The story of the demise of the naval tot of rum is now well documented across all media's. On some web sites you will see a card similar to this shown on the left but this one is the best I have ever seen, and worthy of an explanation even to those who drew their tot [neaters or grog] who were part of naval history.

I was in Eagle many years ago [50's], and years before this date when I was 'UA' meaning too young [under 20] to draw a tot, and as you see, this card comes from that ship, the largest one the royal navy ever had, albeit just a few tons above the displacement of her sister the Ark Royal.

The card was issued by the Regulating Office in Eagle on the 16th July 1970 which was a Thursday. The '1st Week' began on Friday the 17th July but the card owner did not use it until Monday the 20th, and during that first week apparently only used it a further two times viz the Tuesday and the Wednesday. The '2nd Week' commenced with Friday 24th and ended on Thursday 30th.  However, note how the card was clipped on the bottom between the 'S' of H.M.S. and the 'E' of Eagle to commemorate the Final Issue day which was on the 31st July 1970. However, in 1969, the Admiralty issued DCI[RN]466/69 which said....The Admiralty noted 'with grave concern' the giving of 'Sippers' and drew attention to QRRN Article 1839[3] which prohibited all 'loan, transfer, gift or barter' of spirits or other intoxicating drink.

For vessels afloat, rum was only issued to all eligible ratings  [those over the age of 20 who had not chosen the option 'T' meaning Temperance] when at sea or in a port, home or abroad, where the ships company continued living onboard, or were victualled ashore as a ships company*.  When in the home port where their families lived, men who lived ashore with their wives were called RA's [Ration Allowance] and were not victualled for rum. Men, single or married, who for whatever reason were victualled ashore  [L&RA] - Lodgings and Ration Allowance, usually because there was no suitable service accommodation - but not living with their wives and families [RA] - were not victualled members for rum.  In shore establishments home and abroad rum was issued to all eligible personnel who were declared 'G' {Grog}. In this latter case, victualled ships company members of ships refitting in local dockyards drew their rum in these establishments. Eligibility was not only age related and an opting to become 'G',  but free of stoppage of grog which was a regular punishment awarded by the commanding officer.

The card and its associated procedures and customs, was only used in the navy when rum was issued in large ships or in shore establishments.  On small ships/vessel it was not issued or used, the system relying on a tick-off system.  The rum would be collected in a mess fanny from the issuing point [in a submarine for example by the coxswain/issuing officer from the CPO's and PO's mess] on the basis of victualled members registered as 'G' and taken back to the mess deck for issue under the authority and watching eye of the killick of the mess or his appointed deputy. As an example of a daily issue to a junior rates mess we take a mess having thirty members. Ten are 'UA'; two are under stoppages;  five are 'RA'.  This leaves thirteen victualled for their tots. The issue per man is ⅜ of a pint [⅛ rum and water, the definition of  'grog' often referred to as 2&1] which multiplied by thirteen is 4.875 pints of grog. There were occasions when junior rates were issued with 1&1, one part rum one part water, but these were rare. When a 'Splice the Main Brace' was ordered, the rum issue was exactly the same as for the standard/normal issue. Officers were sometimes issued with rum but only when working in extremely hazardous and dangerous conditions harmful to the body and soul of the officer and way above the call of his normal duties.

* Victualled ashore as a ships company was a regular occurrence for crews of diesel submarines when away from base or depot ship and no other service accommodation was available.  In this case, officers were victualled in a four/five star hotel, senior rates in a three star hotel and junior rates in a two star hotel.  Rum was still issued and consumed in the boat before the crew left for their respective hotels for their lunch.

