Marr Murray.

Drink and the war from the patriotic point of view .. online

. (page 4 of 12)
Online LibraryMarr MurrayDrink and the war from the patriotic point of view .. → online text (page 4 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

voluntary measure on the part of the trade. No
force was brought to bear upon it other than that
of public opinion, and the Government was in no
way responsible for the arrangement, although in
some quarters it has been fathered upon the luckless
Home Secretary. So far as the law is concerned,
the publicans may admit women to their bars at the
same time as the male customers, but the trade has
loyally stood by the agreement it has made.

" There can be no doubt," declared Dr. Wynn
Westcott, the coroner for Hackney, " that the
women of East London have been much more sober
since the rule that they shall not be served in public
houses before 11.30 in the morning came into force.
Of course, Englishmen do not like any interference
with the liberty of the subject, but if women out of
the care of their husbands, who are nobly doing their
duty in the firing line, cannot control themselves,
the authorities must step in. I am pleased to say
that during the past week I have not had to hold an
inquest in a single case of delirium tremens, whereas
a month ago the number of deaths due to drink was

The police and, what is perhaps most important
of all, the societies dealing with cruelty to children
are also satisfied that there has been a great improve-
ment in the state of affairs since the late opening
arrangement came into force. With regard to the
children it should also be noted that the early closing
regulations have proved an equally great boon. In
very many districts the child's bedtime often syn-
chronises with the public-house closing hour. Now
that the hour has been made ten o'clock and in some
places earlier, many a poor, stunted little body is
enjoying for the first time an hour or two of beauty


sleep. It is only necessary to visit Hoxton, or any
other slum neighbourhood, to realise how great has
been the improvement in this direction. In the old
days half-past twelve was a time when hundreds of
weary little ones were waiting for their parents to
come home from the public-house. Now all is quiet
by eleven. What those children have gained in
health and happiness more than makes amends for
any inconvenience with which the public has been
annoyed as a result of the early closing regulations.



THE greatness of Russia's act in prohibiting all
alcohol for the duration of the war lies in the fact that
she was the first power bold enough to put into
practice what had long been admitted on all sides.
There is nothing startling in the discovery that a
soldier is better without alcohol. Every military
commander from Caesar and Napoleon downwards
has recognised that as an elementary truth. But
the soldiers themselves have not realised that it is
not merely in the interest of their country, but in
their own as well, that they should sacrifice all stimu-
lant. Hence all military commanders hitherto have
been forced to choose between two evils : alcohol or
disaffection. A sullen soldier with a fancied grievance
is even worse than a drunken soldier, and so the lesser
evil has always been chosen. But times have changed
and the soldier is capable of understanding that his
tastes and appetites are not the best means of judging
what is good and what is bad for him when there is
serious business to be done. There is no finer example
of the splendid progress made by democracy during
the last few years than the way in which the Russian
troops have accepted the prohibition of alcohol.
They are not grumbling at the sacrifice ; they realise
that it was all for the best. These subjects of the
greatest autocrat of the present day might well be
studied by the inhabitants of those countries which
pride themselves on their democratic ideals.



" Drink kills more soldiers than all our newest
weapons of warfare," was the statement of Lord
Wolseley, who studied the question of the soldier
and alcohol with great thoroughness. In the course
of one of his campaigns he carried out some marching
experiments. He divided some of his men into three
squads. The first was given a daily ration of whisky,
the second a ration of beer, and the third water. At
first the whisky squad out-distanced its rivals, but
was soon overtaken by the beer squad. Both, how-
ever, were passed by the water squad which reached
its destination long before the others and in a far
fitter condition.

