Yard at Gosport, the Chatham [Rochester Victualling Yard] and the naval stores depot at Deptford,  plus all the main foreign Dockyards/Victualling points. To start with, ships deployed to protect the home land got in first, but it wasn't until twelve to fifteen odd years later, that the HEIC Navy/East Indies/China Fleet got their rum on a continuous basis, programmed by the UK depots: this picture below is a very rare English church connection with the HEIC - to me, a research treasure.  See here.

# As a FOST [Flag Officer Sea Training] - Rear Admiral James Eberle - sea-rider at Portland in the mid 1970's I often sea-rode Dutch warships based across the North Sea at Den Helder in Holland using our facilities [as did other foreign navies] for their shakedowns and work-up's. On many an occasion we were told of the difficulty people had with their language, and that was one of the reasons why so many Dutch people spoke near perfect English - for their sailors English was the NATO language notwithstanding. That introduced the expression "double Dutch" which made their language literally impossible to understand. The Dutch authorities used to ply their men with copious amounts of gin on going into battle so they were gibbering but also doubly fierce when fighting the enemy. The British navy of yore must have been exactly the same only on daily basis? However, with alcohol comes sleepiness, so one wonders what the state of readiness would have been like in the fleet? See also this very small file

The_Times_1885-01-21 Dutch Courage.jpg 

 In 1757, seventeen years after Admiral Vernon brought ''grog" and neat rum side by side as a daily issue to the navy as a free entitlement, he died, and in less than one year on, in 1758, Nelson was born. Admiral Vernon, although revered by all [or perhaps not all] for the introduction of grog, had an illustrious career but without the usual honours and awards we associate with our admirals of yore which usually meant a knighthood or a peerage. Vernon had none. He was cruelly sacked by King George II and struck off the navy list never again to serve - I cover this story in one of my URL Links below. After leaving the navy in utter disgrace he became an MP, at one stage, the MP for Ipswich, and fought his corner in the House in an endeavour to better the navy he had so loved.  However, he was famous for much more than rum, like for example the capture of Gibraltar and several other notable battles, and not at all surprising, given his direct association with rum, his appointment as the C-IN-C of the West Indies Jamaica Station!  Honestly, he must have lined his pockets and been as thick as thieves with the sugar plantation owners and distillers?

As promised above, I will, when the time is right, return to the important issue of the men not being fed from 4pm until 7am the next day. Before that, consider this fact which necessitates us moving forward to more modern times!

In 1970 the tot issue neat, was ⅛ of a gill = 0.03 pints, [remember it was 2 gills = ½ pint in approximately 1740] -  93.75% less alcohol than in 1740 - and that measure 0.03 of a pint, although a lesser liquid amount than the pubs 0.18 of a pint, was the exact alcoholic equivalent [because of the ABV of navy rum [54.6%] as compared with the ABV of commercial rum [40%] to "slightly more that four measures of spirit", two doubles in a civilian pub. Two double measures = 100ml of spirit ashore = 0.175975 of a pint or 0.18 to two decimal places. I live near Bury St Edmunds the home-port  and brewing centre of Greene King who appear to control the prices of all their many hundreds of pubs across the UK, ergo the price of pub alcohol generally such is their rapid expansion into the leisure industry.  Today [2017] two doubles of house-gin [not including tonic, whatever] is approximately £6.00! In 1970 that was approximately 50p! A pint of beer today is approximately £3.30 and back in 1970 it was 20p.

Scurvy was as much feared as were the prevalent diseases of the times like yellow fever typhoid and cholera, and it, like them, was a debilitating disease leading to a painful death. In 1800 [the common knowledge that citrus fruit and their by-products could cure the symptoms] a cure of the ailment was costed and approved, and contracts were entered into in the Caribbean for suppliers to deliver rum* and citrus fruits. European supplies were influenced by the French and after 1789 but more importantly the French Revolution's Reign of Terror [1793], Britain was debarred from trading. There was a quid pro quo  which saw a predominant shift from drinking French and Spanish wines, preferring instead port from our loyal ally Portugal.  Whilst France produced the finest of wines and Brandy, the process of distilling wine to produce Brandy was well understood, and Brandy alternatives were still to be found in the finest of British homes as well as in wardrooms of the fleet. A common sight in naval wardrooms was a nutmeg grater and a snuff box, both small self-contained and for personal use. In Victorian times adding nutmeg to wine made it more drinkable taking away the vinegary taste but also giving the liquid more body!

* rum. Rum was distilled from the products of sugar cane, molasses for example, and additives were added such that a tot of rum was known to have medicinal properties - it was, in modest quantities, good for one. However, some blenders/distillers would cheat by adding in other substances which nullified its good qualities and what follows is just one of several cases against cowboys taking short cuts to increase their profits by adding substances made from saw dust etc.

The_Times_1904-09-21 Rum containing silent spirit instead of ethers used for medicinal purposes.jpg

India Troopships were owned by the Admiralty just like RFA's today are, although unlike RFA's,  I.T.S., were crewed by RN personnel. As the issue of rum started in the troopships it also stopped first in that service and was immediately followed by all divisions of the Royal Navy which operated steam ships in tropical areas of the globe. There were other mal-administrations and complications with rum and beer which frustrated those people engineering a temperance society [some hope!] and I'll mention just a couple here. Beer was procured from commercial sources but after years of corruption amongst brewers and within breweries, the Admiralty cancelled all contracts and the government went into business of brewing beer for the navy. It wisely chose a spot quite close to the Deptford Yard, also quite close to the Kent hop fields, and from where all alcohol was distributed to the fleets. It lasted for many years until 1833 when Government breweries were shut down, by which time rum was king.

In 1824 [effective 1st January 1826] the issue was reduced from half-pint [2 gills] to 1 gill [but see below for rum issue calculations], a reform which was, however, largely neutralized by the substitution of the imperial measure for the wine measure, a change which added one-fifth to the ration much to the sound of raucous cheering from the decks below. This data on alcohol measures is of great interest, but it must have been a headache for the stores/victualling depots.

Ale, Beer and Porter measurements (1688-1803)

  • 8½ gallons =1 firkin
  • 2 firkins =1 kilderkin
  • 2 kilderkins = 1 barrel
  • 1½ barrels (51 gallons) = 1 hogshead
  • 2 barrels (68 gallons) =1 puncheon
  • 2 hogsheads (102 gallons) = 1 butt
  • 3 puncheons (204 gallons) = 1 tun
  • 2 buts = 1 tun

    Ale, Beer and Porter measurements (after 1803)

  • 4½ gallons= 1 pin
  • 2 pins =1 firkin
  • 2 firkins = 1 kilderkin
  • 2 kilderkins = 1 barrel
  • 1½ barrels (54 gallons) = 1 hogshead
  • 2 barrels (72 gallons) =1 puncheon
  • 2 hogsheads (108 gallons) = 1 butt
  • 3 puncheons (216 gallons) = 1 tun

    Wine, Spirits, Cider, Vinegar, Oil and Honey measurements - this applied to spirit imports from the West Indies

  • 18 wine gallons =1 rundlet
  • 31½ gallons = 1 barrel
  • 42 gallons =1 tierce
  • 2 barrels (63 gallons) =1 hogshead
  • 2 tierces (84 gallons) =1 puncheon
  • 2 hogsheads or 3 tierces (126 gallons) =1 pipe or butt
  • 2 pipes or 3 puncheons (252 gallons) = 1 tun