Now in these times, specifically from WW2 to cessation, rum was a reliable provision and no self respecting warship or naval establishment would ever run short and, sacrilege though it would be, dry.  Compare this to the lot of THE naval super star of the Boer War at the start of the 20th century, namely HMS Powerful, which incidentally ended up in Devonport as part of the group of ship's providing boys' training, which was known as the HMS Impregnable Group. Records show that her rum store ran too low to give all bonafides their tot, so the order was given that the issue would be aborted and in lieu, as a temporary expedient, a sum of money would be credited to each man registered 'G'.  This sum eventually was adopted pan navy and was given to all men over the age of 20 who elected to be 'T' [Temperance] to compensate them for the voluntary loss of a traditional privilege. Staying with the 'Powerful' as an example of naval customs, the rum issue [when they had enough onboard !] was very different to that all of you reading this page will remember. Right up to and half way through WW1 [Jutland 1916] the daily rum issue was as follows. Each man over the age of 20 was allowed ⅛ of a pint = a gill : so nothing different there then. Warrant Officers [but not commissioned Warrant Officers] and Chief Petty Officers only were given neat rum.  All below, including Petty Officers, were given GROG, but GROG mixed to 3 & 1, i.e., one half of a pint in total of liquid, instead of mixed to 2 & 1 which was in total a lesser amount of liquid measuring three eights of a pint. There is no written criteria to say just how that affected those taking Grog, but I would have thought that the affect was less of a stimulating experience than 1970-type Grog was.  What is certain is that pre-Jutland ships needed to carry more fresh water than post-Jutland ships did, always assuming that other uses of fresh water had not changed!  See also this file Grog - written in 1895 by F.H. Miller

The First Sea Lord at the time of the stopping of the tot, was that delightful man Admiral of the Fleet Michael Le Fanu, commonly known to us in the Fleet as the "Chinese Admiral" when spelled 'Le Fan U'.  Because Michael had ginger coloured hair, the lower deck named him "Dry Ginger" for this act of stoppage. He had a sense of humour [and so did the lower deck] sending this valedictory [poem] signal to the Fleet:-

Personal from the First Sea Lord

Most farewell messages try
To jerk a tear from the eye
But I say to you lot
Very sad about the tot
But thank you, good luck and goodbye

It was a much sadder poem than most thought on the day it was received, because his time on earth was very short thereafter and he knew it, but we didn't. 

The picture below shows the last issue of rum [31st July 1970] to the ship's company of HMS Ganges.  The venue is the quarterdeck and you can see both its mast and the main mast. Note the black arm-band worn by the leading hand on the right, and that both the fanny and the rum tub are bedecked with symbols of mourning. Under those mourning bands reads, on the top line "The Queen" and on the bottom line "God Bless Her".  Every run tub throughout the navy had those word, formed by large solid brass letters individually cast, screwed onto the barrel with brass screws. But why? When did that change, for it was not always like that? For most of Queen Victoria's reign, all of King Edward VII's reign, all of King George V's reign, and a goodly part of King George VI's reign, the wording was very different as my picture at the bottom shows.

This picture comes from HMS Glory taken in 1901 at the very start of King Edward VII reign. She was a mighty battleship, brand new, and is shown here in Hong Kong harbour as part of the China Fleet. Note the wording on her equally brand new rum tub. I have searched high and low but cannot find out why the wording change although I know roughly when.

Another 'black day' [at least for some] was on the 27th January 1989, nearly twenty years later.  Rum had been found to be detrimental to the good functioning of the sailors efficiency, and now cigarettes were considered bad for his health. 'Blue Liners' were withdrawn. All other duty free cigarettes and tobacco [known more generally as H,M, Ship's cigarettes] were gradually increased in price over a two year period, until by January 1991 they were the same cost as civilian cigarettes/tobacco. For those of you not familiar with the two expressions of 'Blue Liners' and 'HM Ships tobacco' together always referred to as DF's [duty frees] here is a very brief overlay. The packaging of the products looks like this



Blue Liners, cigarettes with a thick blue line throughout the length of each cigarette, were issued to sailors serving on terra firma. For those serving afloat, the packaging was endorsed with "H.M. Ships Only" and this endorsement was added to each and every cigarette along its length. It was said that there was a huge difference in quality with the HM Ships variety being to full commercial standards, and the RN type being the sweepings from the factory floor when the former process had been completed. Whatever, many in the navy smoked so they were a much treasured perk. 