Lord Roberts was another eminent advocate of the
advantages of rigid sobriety for the soldier. He
never consumed alcoholic drink of any description
himself, and he maintained his physical and mental
powers undiminished right up to the time of his
death. He had the vigour and alertness of a man of
half his age. Our leaders in the present war are
equally firm in their faith in the value of temperance
for the fighting man. Speaking at Gibraltar some
time ago, Admiral Jellicoe said : " An officer holding
a command which carries with it any measure of
responsibility for the defence of the Empire, must
recognise, as I do, the value of temperance in promoting
fighting efficiency. In the Navy there are three
qualities upon which efficiency mainly depends.
They are discipline, straight shooting and endurance ;
and temperance unquestionably tends greatly to the
promotion of those qualities. In regard to discipline,
one has only to look at the punishment returns to
realise how many of the disciplinary offences are due
at the outset to intemperance. As for endurance,
medical research has amply proved that temperance
is a great asset in improving the physical qualities
and therefore the endurance of the human race.
And our own personal experience tells us not to


drink alcohol before a football match or a boat race.
As regards straight shooting, which is so largely a
question of eye, it is every one's experience that
abstinence is necessary for the highest efficiency."

When Lord Kitchener smashed the power of the
dervishes in the Soudan he issued the most stringent
orders in regard to drink. That campaign was a
model of efficiency ; everything was carried out with
the smoothness of a well-oiled machine and there are
few feats of organisation in the annals of the British
Army which can compare with it. But the only
" neck oil " used was the water of the Nile. Officers
and men drank nothing else. And in spite of a hard
campaign in the broiling heat of the desert, the
troops remained remarkably fit and well throughout
the war.

To every member of the Expeditionary Force
Lord Kitchener addressed a message, in which the
following words occurred : " Your duty cannot be
done except your health is sound. So keep con-
stantly on your guard against any excesses. In this
new experience you may find temptations both in
wine and women. You must entirely resist both

Those words were of more value than any number
of regulations. They constituted a direct personal
appeal from man to man, and all ranks, down to the
humblest private, felt that he was in honour bound
to do his best to live up to the spirit of the words
which the Field-Marshal had addressed to him. The
personal touch is the most potent of all forces for
influencing the British fighting man. Drake, Nelson,
Wellington and " Bobs " owed not a little of their
success to their personality. And the same pheno-
menon is apparent to-day. Lord Kitchener is grim
and stern ; the popular conception of him is a man of
iron without a shred of emotion in his composition.
But^there is a " something " about him which gives


him a hold over the hearts of the men, so that the
mere mention of his name is sufficient to make them
hold their heads another half-inch higher.

With a view to safeguarding the men from the
misplaced generosity of their friends at home the
authorities have decided that no gifts of spirits, beer,
or any other alcoholic drink will be allowed to be sent
to any man in the Army or Navy. In South Africa,
where the condition of affairs was at one time rendered
critical by reason of the rebellion of the Dutch farmers,
drastic regulations were issued. A " Government
Gazette Extraordinary " was issued notifying that
in all magisterial districts in the Union of South
Africa " the sale of intoxicating liquor to members
of the Union Defence Forces without permission of
their Commanding Officer is prohibited. At any
place where any portion of the Union Defence Forces
is stationed the Senior Military Officer in Command
for the time being may by written order under his
hand close any or all licensed premises including
clubs either entirely or between hours specified in
the Order. Any licensee who (a) supplies liquor to
a member of the Union Defence Forces without
requiring the production to him or his assistant of the
written permission of his Commanding Officer; or
(b) fails to close his premises during the hours specified
in any order aforesaid; or (c) otherwise supplies
liquor to persons except during the hours and on the
conditions permitted under these regulations ; shall
have his premises closed at once for the sale of liquor
for a period of not less than one week, or such longer
period as the Senior Military Officer at the place may,
with the sanction of the Minister of Defence, direct."
A note appended stated that " the Government
intends to take steps to cause the permanent cancella-
tion of a licence in the case of a licensee who commits
a serious or a repeated breach of these regulations."

Those who are acquainted with Johannesburg and


other mining towns and districts will realise that a
year ago measures half as drastic as these would
have resulted in nothing short of a rebellion.