    Measurements after 1824: which became extant after the issue was reduced to 1 gill, introducing the imperial measure. Note that before 1824 a "rundlet" [an artefact of a specific size and volume which didn't alter after the change] had 18 wine-gallons but after 1824 [1826] it had 15 imperial-gallons. Although legislated under George IV  in 1824 it didn't become law until 1st January 1826. See this little file for the strange names used [for example, what is a pottle?] and the workings out of a rum issue problem!  GENERAL_MEASUREMENTS_PRE_AND_POST_1826_AND_RUM_ISSUE_CALCULATIONS.htm

  • 15 Imperial gallons = 1 rundlet
  • 26¼ Imperial gallons = 1 barrel
  • 35 Imperial gallons = 1 tierce
  • 3½ rundlets or 2 barrels (52½ gallons) =1 hogshead
  • 2 tierces (70 gallons)= 1 puncheon
  • 2 hogsheads or 3 tierces (105 gallons) =1 pipe or butt
  • 2 pipes (210 gallons) = 1 tun

    However, note that different measurements were used for imported wine and spirits from other parts of the world. Just a few are given below:

  • 1 pipe of Madeira = 92 gallons
  • 1 pipe of Sherry = 108 gallons
  • 1 pipe of Port= 115 gallons
  • 1 hogshead of Hock, Rhine and Moselle = 30 gallons
  • 1 hogshead of Claret = 46 gallons
  • 1 hogshead of Brandy = 57 gallons
  •  

    In 1850, the MP for Portsmouth, Sir Francis Baring was the First Lord of the Admiralty. He and his fellow Board Member decided that the time had come to address the issue of rum to the navy: the agenda and ground rules for the committee as shown in this file

    NAVAL INTELLIGENCE ON THE 1850 RUM QUESTION.pdf - notice the mention of extra pay in lieu of the rum they were to lose! Reminiscent of a part 'T' payment?  The reference to the "cheerful can" refers to the rum fanny, or kettle, or a monkey, all of which can bring cheer to the lower deck at a certain time of the day: a wardroom expression!

     The issue was halved to ½ gill =  ⅛ pint  to be consumed at lunch time only [evening issue stopped], the grog value to be increased from its 4&1 mix to a 3&1 mix, and at the same moment officers and men had to be at least 18 years of age*, and those professing temperance were given a small sum of money [1 shillings and 7 pence per month = 0.633 of a penny per day] in lieu of drawing their tots

    I'll break the story at this point to mention this evening issue - stop point above  is "their tots" and restart point below is "This was seen as...".   What I have discovered might amaze you, and I have several authoritative accounts of what it was and how necessary it was to curtail the evils which were the direct result of the ceremony. In a moment I will turn you over to a member of the 1850 'committee on change' and let him explain in some detail how it was a dangerous event to allow it to continue.

    The lunch time issue [OK dinner time] was a relatively innocuous affair and it would have been rare to witness any drunkenness, but more importantly each eligible man drew and drank his own grog daily - note ONE issue? When it came to the early evening issue, as per normal, one mess member collected the mess issue and that's where the normality ends! The members of the mess, as in my day and perhaps yours, took turns to be the cook[s] of the mess - sometime more than one. The rum drawn was for his delight only and he could either drink it himself or share it with his personal friend[s]. Messes in those days - visit HMS Warrior for example [1860] - were little changed from Nelson's time, and were long tables with bench seats either side on or very close to their gun-deck guns. Messes lived by cheek and jowl never mind mess members doing so,  such was the crowding, and having spent my younger days in the navy living in huge broadside messes where one could see the scuttles on both sides of the ship [HMS Tyne a depot ship during the 1956 Suez War] and often other people would walk through our space to get to other compartments adjacent to it.  It must have been very unpleasant especially at rum issue times. These tables [messes] usually accommodated four to six men either side. The duty cook would therefore collect say, twelve tots, rarely more. There was an agreement on the lower deck, set in stone and in blood should any one err from the rules and the tradition, that each of these mess members would take it in turn to be the mess cook, providing and preparing the mess meals before conveying them to the galley where the ships cook [or chef] would cook it. When ready, the mess cook would collect the cooked meal and afterwards wash up the mess traps [plates and eating irons] and clear away so that mess members could use the table for games, whatever. Since it was by tradition, jealously guarded, that the duty cook took all the evening issue for himself, it figures that each mess member would not have the opportunity to consume his rum for eleven evenings out of twelve, but Oh My God! [or is that OMG?] the twelfth night he and his cronies were paralytic and up with the fairies. A regularly used quip suggested that these men needed an eleven day break to get over that 12th night [reminds me of Shakespeare]. Although the mess cook was a lackey and not a cook proper [not that the cooks of that day were cooks as we know them to be] mess cooks were branded as the troublemakers, the rum rats, and men, if and when there were compus mentis, to be avoided, wallowing in their own spew and defecations! I have set the scene, now you can read a witness of the evening ceremony.

    1850 RUM STUDY.pdf - a blue book was a recognised written account of a meeting, a directive, a law making legislative body et al.

    Main story continued with......This was seen as a draconian measure by all on the lower deck. In one foul swoop, there was a net saving to the Estimates by the reduction of issue measurement,  the age qualification slightly offset by the miserly temperance allowance, compounded by being paid in arrears! Associated with this date was the Admiralty's need to re-negotiate its rum [and other requirements] and what follows was an advertisement published in 1853. I have kept the other requirements [seamen's clothing] and salt beef/pork meat requirement for interest only. This is a thumbnail but even when you have enlarged it [try clicking on it twice] you may need your magnifier to read it with ease. Haulbowline [one of the issuing points in Great Britain]  - the whole of Ireland was part of GB in those days - is a large island in the middle of Cork harbour which was a major naval port in Victorian times, even having a RNH to match that of Stonehouse in Devonport,  and because of its position in southern Ireland was best placed to serve the needs of any ships operating in the Atlantic so was in fact, more important than other English south coast ports in victualling terms!

    * 18 years of age -  back up above in the paragraph beginning 'in 1850 the MP for Portsmouth.  This age had wandered upwards from Nelson's time in the Napoleonic Wars [where drunkenness was rife especially after the evening issue which preoccupied Hardy and his officers in the Victory, repeated throughout the fleet by other captains] at the beginning of the 19th century, at a time when young midshipmen and seamen boy's also had access to rum! Certainly from the mid 19th century, the governments rum requirement main contractor was Messrs Lemon Hart and Son of 59 Fenchurch Street in the City of London.

    The Admiralty employed shrewd business men [chandlers] to get the very best terms of trading no matter the source or even quality, and they would regularly buy-up space in any vessel transiting the Atlantic when none was available from naval sources, even using free space in slaving ships out of ports like Bristol. Mind you there were times when the world and the Admiralty had too much rum and wanted to sell it, a million gallons worth and that's 64,000,000 tots, on the open market whereas producers couldn't see theirs to anybody. This file is relevant. Wow! That's a tot each for every man, woman, child, baby and oldie in the country!

    The_Times_1948-09-16 world glut of rum and depressed markets for it.jpg
    but
    imagine a commercial-play were suppliers flood the market clogging-up the distant clients storage and distribution system and this in the middle of WW1?

