Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Recommended: Drugs & Alcohol in World War I


Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society has published a fascinating series of five articles on their favorite subject vis-à-vis the Great War.  They have been written with wit and a fine eye for detail by contributing editor Nicholas K. Johnson and are well illustrated. Below are Johnson's introduction to the series and a few of the images used in the articles.


World War I has often been associated with intoxication in popular culture. Cocktails like the French 75, so named for the kick of a common artillery piece, became popular during the interwar period. During the “Spirit of 1914” — a burst of popular enthusiasm upon the war’s outbreak – European intellectuals likened war hysteria to mass intoxication. After the war, Ernst Jünger depicted modern combat as an intoxicating rush (or Rausch) in his popular novelizations of his own experiences on the Western Front. More recently, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire explored drug abuse, alcoholism, and the rise of organized crime through the stories of traumatized World War I veterans Jimmy Darmody and Richard Harrow. This first entry explores how alcoholic intoxicants like wine and absinthe were used and depicted during the war. 

Rum for the British soldiers was shipped to the front in ceramic jugs
stamped 'SRD' (Service Rum Diluted). It was a joke among the
soldiers that it really meant, "Seldom Reaches Destination!"

I couldn't find a one-page index to all the articles without resorting to the search function, so here are the links to all five of them.

1: Poilu and His Wine
https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/world-war-i-part-1-the-french-army-and-wine/

2: The British Rum Ration
https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/world-war-i-part-2-the-british-rum-ration/

3: The American Expeditionary Forces and Prohibition
https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/wwi-part-3-the-american-expeditionary-forces-and-prohibition/

4: The German Army and Intoxication
https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/world-war-i-part-4-the-german-army-and-intoxication/

5:Tobacco in the Trenches
https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/wwi-part-5-tobacco-in-the-trenches/

New Zealanders Receiving Their Rum Ration

4 comments:

  1. Too bad the comments are closed on the alcohol series of items on that site.

    FWIW, a few years ago some writer (Phil Roberts, perhaps) wrote a fascinating in depth article on prohibition in Wyoming and its connection with World War One. While I don't have it in front of me, one of the things I recall is a stunning quote from a Wyoming legislature (Wyoming can hardly be regarded as the epicenter of the temperance movement and had a very open "saloon trade" at the time) to the effect that he'd rather see his boy dead on the battlefield than have him return home with wine on his lips. Amazing.

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  2. Fascinating--and I learned so much by reading each of the five links. Thank you! DB

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  3. Wonderful resources - thanks for sharing. Reminds me of a wonderful poem from WW1 that closes with these lines:
    "Give me peace, a dog, a friend
    And a glass of bitter!"
    http://behindtheirlines.blogspot.com/2015/07/peace-and-pint.html

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  4. And here's a rather harrowing poem that concludes with the line, "And through the wire and home, and got our rum."
    http://behindtheirlines.blogspot.com/2015/09/wrecks-of-no-mans-land.html

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