Lord Kitchener has also expressed himself strongly
on the subject of the treating of soldiers by civilians.
This habit, which arises from quite natural impulses,
is in many cases criminal. A visit to Waterloo,
Victoria, or any other station where troops congregate,
will be quite sufficient to show that by far the greater
proportion of drinking among the soldiers is due to the
misplaced enthusiasm of their civilian friends. Every-
body is naturally anxious to wish his soldier friend
good luck when he goes off to the front and to welcome
him on his return, but there are many better ways of
doing it than by making him drunk.

If he happens to be wounded, generosity may
become manslaughter. The following extract from
the Daily Mail is quite sufficient evidence on this

" A few days ago, in this town, we buried a soldier
who had been invalided home from the war, where he
had made a good stand. He was in hospital there
and progressing well. He had been in a terrible
condition body wounded, nerves shattered. One
day, when he had become convalescent, he asked for
a couple of hours' leave, which was granted. Four
hours after leaving the hospital he arrived back,
drunk with whisky ! Next day, after a terrible
night of delirium, he was dead ! He had fought the
enemy away yonder in the trenches, and he came
home to be killed by a greater enemy within our own
doors !

" From the lips of a friend who has trained nearly
two hundred men who are now serving in the Ambul-
ance Corps at home and abroad, I learn that a very
large percentage of our men who are invalided home
are in a dreadful nervous condition, in which the


administration of alcohol means collapse and almost
certain death. Shall we allow these gallant men to
have their lives imperilled at home, where they
come for us to nurse them back to health so that
they may be able to fight again for us and our
country? "

In this connection it is interesting to note that
whereas 85 per cent, of the Russian wounded are able
to return to the firing line the British percentage is
only 65. This striking difference, the seriousness of
which is apparent when it is considered that every
man possible is needed for the task before us, is un-
doubtedly due to the fact that whereas the Russian
wounded when convalescent cannot be treated to
alcoholic drinks by their friends, the British wounded
and their friends find the public-house conveniently
open the moment they are allowed to leave the

Of course, all the drinking among the soldiers is
not due to treating. There is a minority of drunken
soldiers just as there is a minority of drunken butchers
and drunken candlestick-makers. The worst of such
minorities is that they are troublesome and attract
far more attention than the sober majority.

A visit to Woolwich, Chatham, or any other
garrison town gives the impression that the British
soldier's sole concern is for strong drink and loose
women. The sensational observations of those who
describe what they have seen in such places must,
no matter how honest the intentions of the writer,
be watered down very considerably. The average
British soldier is not to be found in the public-houses
or lurching along the streets.

However, there is no doubt that this drunken
minority caused a good deal of trouble, especially
during the early stages of the war. Thus, the
Solicitor- General for Ireland has given some striking


figures in regard to the drunkenness among the Droops
in Dublin, and, on behalf of the military authorities,
asked to have the Dublin public -houses closed at
8 p.m. On Saturday, October 31, out of 5000 troops
who had leave for the evening no fewer than 659
returned to barracks under the influence of drink.
General Friend, the commander of the troops, and
Brigadier-General Hill gave confirmatory evidence.
The latter said that drunkenness unfitted the men for
their duties, and especially for active service. He was
bound to add that the great majority of the men
under his command in the Dublin district were
teetotalers, and of 10,000 troops now in Dublin 70 per
cent, were Irish. At least one in every four, there-
fore, of the drinkers returned that night intoxicated,
unless, as probably was the case, some total abstainers
fell under the fierce temptations to which at such a
time they are subjected.

" My own impression," says the Bishop of Liver-
pool, " is that at the present time there is mucfe more
public drunkenness than ever I have known since
I came to Liverpool fifteen years ago. At all events,
there are more evident signs of it, and as an ounce
of fact is worth a pound of theory, let me state what
I have seen myself. A few Sunday nights ago I went
to see off my two sons one to the front and the
other to the south of England by the mail train.
I saw there a sight which I shall never forget. The
departure platform of Lime Street Station was
crowded from end to end. Here were three drunken
sailors with linked arms, rolling up the platform to
the train; here were soldiers, leaning against each
other and supporting each other, trying to find their
carriage; here were friends, themselves half-intoxi-
cated, seeing off Valf-drunken men whom they had
been treating. The whole place was a pandemonium.
There were drunken shouts, drunken songs, and a
babel of conflicting sounds. An officer returning to


the front, a complete stranger to me, turned to me
and said, ' What a disgusting sight ! If these men
were at the front they would be shot at once.' It was
the saddest send-off I ever saw, and it was a scandal
and a disgrace to a great city."