    The_Times_1917-01-27 too much rum and a waste of transportation.jpg

    1860 or thereabouts, the Ironclads started to come on stream, and what Great Britain had started back 100 years before in 1760 [the Industrial Revolution] saw world trade with Britain almost peaking at its best.   Steam merchant ships were at sea trading before the steam warships were launched to do their defending bit, when the navy took it as necessary and were forced into change, but even then, in the 1850's the navy ordered ships with sail and steam as a belts and braces practice, and were still doing it after merchant ship owners had stopped the practice essentially to get cheaper ships and having proved without doubt the proven efficiency of steam. Whilst we had several steam warships before the Warrior [said to be the first of the ironclads] had its keel-block laid never mind its first iron sheets poured into moulds, these, by and large, were deployed along the trade routes, there to protect British mercantile fleets as well as the ultra high-value targets like coal bunkering yards set at various key point around the globe: Welsh coal, known to be the very best, was treated like gold nuggets.  The new steam and modern warships were kept ready for use in home waters [the furthest known port that the Warrior ever saw in its relatively short career, was Gibraltar] against our known and most likely enemy, Europeans! Now, although a few years on it was established  that men working in the boiler rooms [stoke-holes]  of these vessel in tropical climes, stoking the furnaces, were truly fatigued and in great need of a tonic, and in 1864 approximately, two options were considered. The first, favoured by some salt-horse captains and by many new fangled engineering officers, was to use sail in lieu of engines which would give the stokers a rest and an opportunity to doing running-maintenance on the machinery. The second choice, which was taken, saw the Admiralty shooting itself in the foot! It was here that the expression "Tropical Grog" was coined, and what follows comes from Hansards during a debate about service conditions, its pros and cons.

    In order to meet the exhaustive effects of labour in the stoke-hole under a tropical climate, extra grog was permitted to be served out to the men in the engine-room in hot latitudes; and that permission, as the nature of things was, was rapidly turned into a custom. In the Indian troop-ships, some 10 or 11 years ago, extra rations of porter were given to the men, and claret to the engineer officers, and the idea was encouraged that an increased dose of alcohol was the best prophylactic against effects of an enervating climate. But courts martial soon began to show that that idea was a perilous one to start on board ship; and "tropical grog" was the institution to which more than one poor fellow owed his downfall.

     

    Whilst on 1860 events, here are are four more:-

     1860 was the last year when a man was hung from the yardarm from a British war vessel, this one anchored in the River Yangtze River.
    1864 White Ensign adopted for all British war vessels.
    1869 Beards with moustaches allowed.
    1869 Wardroom officers warned about excessive wine bills.

    The 1870's, whilst not seeing any further changes in rum issues, did see important changes to the NDA [Naval Discipline Act] as regards punishments for rum abuse, which, as in other decades of the 19th century, was ever present!  These are the main changes:-

    1871 Flogging suspended in peace time.
    1879 Flogging suspended in war time.
    1907 Corporal punishment suspended completely.
    1907 RNDQ's awarded as a punishment.

    1881 saw two major changes to the rum issue, one affecting the wardroom and one the lower deck. Officers rum was withdrawn and ratings had to be at least aged 20 to qualify for their tot.

    Throughout the hundreds of years of naval history, alcohol was always troublesome, and that continued, abated somewhat, until the very last day. Fortunately, although not a regular occurrence, but during wartime when ships carrying siblings were sunk, the navy and the nation looked for changes disallowing siblings to serve together. Imagine then in January 1945 with WW2 still raging, that two brothers, the WARDLE twins, who had joined the navy at separate times one called Arthur and the other Ezra were serving together as able seamen in the carrier Vengeance which, just days before this fateful day had just been completed  and then commissioned, when, on their 21st birthday,  29th January, they both died of rum abuse. I have made this pdf from official Admiralty records. The senior officers of the carrier were: Captain D.M.L. Neame RN DSO, Commander C.L. Edwards RN  OBE and Surgeon Commander E.R.L. Davies DSC RNVR MRCS LRCP and between them many correspondences [even in the height of preparing their mighty vessel for war service] were sent to their Lordships mainly expressing their views on the evils of the rum issue! Given the normal naval practice of building warships this one by Swan Hunter, certain important members of the crew [officers and ratings] "stand-by the vessel during build". Clearly they cannot live on the vessel so they either lived ashore in a barracks or in commercial lodgings, or even, if they are natives of Geordie Land in this case, with their family.  For this vessel the build yard was in the Tyne and Wear district [Newcastle and Sunderland], built on the banks of the River Tyne at Wallsend. Arthur and Ezra, manifestly not 'important' in crew terms, would have arrived in the north at sometime after the commissioning service to welcome the vessel into His Majesty's navy. Ships/Establishments not in commission cannot issue rum! Whatever and whenever, their time in the ship would have been very brief before their untimely deaths. This file tidy's-up Vengenance' involvement with the Japanese surrender [VJ day] in Hong Kong 16th September. A_VERY_SHORT_POTTED_HISTORY_OF_THE_VENGEANCE.htm

    DEATH OF THE WARDLE BROTHERS.pdf

    This was a very common death and raised its ugly grim reaper's head time after time, year in year out. It is probable that the Wardle boys died this way? Death came by a drunken person vomiting usually whilst lying on his back, and then inhaling the vomit into his lungs or lodging in the throat thereby causing asphyxiation. It was the usual practice, detailed by the Captain in his Standing Orders,  for members of the drunken person's mess, to attend the sleeping body throughout the night in shifts, there to stop him turning over on to his back. This death [below] occurred in Royal Naval Sick Quarters at Lerwick, which is way up north of Scotland in the Shetland Isles. HMS FOX was the shore base serving the Isles, whilst reporting on the movement of enemy shipping and aircraft.

    Death by swallowing vomit - a common occurrence throughout the years.pdf

    There is a series of very often gruesome deaths compiled by the Admiralty called the "Ganley-Hearson", covering just about every possible death occurring in WW2, and apart from medical deaths [some natural causes, others unnatural causes] as the result of surgery etc and accidents, but outside those, by far the largest numbers are of drowning and being lost overboard, suicides and diseases which killed POW's in captivity etc. Although very much a by and by, I found what I consider to be a very poignant entry for HMS Hood, her very last recorded in 1940 for the ship before she sailed on the last fateful journey. It records the accidental death of a crew member [a petty officer] by saying "Fell through window. Died of shock, multiple injuries and mass hemorrhaging." The poor man was in RNH Haslar recovering from an ailment at the time: what dreadful luck!