Of some considerable interest during and after WW2 was tobacco; who got it free of cash or free of duty, and in what amounts.  Virtually every adult in the civilised world smoked and so did a considerable amount of youngsters, even children. Cigarettes, like the staples [food, water, fuel, clothing, housing etc] when in short supply or worse still, when not available, caused major problems for the authorities, even taking up time in both Houses of Parliament. In the Forces, mutiny was never far away when rations were in short supply. To demonstrate just how powerful tobacco was to the nation as a whole and to members of the armed forces in particular have a look at these short files which come from Parliament. They deal with the army and the navy but the air force and the marines, when not embarked in H.M. Ships, were treated as for soldiers.

The first Parliamentary debate covers an army issue problem:-



HC Deb 21 August 1945

Mr. Daggar

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction of members of the Services because of the recent cut in the amount of cigarettes; and if he will arrange for the usual supply to be made available.

Captain Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the shortage of cigarettes amongst the Army of Occupation in Germany and Austria; and what steps he is taking to remedy the situation.

Mr. Lawson

So far as I am aware there is no shortage of supplies of cigarettes for the normal free issue of 50 a week per man. It has been necessary, however, to reduce the quantities on sale in N.A.A.F.I. canteens abroad, because of production difficulties, the cessation of lend lease supplies, and the serious shortage of cigarettes for civilians in Great Britain. Cigarettes are now released for sale in canteens at the rate of 280 a man per month, as against 360 before 1st August. The troops were informed of the reason for the reduction and as far as I know, there have been no general complaints. It is hoped that the situation will be easier by the end of the year.

Captain Gammans

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the men in Germany and Austria have the same facilities for getting cigarettes as if they were stationed at home?

Mr. Lawson 

I should be surprised to know that they have not, but I shall have to look at the question before I can give a definite answer.

The second Parliamentary Debate covers more army issue problems


Cigarette Issue

HC Deb 09 October 1945

Mr. Nield

asked the Secretary of State for War if, in view of the stop on duty-free cigarettes for troops overseas, he will consider either an increase in the weekly free issue or taking steps to supplement the quantity which can be acquired weekly from the N.A.A.F.I.

Mr. Lawson

It is intended to increase the weekly quantity of cigarettes obtainable through N.A.A.F.I. to 75 per man at the earliest possible date, as compared with the present 65. With the free issue of 50 there will then be a total of 125 weekly available for each man. This is much more than the number provided for the smoking population of this country, and I see no grounds for a further increase until adequate supplies are available generally.

The third Parliamentary Debate considered a naval problem



HC Deb 23 August 1945

 Major Digby

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps are being taken to remedy the serious shortage of cigarettes for Marines serving in the Far East.

Mr. Alexander

Supplies of cigarettes are allocated for sale in canteens to personnel serving in His Majesty's Ships and naval establishments abroad on the basis of 400 a head a month. In addition, the men can purchase, from Service stocks, pipe or cigarette tobacco up to 2 lb. (equivalent to 800 cigarettes) a month. There is no differentiation in this respect between naval ratings and Royal Marines. The world-wide shortage of cigarettes makes it impracticable to get an increased allocation for sale in naval canteens in the Far East.

The fourth Parliamentary Debate was about German women


Cigarettes (German Women Employees)

HC Deb 09 October 1945

Captain Poole

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that five German women employed in his office by a  town major in Germany, are allotted a weekly allowance of 50 cigarettes; and, since British troops are unable to obtain sufficient cigarettes for their own needs, will he issue instructions that this practice shall cease.

Mr. Lawson

No authority exists for any issue of cigarettes to German civilians employed by the military forces. The women referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend may have received cigarettes as a personal gift, but orders have now been issued that any such practice should cease.

This picture below comes from the 1890's and shows a Petty Officer First Class [all wore square rig] being issued with long strips of tobacco and soap bars for dhobying. The two officers are non executive officers from the "Civilian Branches' [no curl on their top stripe] Supply Branch; the man writing the ledger is a CPO Writer [CPO's didn't wear three buttons on their cuffs at that time and the man standing to his right is a junior rate also in the Writer Branch and he also wears fore and aft rig.  The sailor behind is helping to dish-out the goodies.