Paradoxical though it may seem, the military

authorities are serving the men in the trenches with

spirits, although the giving of presents of alcoholic

drinks to the troops is rigorously banned. At a time

when the whole force of medical, military and public

opinion is in favour of temperance reform the War

Office has chosen this opportunity of re-introducing

the old rum ration. Only recently orders for 500,000

gallons of rum were placed by the authorities. In

ordinary circumstances a small " tot " of rum does

no harm to a man. Rum is one of the purest and

healthiest alcoholic drinks that a man can take. But

life in the trenches is carried on under abnormal

conditions and what may not harm a man in ordinary

civil life may have very serious effects on a man who

has to spend days and nights on end in a water-logged

trench in Flanders. It is not unfair to compare life

in the trenches during the winter months with that

endured by Arctic explorers. Indeed, that is the only

comparison possible. And it is well-known that

Captain Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and every other

modern explorer of the Arctic or Antarctic regions

would no more dream of taking alcohol on their

journeys than they would of taking a sunshade.

They may be moderate drinkers when at home, but

once in the ice-bound regions of the poles, all alcohol

is rigorously excluded. These men have learnt in the

best of all schools, practical experience, that alcohol,

no matter how moderately it may be consumed, is a

positive menace when hardships have to be endured

and the thermometer is in the neighbourhood of zero.

They have had unique opportunities for testing the

truth of the popular belief that alcohol " keeps out


the cold," and they have found that it does nothing
of the sort, but that by lowering the vitality it actually
lets in the cold.

The more the matter is considered the more strange
it seems that the military authorities should have
chosen to revive the old habit of issuing spirits to the
soldiers. Sir Victor Horsley, undoubtedly one of the
finest surgeons of the day and an authority whose
words are well worthy of attention, has made a special
study of the whole subject. Writing in the British
Medical Journal he says

" The spirit-drinking habit was first contracted by
the British Army in Flanders during Marlborough's
campaign at the beginning of the eighteenth century,
and no doubt it gained some hold because the fatal
notion that spirits have some sort of medicinal value
had come down through the Commonwealth wars from
the Tudor period, when spirits were prepared and
sold by apothecaries alone under the curiously
mendacious title of aqua vitae.

"It is more than a national misfortune that this
miserable story of 200 years ago is being repeated
in spite of the expressed opinions of Lord Kitchener,
and that our Army in Flanders is again being taught
(by the issue of rum from home this time) to become
victims of the spirit-drinking habit, thus undoing
the great work of Lord Wolseley and of Lord Roberts
during the past forty years for army reform and,
above all, army efficiency. At this point it must also
be remembered, for the sake of our honour as a
profession, that the Army Medical Service, though
an absolutely essential part of His Majesty's forces,
has not only never been accorded a proper place in
the administration of military affairs, but even now
has no representative on the Army Council, con-
sequently the medical profession cannot be held to
be primarily responsible to the nation for errors in


the vital question of army hygiene and the medical
and surgical care of the soldier.

" In fact, the Army is still, even in 1915, constitu-
tionally, and in spite of the efforts of the British
Medical Association, in a similar state to that of the
days of Queen Anne, when the medical officers of
Her Majesty's forces had no real position and when
the interests and health of the soldier were treated
by tradition and beliefs instead of science.

" It was during the eighteenth century, therefore,
that the spirit ration became part and parcel of the
soldier's diet, and hideous punishments that is,
floggings and other tortures were inflicted in order
that discipline (so-called) should be preserved among
the unfortunate men whose moral was ruined by the
rum given to them by their superiors.