    Just as a break from reading formal script, let me tell you in a very brief snippet what alcohol meant to the warship, peacefully tied up along some pier or jetty, whilst usually a third of the crew are ashore enjoying themselves. Most or that phalanx of men returned piecemeal to the ship  either on foot or by taxi, most sobber but those not so, hardly drunk and certainly not looking for trouble.  They exchanged pleasantries with the duty gangway staff, went below to their messes, had a bit of a laugh, changed into their nightwear [underpants and tee shirt] slung their hammocks and turned-in like little lambs. At some point later on the less well-behaved libertymen would arrive back at the ships berth, and more often than not that is when the trouble started. The duty personnel [if you want, the policemen there to encourage good behaviour, and if not, the proverbial handcuff routine] was an officer, a chief or petty officer, and what was termed, the duty watch. The duty watch were a mixture of sizes and build of men, some very capable of handling themselves in a tight corner, all junior rates, and all would be known to those returning to the ship. Now the secret was to avoid confrontation and provocation at all cost "red rag to a bull" was often quoted as an anology, so the first thing that happened, was to hide away the ultimate authority, the duty officer: he represents the upper deck and these liberty men are definitely lower deck. At the same time just in case, the heavy brigade would also be hidden awaiting their call, leaving just the chief or petty officer and the bosun's mate, also a junior rate so one of the lads, on the brow. What was to happen, if it did at all, was predictable, nauseating, but manageable - rather like the average British city streets late on a Friday or Saturday night? The challenge to authority would come from a well known gobby troublemaker, who when been told to get below and get your head down and please buddy, keep the noise down, people are sleeping, would react as though his manhood had been called into doubt, so the gantlet was thrown. Despite a very tactful chief or petty officer [who didn't mess [literally live] with these men so were not fully au fait with them as people, assisted by the able but in this case the hapless bosun's mate, things, predictably as I have said, very soon got out of hand and all our gobby friend had to offer was the big fist approach. That was the watershed between being nice and diplomatic and the introduction of the protagonist [the officer] who supporting the chief or petty officer, would again ask the man/men to do as bided, to peacefully go below and get their heads down. The vast majority, sensing the fun was over, did as they were asked to do, and disappeared below where the onus for discipline now shifted to those already asleep and rudely awakened supported by the leading hand of the mess whose authority the Admiralty would support to the hilt. What was left on the brow was the catalyst to bringing in the heavy brigade, remember in good times, the peers of these now recalcitrant inebriants. The hands on [as directed] by the officer to physically restrain these men from that point onwards usually meant that the men were not to see their mess' that night, but were destined to sleep rather roughly in the ship's cells, guarded by their mess mates which be assured, did not auger well for subsequent mess harmony. The next morning, after a rude awakening, they were called to their feet, ordered to scrub-out the cell they had occupied leaving the area impeccably clean, before they were escorted to breakfast and soon afterwards they would meet authority to atone for their sins, the equivalent of the magistrate, who would pass on the case if he himself/herself could not punish the offenders, to higher authority [commander or captain] again, like a crown court. The offenders intoxicated bravado would soon become a shameful, tail-between-the-legs finale, and he would pay dearly, literally losing much pay and freedom, as well as having to work extra shifts, doing menial work in his own leisure time, ridiculed by his peers. A salutary lesson to others? Not a bit of it! It was repeated almost throughout the fleet and in all parts of the globe frequented by the royal navy continuously.  The longer at sea these men had and the quality of ports visited in the shore visits, dictated their reactions when a so-called friendly port hove to - Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta, Gibraltar are good examples, and the bad examples were ports like Karachi and Bombay [old names] but then again I am old: 80 for those of you who are inquisitive!  That reminds me of my granny in the early 1940's when she [and all  in the UK of her great age - very very old]] referred to Muslims as 'Musselman, a much used word in England at that time.  END OF MISSIVE.

     

    As much as anything, this event was the more sadder because the Vengeance was brand new, [completed with the Triumph and the Venerable in late 1944] and never saw action [although she was present at the Japanese surrender of Hong Kong] and neither did these two young and wasted souls. Vengeance was earmarked for the massive BPF [British Pacific Fleet] but she never made it getting out into the Far East after the main Japanese surrender in August 1945.  Unlike many in the service at this stage in the long WW2, the twins had no built-up war-stresses to shed, just the enjoyment of attaining the ripe old age of 21, because in those days one got the 'key of the door' on reaching official maturity which was always a good reason to celebrate. Other such related occurrences of siblings were to leave a stain on naval records in 1949 and again in 1960. The habit, formed from warm friendships, of giving sippers, gulpers and even see-it-off [meaning drink all that was in the glass] was pan-navy, and even if attempted by the authorities to put an end to all such practices, would have been an impossible task, so, it was never attempted.  These lower deck habits were of course practiced by those who drew their issue, complicated by those who didn't? For the record, I often bottled my tot into a 28 ounce receptacle that had once hosted a well known whiskey. Many in my last mess of issue times, the forward PO's mess of the frigate HMS Rothesay [F107] also bottled theirs. I can't remember how we "spent" the bottled juice, although it was probably in South Africa, in Simons Town with the South African Navy, our first 'civilised' port of call [not in anyway agreeing with Apartheid - far from it, and our main reason for visiting the SAN was because they had purchased a couple of our Type 12 frigates like the Rothesay] after our whack on Beira Patrol. Just as an aside, the cost of that Patrol was jaw-dropping and our pay in 1969/70 was not generous?  Have a read of this BEIRA_PATROL_1970_ME_IN_ROTHESAY.htm.  See also http://www.godfreydykes.info/REMEMBERING.....Beira%20Patrol.htm

    I have said that commissioned officers were entitled to a free issue of neat rum, but rarely was it consumed by these gentlemen, who viewed men with rum as a lady might have viewed street women with gin, which according to Hogarth, there was enough of it in London to flood the city. Gin, and copious amount of it, was a proverbial contraceptive only in the foulest sense because it was designed to trigger a miscarriage or self-administered abortions. These officers [known about but I dare say not condoned] used this rum as a bargainer, especially to their stewards for favours in food taken on the mess table in the wardroom or when seated in comfortable armchairs in the wardroom ante room, or in the privacy of their own cabin. Moreover, "rabbits" were a larger part of daily life in the navy than as of late, although the need for them still exists even in the 21st century navy! Rabbits were pieces or artefact made by skilled artisans or artificers using suitably available material sculling around the vessel or procured from buddy-artisans employed in dockyards or repair facilities ashore, to be used to enhance the wardroom [if commissioned by the wardroom president [the second in command and the ships commander] or a personal cabin, chest, whatever, which often ended up in the private homes of the officers. Basically, any favour could be bought with rum, and they were!  When rum for commissioned officers was stopped there was hardly a murmur or a comment and certainly not an adverse comment. It was very different when in 1918 warrant officers rum was stopped, and a comment in their famous naval journal even went as far as accusing the government of a poor reward for four years of hell!  But perhaps the worst creatures of all were lower deckers with diverse opportunities and customers. They had one thing in common and that is that they didn't drink their rum issue when registered as 'G', neat or grog, and note, some were bonafide abstainers and thus non-drinkers, whereas many others weren't?  Senior rates who were so-called temperance, would bottle their issue UNLESS they had a customer at the point/time of issue in which case their tot would be sold in situ for hard cash: if not, the sale would come later from their bottle. A junior rate however, had to sell his tot [for hard cash] at the point of issue, although many had contracts with a nominated mess mate, the sellers tot going straight to the buyer for the period of the contract. The money paid was small, and the very act led to jealousy, fights, several causing death, mafias for the pros and cons with the very word 'temperance' viewed by the majority on the messdecks as another word for Shakespeare's 'Shylock' or a pariah!  Selling, at whatever cost, something given free, was abhorrent!

    This jealousy led to 'telling tales' and the tales eventually reached the highest levels, the Admiralty Board. In turn this led to a solution which was to benefit all except for the hard drinkers [rum rats] and the current [and historic] sellers, for they were readily weeded out and dealt with accordingly. Many of the sellers were fined heavily often losing up to eight weeks pay.

