Princess Mary Christmas Tin
A little late for Christmas but the museum has recently acquired a Princess Mary Christmas Tin.
The history was told recently in the Friends of The Fusilier Museum Warwick newsletter and is reproduced by kind permission of the Museum, the article's author and the brilliant book by Peter Doyle called 'For Every Sailor Afloat. Every Soldier at the Front - Princess Mary's Christmas Gift, 1914. (Unicorn, 2021)' to whom we are most grateful.
Regimental Rugby Team
This month's feature is a photograph of the 1st Battalion's Second XV Rugby team - interesting in that it means there was a First XV!
Date not known but probably 1943/43.
The Colour Party 1948
This month we feature photos of the Royal Review of the Territorial Army in Hyde Parkin 1948. Each of the Territorial units sent a Colour Party to participate.
I am sure many readers will have seen stone jars bearing the letters SRD and (perhaps(?)) wondered what they were!
These are Army rum jars, sometimes called ‘jordies’. It was the practice in the Army to issue soldiers with a tot of rum in arduous conditions. During the First World War this issue was widespread and certainly well received in the trenches. The issue played several roles:
- Providing warmth (and cheer) in cold and damp trenches - probably its most frequent use.
- As a nerve settler - less often than one might suppose
- As a reward, often for arduous or dangerous work (including trench raids and attacks) - sometimes in copious amounts resulting in drunkenness.
- Used externally as a Trench Foot preventer - quite a rare event as most preferred to apply it internally
- As a pain killer
The ration was supposed to be 2 tablespoons full per soldier but was often more and some men did not take their issue and often units were under strength but full rations were drawn/issued.
We are all aware of the danger of excess of alcohol, and whilst modest amounts can provide a boost, in excess it can exacerbate exposure symptoms and give false warmth and a loss of reality; this happened to the troops including The Herefordshire Regiment at Suvla Bay. They were evacuated from the trenches after 4 days of continual rain, snow and freezing conditions, and were much debilitated when they came across dumped rations including full rum jars. Many soldiers drank to excess and curled up to sleep and in the morning were found dead – literally frozen stiff.
To many though their ration was a real warmer and comfort.
The initials SRD were a mystery to many soldiers! Even officially it is not entirely certain what it stood for – the most accepted version is ‘Service Resupply Depot’ but also quoted are ‘Service Rum Diluted’ and ‘Services Rum Department’.
The soldier however interpreted them differently: ‘Soldiers Run Dry’, ‘Soon Runs Dry’ and probably the most favoured ‘Seldom Reaches Destination’! It was generally the Sergeant Major’s job to dole out the rum and trench songs were created around this:
If you want to find the sergeant-major*
I know where he is*
He's boozing up the privates' rum*
One soldier remarked (rather poetically!):
And then there’s rum. Rum of course is our chief great good. The Ark of the Covenant was never borne with greater care than is bestowed upon the large stone rum-jars in their passage through this wilderness. The popularity of rum increases, till the hour when it is served tends to become a moment of religious worship. After the divine pattern, its celebration is administered by priests in the presence of higher dignitaries. When these priests happen to be old-time NCOs, they want watching, or the communicants are apt to go short, to the degradation of the priests.
Sometime soldiers not used to drink over-indulged:
Although not an habitual drinker I enjoyed my Rum ration. On one occasion our corporal had managed to pinch a jordy of Rum, swapping a jordy of Lime Fruit Juice. A generous helping out of this Rum Jordy put me out of gear for nearly two days. They hid me in a dugout and covered me with sandbags till I came round.
However the general opinion was that the Rum ration in moderation was a good thing certainly there were many soldiers that welcomed it and any attempt to withdraw it would have a serious impact on morale. One division did replace the rum ration with hot soup – but it was seldom hot when it reached the trenches and was generally not well received!
The Times in 1916 reported that the import of foreign spirits had increased to 929,000 gallons almost entirely accounted for by the rum issued by Military authorities.
The Royal Navy tot was stopped in 1970 but can be authorized for exceptional circumstances. The Army still issued rum in the Second World war and Korea and there are accounts of rum being carried by LRDG/SAS patrols in North Africa.
Rum can still be issued in the Army, but only under exceptional circumstances and then only on the authority of a Medical Officer. In 33 years service I have only known it be issued once and then the officer did not have medical authorisation and had to justify his decision to the Brigadier and if I remember correctly he had to replace the issue at his own cost!