" The first scientific evidence that physical injury
was caused to troops by the rum ration is contained,
as far as I know, in the very interesting memoir by
Sir James McGrigor (afterwards Principal Medical
Officer of the Army Medical Service) on the health
of the Expeditionary Force which the British Govern-
ment brought from India to Egypt in 1801. Promin-
ent among his facts is the record that in an extremely
trying desert march and subsequent movement down
the Nile, the men ' had no spirits delivered out to
them, and not only did they not suffer from this,
but it contributed to the uncommon degree of health
which they at this time enjoyed.'

" Perhaps the most striking practical demonstration
on a large scale of the harm immediately done to
armies by a spirit ration was the experience of
McClellan's great army on the banks of the Potomac
River in 1862, when, after several weeks of severe
hardships in trenches, battles, and exposure to wet,
it was determined to issue a spirit ration under the
belief that it would, inter alia, help to stop bowel
complaints, which were very common. By most of


the army it was accepted as a boon, but after one
month the ration was withdrawn because drunkenness,
dysentery, and diarrhoea had increased.

" Subsequently the medical officers of the 4th Corps,
being ordered to report on the sickness in the camps,
unanimously stated that ' the use of the whisky
(the form of spirit used) ration was injurious, and the
Principal Medical Officer of General Smith's Division
reported not only that " the whisky had increased
bowel affections," but also " that it was nothing but
an unmitigated source of evil." '

" Very many military medical records of precisely
the same kind can be cited, but I will only quote
one other authority. Inspector General William
Fergusson has graphically described his experiences
of the havoc, misery, and crime caused by the rum
ration in the first half of the nineteenth century
among our soldiers as follows. After saying that no
one would propose to inoculate the troops with an
incurable and destructive disease, he continues

" ' Yet by making the rum ration an article of daily
diet we have done worse than this, and taken the
most effectual means of destroying both the mind
and the body, the moral sense and physical powers
of the individual, the general discipline of the Army,
and the national character of the country.'

" All the evils of which these early writers spoke
have been thoroughly exposed and denounced through
the last hundred years by all the professors of hygiene
in the military college and by all army leaders and
generals sincerely interested in the welfare of the

" The disasters of the Crimea campaign in which
rum was regularly issued and the effect of many years
of condemnation and protests by military hygienists
and authorities, caused a cessation of the rum evil
almost to its extinction until about thirty years ago


when the rum ration was specifically declared by
the Regulations to be reserved for the exceptional
occasions of flying columns.

" Even in 1897 the issue of rum made under the
Army Regulations was still restricted to flying
columns, and each ration was obliged to be paid for,
namely, Id. by the man receiving it. (This payment
for the rum ration has this year [1914] been abolished,
and the rum is now freely distributed to all.)

" During the next decade the use of the rum ration
was pushed forward by the authorities, and in 1910
the Regulation read thus

" ' On very exceptional occasions, such as during
wet or cold weather at manoeuvres, etc.'

" This, of course, opened the door much more
widely to a general issue of rum, and the traditional
and absurd excuse of exposure to wet or cold as justify-
ing the issue was for the first time clearly stated in
the Regulations. And now, hi the most recent
edition of the Regulations (September 28, 1914), the
rum ration has been specifically restored to the free
ration dietary of the British soldier in opposition to
both scientific and military experience.

" In the first place, the expression ' manoeuvres '
has been expanded into ' manoeuvres or training*
Consequently the rum can be given out to any one,
whether recruits or trained men, at any time, for
the word ' training ' is unqualified, except by the
initial words of the Regulation on which I will com-
ment directly. In the second place, the proof that
the pernicious rum ration is now completely restored
to the Regulations and dietary of the soldier, to his
injury and ruin, is shown by the following facts.
Until the present year the following paragraph always
completed the rum issue Regulation

" ' As spirits do not form a portion of the ordinary

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryMarr MurrayDrink and the war from the patriotic point of view .. → online text (page 4 of 12)