    The following is taken from a House of Commons debate.

    Hon. Members proposed that the Admiralty should give the seamen the equivalent of their rum ration in victuals or money. To give the equivalent, and very much more than the equivalent, in victuals—that was, in tea, sugar, and chocolate—was exactly what the Admiralty proposed to do. To give the equivalent in money, and much more than the equivalent for what the rum actually cost the Government, was what the Admiralty did already. What hon. Members meant was that they should give the sailor what he could sell his rum for on board ship, or what he could buy it for at a public-house on shore. And what was that sum? The actual cost of a gallon of rum to the Government was 1s. 5d. last year. It now had mounted to 1s. 9d. The savings price allowed by the Government to the sailor was at present 3s. a gallon. The value of the gallon in the grog-shop would be 15s. The average cost of the rum to the Navy for each year was £15,000 to £16,000. The savings, which were taken by about 2,800 people, came to about £2,032 a-year. The tea and sugar ration, which was taken by about 1,200 people, was about £750 a-year. That was to say, the rum ration and its equivalents at present cost the country about £18,000 a-year, one year with another. The proposals of the Government, which he had detailed in his speech, would, if they were accepted by the whole Navy, cost about £36,000 a-year; but, as the operation of the proposal would be optional and gradual, the burden on the Treasury would be very much less than that. But, while the change for the better, it was hoped and believed, would be very great from the proposal of the Government in proportion to its moderate cost, what would be the result of the proposal? About that there could be no doubt whatever. The proposal of the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms) to make the value of the spirit ration such as would induce the teetotaller to sell it to the Navy instead of to his friends, would entail a burden on the country of over £96,000, and add nearly £80,000 to the Navy Estimates as an inevitable and instant burden. As Secretary to the Admiralty he must say that, if the country was willing to give his Department £80,000 a-year more, there were many ways in which it might be more usefully spent than in raising the pay of the seamen. Our seamen were, considering the rank from which they were drawn, perhaps  the best paid and pensioned among the large bodies of our public servants, and the case with which the flower of the population were attracted into the ranks of the Navy proved that to add £80,000 a-year to those attractions would be an indefensible expenditure of public money which was so much wanted elsewhere. Half that sum would enable the Admiralty to set at rest all the personal questions connected with every branch of all the innumerable Services under their control, and to deprive his hon. Friends the Dockyard Members of a grievance for ten years to come. But he must not recommend the House of Commons, for any purpose whatever, however moral and proper, to add at one sweep so enormously to the pay of our seamen. The Government proposed a tentative measure, which made the first step, and a pretty long one it was—indeed, they had been taking it for the last 20 years—towards substituting wholesome and innocent sustenance for ardent spirits. When they had seen how that worked they, or their Successors, would, if necessary, be ready to go further—if possible, very much further, and even the whole way; but this was as far as they thought it safe and wise to go at present. He could only thank the House for listening with attention while he had detailed the arrangements which the Admiralty had put forward, which, long before the hon. Member had this Motion on the Paper, it was their intention, in a modified shape, to put forward—an arrangement from which it was confidently expected, by those who knew the Navy best, that much good would result with as little arbitrary interference as possible with the habits and the susceptibilities of our seamen.

     

    Here I break my story to say this. We all know that a man who over-steps the mark breaking laws designed for the maintenance of good order and discipline, is punished for his straying from the path of righteousness, as it were. Wikipedia [on its 'Grog' page] suggests that a man who abuses the laws covering alcohol is punished by being given a tot of 6 to 1 instead of 4 to 1.  Note the sheer waste of water if nothing else on this recalcitrant lout, never mind that despite the taste and obvious lack of potency, he is still getting his full rum issue.  I would suggest that far from being given his tot, he would have been punished with stoppages measured in days or weeks [depending upon his erring record] if not awarded second class for conduct and leave, in which case he could say goodbye to all alcoholic intake for a goodly period of time.

    To continue my story.

    To make sure that so-called teetotalers were genuine, all must join the Temperance Society as registered members. Those that didn't and who had previously declared themselves as 'G' ratings but were known [mainly as the results of all the petty jealousies, speaking with one voice against a targeted pariah] to be cheating the system, were locally and temporarily declared persona grata for all matters concerning alcohol subject to investigation. One of the very first duties of the newly introduced leading hand of the mess was to oversee the ceremony on tot time ensuring that all those declared 'G' actually drank their tot and without first giving any part of it to their friends. This he did either in the messdeck proper or in an appointed place usually adjacent to the scuttlebutt. Eventually there were three quite separate and distinct groups, under age, rum drinkers and registered temperance society members. This latter group now had to be rewarded and that reward had to be more than what the hitherto rum seller had received, but less that what the Admiralty paid for the bulk rum received at its depots.  In short, the Admiralty welcomed the 'T' sailor selling to them but more than frowned upon him selling to other sailors. Harmony and uniformity throughout the service was reached, understood and practiced no matter where one was drafted to.

    Throughout all the many years of rum issues, the navy found only one fool proof way of ensuring that the tot was drunk at the point of issue, under close scrutiny and  the 'eye' of authority by a commissioned officer. Like all issues in the navy, not all members of the ship's company could attend the main issues whether that be for pay, rum, tobacco etc, because of their other official ship's duties at the scheduled times. To make sure that all ratings got the their issues on the correct day, a mis-muster would be piped throughout the ship on the Tannoy system.  Whatever the product, this would involve the duty officer of the day, duty regulating branch staff [naval police] and the detailed supply and secretarial rating[s] - known as Jack Dusties [for stores victuals and rum] and writers [for pay] -  to attend a little ceremony at which the product would be given to the ratings now in their leisure-time: this usually occurred in the first dog-watch - 1600 to 1800. In the case of a mis-muster rum issue, the rating would be seen to consume his tot free of all abuses and peer pressures, while the issuing staff looked on!

    Whilst alcohol was the root of all personal destruction, it wasn't necessarily rum! Between 1870 and 1885, 16% of the officer corps [800 officers in all] were court marshaled, the majority of whom were charged with drunkenness or associated offences. The main offenders were young officers and old and bold warrant officers.  The punishments ranged from dismissal to severe reprimands with reduction of pay. Although the abuses had lessened, come 1890 the problem remained. The lower deck was even less restrained! Other factors occasionally raised their ugliness and in 1929 the navy witnessed an upsurge in homosexuality, contained and suppressed by KR&AI [Kings Regulations and Admiralty Instructions].

    See also these pages perhaps at a later time which are all relevant to my story and of great interest, particularly I think the 1933 story and the Grog story: http://www.godfreydykes.info/ONE%20TOO%20MANY!.htm - http://www.godfreydykes.info/THE_NAVAL_TOT_THE_LAST_CARD_CLIP.htm - http://www.godfreydykes.info/ALCOHOL_WAS_A_SERIOUS_PROBLEM_IN_THE_NAVY_OF_THE_1970s.htm
    http://www.godfreydykes.info/NAVY%20RUM%20ISSUE%20IN%20THE%201933%20PERIOD.htm - Lady Astor was well known for saying stupid, often offensive, and utterly wet statement, observations and remarks. This file has one, but so does this. In it she reasons that since ratings can register for rum issue as a Temperance [T] and by so doing get a cash payment in lieu of rum, that teetotal wardroom officers should be eligible for a similar payment. Read on, but first note the date [1945] sixty four years after wardroom rum was stopped in 1881.


     http://www.godfreydykes.info/ROYAL_NAVY_1740s_and_the_start_of_British_naval_rum_issue.html


    http://www.godfreydykes.info/GROG%20-%20written%20in%201895%20by%20F.H.%20Miller.htm  - an excellent document mentioning many interesting facets about the naval tradition of rum. F.H. Miller was a naval officer given to authoring several topical issues in the 19th century.

    In 1938 [the year I was born], under the office of the second Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith, the grog rum issue was changed from 3&1 to 2&1 see this 2_and_1.htm file which remained that until the very last issue.

    It was published in February 1939 the year the real war broke out and before that it was called the phony war. By this time we had a new 2SL.

    The manning level of the navy at this point was 134,000 men: in 1941 it was 405,000, 1945 it was 865,000. In 1970 the manning level was 87,500 and the boss-man was Admiral Sir Andrew Lewis. By 1938 those criteria we all know today were fully established, viz aged 20 to qualify; neat rum was issued as ⅛ of a gill; grog was 2-1; 'T' money was paid although it was no longer necessary to be registered with the Temperance Society; splice-the-mainbrace was an event in waiting; CO's have the authority to issue a standard tot of rum to officers under their command subjected to unusual, arduous, dangerous and health-threatening employment of a moderately lengthy period. This was available for officers directly exposed to the ravages of the sea especially in northern latitudes [Russian Convoys for example], surface ships with open bridges, and surfaced submarines without sailfins required to keep long watches on the bridge when diving was not an option - tell me about it!  During WW2 Customs and Excise started to investigate the free issue of rum and concessionary issue of tobacco. After the war, almost on a continuous basis, they were always on the look out for naval perks! See CUSTOMS_AND_EXCISE.htm.

     

    What follows is a very useful article which I have copied from an excellent book written by Captain John Wells RN  CBE DSC Deceased [a near neighbour of mine at HillBrow, a hamlet near Petersfield Hampshire in the period 1984 until his death in early 1997] called The Royal Navy An Illustrated Social History 1870-1982. Captain Wells  records the deaths of the Wardle twin sailors but not by name or ship, as being aged 18 whereas Admiralty files show the age of 21.

    Captain John Wells RN Deceased.pdf

    Other sibling deaths due to rum abuse as mentioned by Captain Wells for 1949 and 1960 are not available in the public domain: 1949 opens in 2024 and are closed for 75 years, and 1960 is not yet digitised, but it too will have a log 'wait to view' period!

    Moving on but looking backwards to previous times in previous paragraphs, specifically to my references to sailors not being fed after 4pm daily until 7am the next day.

    In August 1881 [yes, 89 years before rum was abolished] a man called W.H. Smith [which you all must have heard of on the high street] famous for its stationery, books, cards etc, spoke in the House of Commons.  Just to put you in the picture about this despicable man, I have taken the following snippet from my web page  http://www.godfreydykes.info/Let_us_now_look_at_some_of_the_written_data_about_boys_training.html - No need to open this link, just read the snippet below!

    1879 This file, more than any other I have researched  [well in excessive of 10,000] I find totally offensive.  Moreover, I would associate this mans actions and statements as being typical of mealy-mouthed, self opinionated,  'blow you Jack' and all the other polite assertions I can muster against someone I would truly hate as being a TYPICAL BRITISH MP or LORD. Read this very short file first I have no words for such an evil man !.htm  His claim that  the boys were "exceedingly happy" sticks in my throat. Thinking that 24 strokes of the birch or 12 cuts [the cane] were appropriate to the list he offered, one of which was "filthy language" is outrageous, and I would forcibly add, that the vast majority of the current Ganges Association of old boys would have been so punished given their well known profanities and vulgarisms.  He had just recently answered a question in the house about the supposed death of the Irish boy Michael Reardon, and he had admitted that boys like him where tied down and probably gagged before being assaulted by some perverted ships corporal or master at arms.  His utterance was universal,  meaning that all training ships punished boys in this manner and not just HMS Ganges. Mr W H Smith, for those of you who do not know, is the founder of the book shop W.H. SMITH. The Gilbert & Sullivan song with the famous line "now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Nav-ee" from HMS Pinafore was aimed at his appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty. Because of this, I would never again enter a W H Smiths bookshop.

    So, in that year 1881, I think it fitting that you should view and read for yourselves the feelings felt in Parliament about rum in the navy. I doubt whether anybody can better this snippet or more accurately define the feeling back so long ago.

    The often mentioned issue of chocolate was of course what we in the early 1950's called Kye [sometimes spelt differently], and as all things in the navy, there are said to be many derivations of the word. Note that in many cases it is said that Kye first entered the naval phrase books in WW1 but this wasn't the case, as reference is made not only in this debate file, but also at the 'front' in the First Boer War of 1882. From that period it is believed that our word Kye was in fact the word QI [still pronounced as Kye, Kwy whatever] which meant "Queens Issue" Queen of course being Queen Victoria. Sailors didn't have many friends in high places looking after their needs, but jack saw Her Majesty as a friend. In the Second Boer War 1899-1901 Queen Victoria actually sent the troops a tin of chocolates as a personal gift. During WW1 three other Royal Ladies kept up the practice of sending gifts to the soldiers and sailors at the fronts, Queen, Alexandra, Queen Mary and Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, her daughter. Queen Mary [Princess Mary of Teck at that time] was the wife of Prince George a long serving naval officer [14 years, and only to be forced out when his father King Edward VII became King]. He was created the Prince of Wales in lieu of his elder brother Clarence who had died, and in 1910 became King George V.  Sailors of my time had the pleasure of drinking this [or supping it, it being so thick and usually very hot by design]: it also had another agenda when it was quite often laced with bromide - I'll leave that to you to decipher!  It was also a bloody good laxative. However, it demanded water, lots of it, which tended not to be a suitable "gift" in early petrol or later diesel-electric submariners, such were our water restrictions!  Whilst it never took the place of a well prepared and generous nine-o'clockers [a supper negating the need to have an empty stomach between the evening meal and breakfast the following day] it was definitely a 'food' rather than a drink or a beverage, and designed that way of course. It was also something one could keep down in rough weather throughout the night watches [first, middle and morning]: always readily available and generous in quantity, and yes quality, and was always served up to the recipient in white tin mugs, which in my early days was an item of personal kit.  Regrettably, at the introduction of the Military Salary in 1970 when sailors for the first time had to pay for their food and accommodation albeit from a salary exactly the same as for married personnel, so quite a hike from what was, all 'perks' were withdrawn including QI, although it was still possible to get the chocolate bars from which QI was made well into the mid 70's . Enjoy the following read which truly sets the scene.

    AN_AUGUST_1881_HOUSE_OF_COMMONS_DEBATE_ON_THE_RUM_ISSUE.htm All or any E & O's found blame Hansards Staff!

    Whilst not quite so elegant as the rum debate in 1881, this was a debate in the house - January 1970 -  [with some flippancies] which took place when the case for jack-tar was already lost!

    To set the scene, the protagonist is a guy called James Trueloved [what a lovely name] and he had served as a leading seaman [having joined as a boy seaman when aged 16] during WW2 in the Royal Navy, so he at least had some idea as to how the navy worked, upper deck versus lower deck. This is a very shortened obituary. James joined as "youth" although it states as a "boy" in September 1942 and trained at HMS St George on the Isle of Man. There is no public record to say how long he remained in the navy, but clearly, given these dates and his stated rate, he would have seen the rest of WW2 out until 1945!

    JAMES_WELLBELOVED_OBITUARY.htm

    28_JANUARY_1970_HOUSE_OF_COMMONS_DEBATE_ON_THE_ABOLITION_OF_RUM.htm

    Rum, or the romantic vision of it in a swashbuckling navy, always amuses me when I see, at naval reunions particularly, the tradition [what bloody tradition?] of the issue of rum being re-enacted. A good eighth of the participants, if in the navy in 1970 were 'UA's', while many others were not even in the navy at that time! Without being branded a killjoy, I reckon that ID cards of the type asked from baby-faced drinkers in public houses when there is doubt of their age, should be a prerequisite to joining the queue of celebrants on these celebrations. Hence, were it to be introduced [some hope, but I am only teasing anyway of course] you would have to prove that you were born no later than the 31st July 1950. Thus, at a 2018 reunion [say] yet to come, you would be at least 68 years of age!  My, how that queue would be reduced and what fewer lamp swinging sessions we would all have to tolerate, or should that be 'grin and bear'?

    I can't ever recall it happening in general service [surface fleet] which I was in for one year as a tot-drawer from 1958 [my 20th birthday after five years in the navy] until 1959 before joining boats and again from 1969 until abolition on returning to general service, another year, so two in all, but it happened regularly in boats in the Chief and PO's Mess of which I was a member for seven years [1962 to 1969]: all in all a rum-drawer for 12 years = 2 in GS, 3 in boats as a junior rate and 7 in boats as a senior rate.  The bottling of rum, previously mentioned for individuals, had also a corporate bottle for the use of mess members when in harbour and in entertainment mode. I remember ours being a large bottle, much bigger than my personal 28 ouncer. This was called QUEENS, and however viewed if was achieved by sheer cheating, nothing less. The device used did not rob the boats accounting system and therefore not the Admiralty's which ceased to function in 1964 in favour of the MOD[N] [Ministry of Defence Navy] thereafter. It robbed the junior rates fannies [one for seamen and one for stokers] pre-watering and therefore post watering  'grog' of a relatively small amount daily of neaters* 'the word used for neat rum'  [hardly discernable to the 2&1 drinker] and that short-changing ended up as a tiny addition to requirement in our fanny and hence our Queen's bottle.

    * The word neaters was a pan navy expression, lower and upper deck, but when referring to the grog strength the lower deck always said 2&1, 1&1 for example, whilst many on the upper deck called it twoers, threers and oners as shown in this file.

    The_Times_1925-03-20 oners twoers threers and neaters.jpg

    This was achieved by the Archimedes Principle, or as we used to say the submarine effect: when a submarine is on the surface it acts like a ship displacing [moving] an amount of water which is the equivalent of the weight of the submarine, and when it dives it floods its many ballast tanks and if necessary the buoyancy tank used for emergency dives [quick  flooding and a big tank] making the submarine heavier - it therefore displaces more water to match the new weight of the boat - simple, eh? Next time you look at a submarines data, have a look for the dived displacement which is always much greater than when on the surface. What we did was to get a man with very big and fat fingers, one of which [at least] was in the measuring vessel, full of rum to the top of the lip before the finger was added, which was tipped into a second vessel just short of a full measure displacing an amount of rum to the same value as the weight or bulk of his finger. When so many tots had been dished out measured in gills and parts thereof, the vessels had added to them, double the amount of the rum as water, and the vortex effect of the water gushing in stirred the concoction. As an example: if the junior rates mess had say 20 members all of whom where registered as 'G', 20 x ⅛ of a gill is added to the mixing vessel = 2¼ pints [using imperial measurement, slightly over]. To that would be added 4½ pints of water giving a total liquid value of 6¾ pints. If, say with a port visit coming up our Queens bottle looked sad, that same submarine effect could, with permission and agreement, be used to add to the contents from mess members issues; other than that,  personal bottles could supplement the Queens so as to avoid any embarrassment as a host-mess! Personally, I would have preferred more body-washing, teeth-cleaning and even dhobying water, than seeing what to us with our severe limits on the use of fresh water, generous amounts of water being consumed by junior rates in the forward messes, when the "lads" could have had a 1&1 mix, even with restrictions like the old navy for example, half their tot at lunch time and the other half with their supper.  However, lateral thinking was only for the intelligent?

    One of those good old traditions of Splice the Mainbrace.

    Looking on with envious eyes [at least for this photograph] are non-starred officers in the rear [captains downwards]. Here we see the age old naval tradition of downing a tot, in this case [being polite]  2&1, by our leaders who are from left to right Admiral Nimitz USN, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser and General Spaatz USAF* take a tot of rum with the ship's company of HMS DUKE OF YORK. Admiral Chester W Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Allied naval forces in the Pacific, has received the order of the Knight Grand Cross of the Bath, one of the highest orders in the British Empire. Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, Commander in Chief of the British Pacific Fleet, representing his majesty King George VI, bestowed the decoration aboard his flagship HMS DUKE OF YORK at Guam, hence the sash being worn by the American admiral. The occasion was the defeat of the Japanese nation in August 1945.

    * General Staatz had until March 1945 been the general [lieutenant general] in charge of the Strategic Air Force in Europe working hand in hand in glove with both our chiefs, namely Lord Dowding [C-in-C RAF Fighter Command] and Arthur Harris [C-in-C RAF Bomber Command] in the total destruction of Germany. On the 11th March he was promoted to the rank of General and moved to the far east theatre as the Commander of the Strategic Air Force Pacific. Needless to say that commissioned officers were not normally included in the mainbrace ceremony, but on this occasion, I like to think that all in the ship, including those envious eyes, got their tot for a job well done. A huge mega BZ to all involved!

    As I was saying, the rum flowed like water at the fall of the Japanese empire in August 1945 - not that it didn't in May 1945 at the fall of the Third Reich. Here we are still in the Duke of York flagship of the British Pacific Fleet playing host to US Forces by way of a tot of 2&1.

    Now come on lads - isn't this what girls are really for? Wrens [bless 'em] bringing rum jars onboard a ship docked at Harwich in 1943 which had been supplied from the massive naval stores depot at Deptford.

    A typical scene at the top of the ceremony - when size does matter!
    Rum issue time on board the battleship HMS King George V. The duty officer, in this case a sub lieutenant observes whilst a stores petty officer calls out the messes and the numbers in that mess victualled at 'G' ratings. The two Royal Marines then fill the rum fanny's carried by a representative of the mess with the requisite amount of grog. You will recall that the KG5 with the battleship Rodney were the big-hitters which helped to put the Bismarck on the bottom of the Atlantic! Note the 'officialdom' of wearing head-gear, any head-gear will suffice!

    Start 'em young I say! Prince Charles receiving a miniature rum tub from the youngest rating on board the carrier HMS Eagle affectionately watched over by Her Majesty.

    A WW1 scene, but obviously head-gear was not too important during a war? Notice the word "GROG" ! The sailor holding his mess rum fanny by the lip instead of by the carrying handle is dressed in a different uniform to that of other lower deck ratings. His tunic suit [jacket and trousers] look the same as that worn by a petty officer but the serge material was of a coarser weave, his buttons were black instead of guilt, and his hat badge was red instead of a mixture of colours including silver and gold. He belonged to either the supply and secretarial branches [ships company cook, officers cook, steward, writer, stores] - or - sick bay - or - Coder - or junior artisan [plumber, painter, caulker, joiner and others] - or - junior artificer [engine room or electrical].

    Note how few men are wearing facial hair? And what's this, a man wearing a Van Dyke. 1869 saw the introduction of beards with moustaches. This is clearly a capital ship where discipline was always maintained unlike a much smaller vessel, but in war time, things [and rightly] appear to be relaxed!

    Look to the second man behind our differently dressed sailor.

    Incidentally, the guy in front of him must come from a large broadside mess - note his two fanny's.
    Note the large gap between the B and the L in the word BLESS!


    From the big ship ceremony to the small ceremony, this one ashore in Malta at the RN Signal Station on top of Valletta Palace. The supervising officer is on the left of the group.

    Leading to the darn right informal. These two men, one a PO and the other a leading seaman were employed in the UNDERWATER WORKING PARTY. APRIL 1944, GIBRALTAR. MEN OF THE "UNDERWATER WORKING PARTY", WHOSE JOB IT IS TO EXAMINE UNDERWATER FITTINGS, DIVE WEARING ONLY THEIR SWIMMING TRUNKS, BREATHING APPARATUS AND GLASSES. RATINGS CAN VOLUNTEER FOR THIS COLD JOB, FOR WHICH THEY GET EXTRA PAY. AFTER TWO DIPS EACH MAN IS ALLOWED A TOT OF RUM.

    At Gibraltar still, Lieutenant in Charge, Lieutenant Lionel Crabb, RNVR of the Underwater Working Party wearing some of his diving gear. Eventually, and when back in Portsmouth as a commander after the war, his headless body was found in the harbour after he had carried out an underwater survey of the visiting Russian Cruiser Ordzhonikidze.

    Slightly more formal [at least they all have head gear on] but still very relaxed is this ceremony on a small corvette in the North Sea during WW2. One officer witnessing, one stores PO ticking-off, one coxswain pouring direct from jar to measure to fanny [OK -jug] and four mess representatives taking the issue below to thirsty messmates. In those days, overalls were the dress of the day for junior rates.

    and, an in-between panache style, a 1940 minesweeper.  If you haven't got the room for a proper rum tub, an improvisation is the next best thing. Standfast that 'orrible man without a cap, as even at this basic level caps are necessary when duty calls. The RNR officer looks on, the CPO coxswain pours, the PO jack dusty [stores man] ticks off and two ratings collect the rum for all the 'G' junior rates.

    Don't worry lads? We are well stocked so no fears of running out! Rum stacked high in the naval stores depot at Deptford in WW1.

    And when that little lots has gone, there are plenty more gallon jars waiting to be filled ready for fleet issue. What a party we could have when the filling has been completed? Again, spaces galore in the cavernous Deptford Depot.

    And what about rum for special occasions, other than splice the mainbrace? Come Christmas in large ships, this one the carrier Theseus in 1950, a Christmas pudding is made by the ship's chef's, and into that is stirred a generous amount of neat rum. Here we see the admiral [Rear Admiral W G Andrewes, CB, CBE, DSO, RN, Flag Officer 2nd in Command Far East] pouring in a goodly whack with the captain [left] ready to hand over yet another whack. Can't be bad!  Can you see a probability in this picture? Its December, it's cold enough for blue suits and we are in the Far East, so it is probable that Theseus in somewhere north like for example Hong Kong?

    Even the army got into the act though I can't vouch for the rum being up to naval standards. The scene is 1944 and Italy.  While a piper plays, a special rum ration is issued to men of the 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to mark St Patrick's Day in the Anzio bridgehead, 17 March 1944. The PBI [Poor Bloody Infantry] deserved a perk which I trust they enjoyed?

    and they weren't the only pongo's to be well looked after! These guys of the 1st Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment enjoy a tot of rum in a section of trench named 'Pudding Lane', 4th Division near Roubaix, 3 April 1940.

    And out of all these pictures shown, who better deserved a tot than these guys? Battle of Bazentin Ridge, a battle within the Battle of the Somme. Rum issue to men of the 8th Battalion, Black Watch in the Carnoy Valley soon after the return of the 26th Infantry Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division, from heavy fighting in the village of Longeuval, 14 - 19 July.

    And what about below, the waves I mean. Life on board the first Royal Navy nuclear fleet submarine HMS DREADNOUGHT [1960]. Distributing the rum issue.

    Now to a WW2 diesel-electric submarine.  "Up Spirits", smiling G R Gill, of Durham, bringing up the rum jar from the hatchway of HMSM SERAPH, while the submarine was in Holyhead harbour. The word Geordie is written across his jumper.

    LIBERATED POW'S ON THEIR WAY HOME. 4 SEPTEMBER 1945, ON BOARD THE ESCORT CARRIER HMS SPEAKER AS IT CARRIED HUNDREDS OF BRITISH PRISONERS OF WAR LIBERATED FROM TOKYO CAMPS TO MANILLA, THE FIRST STAGE IN THEIR JOURNEY HOME. These ex-prisoners of war drink their first tot of rum since 1941. Left to right: PO Leonard Soper, captured in HMS TAMAR when Hong Kong fell on Christmas 1941; PO Callohane, of Skibbereen, Eire; Yeoman Frederick Mitchell of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs; PO Geoffrey Josey, of Newbury, Berkshire; and PO William Mitchell of Milton, Southsea, Hants. I must say that after four years in captivity they look remarkable well and fit!

    Lance Corporal Walter Ray, Royal Engineers, shares with other Beach Group personnel a bottle of rum he found floating in the sea, Gold area, 6 June 1944. Say no more - who better than these lads to have found it.

    THE GERMAN SPRING OFFENSIVE, MARCH-JULY 1918. Battle of the Lys: Issue of rum and hot tea to the troops of the Royal Field Artillery (55th Division); Bethune.

    Mr Healey, the Defence Secretary [1969] takes a tot of rum, the traditional Navy drink, while meeting Chief Petty Officers in their mess in HMS HAMPSHIRE. Although certainly not a Labour Party voter, for my money Healey was the best Secretary we ever had.

    On a nuclear submarine. The rum has arrived on the junior rates messdeck and a leading hand issues it to the men entitled.

    A somewhat strange picture showing two WRENS with an officer [L rear] and a CPO [right rear] filling glass bottle with rum. Dated 1942. Note the other contraption on table and hanging of walls.

    Well, that should have helped you to understand the main points of the subject-matter, although I image that there are a few of you already bored to death, and if you are, thanks for staying at least part of the way. I personally think it important that we know all these stories to the full where possible.

    Before you go, just a qicky about the most heavily bombed city in the UK during WW2?

    Have a look at this HULL WAS THE MOST SEVERELY DAMAGED BRITISH CITY OR TOWN DURING THE SECOND WORD WAR and when you have read, hit your back button and then look here WW2 HMS BEAVER.pdf

    Take care and go well and safely.....oh!.......and heed the warning implicit in the picture below.

    Yours aye.