TWO GREAT NAVAL CHANGES OF THE COLD WAR 1948 - 1991 {Officially}

For obvious reasons, ask a sailor of the cold war years, about the "Shiny Shef" and all minds will turn to HMS Sheffield [D80] and to her loss with many crew members during the Falklands War in 1982.  They will also remember her commanding officer Captain 'Sammy' Salt RN, who by name was James Frederick Thomas George Salt. He commanded Sheffield's sister ship the destroyer Southampton immediately after the war, was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, and sadly died on the 3rd December 2009. I knew him way back at the beginning of the 1970's as the skipper of Submarine Finwhale as a newly promoted lieutenant commander.

Equally, for obvious reasons, few, if any, would have mentioned the much larger "Shiny Shef" the light cruiser HMS Sheffield [C24], which was famous for her part in the sinking of the Bismarck and was herself mistaken for that ship and narrowly missed being sunk by aircraft from the carrier HMS Ark Royal. Additionally, she had a long and tough war and was much praised and feted by very senior officers. Despite all this, she was also very much a part of the Cold War, serving her last commission from 1957 to 1959, then into reserve and then scrapped in 1967. It was in this great ship that the first of the changes mentioned in my title came about, "engineered" by the commanding officer <see profile below> and the supply officer Lieutenant Commander C C H Dunlop RN who retired as a rear admiral and died aged 91. Admiralty records [ADM's] highlight this transition as one of the most important social changes the navy witnessed since the great unrest of the Invergordon period. However, not for the first time had the "Shiny Shef" been a trend-setter, for, along with the battleship Rodney, these two ships were the first to be fitted with radar in 1938, at that time called RDF.

<start of commanding officer profile>

It is noteworthy here to mention the commanding officer in his own paragraph, for whilst he may not be unique, I have trawled the navy list archives and nowhere can I find a similar, or even near-similar case! The officer was appointed as of the 25th February 1957 and his name title and honours were Captain Leo Patrick Bourke OBE DSC* RD RNZN, a most unusual set of decorations.  He was one of over 10,000 New Zealanders [1944 figure] to fight in the royal navy, approximately one third of them officers. He won his DSC and Bar in 1943/4 whilst being in command {Lt Cdr RNZNR seniority 18 July 1940} of HMS Bayntum having sunk two U-Boats and knowingly crippled others. Bourke was born in Amyton South Australia on the 5th April 1905 and became a Master Mariner in the mercantile marine.  He joined the RNZNVR as a sub lieutenant in 1928 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1932:  in 1943 he was mobilised into the RN changing over to the RNZNR having commanded NZ ships from the beginning of the war. He acquitted himself with great honour. In 1941 and after the Battle of the River Plate, the RNZN was formed with HMS Achilles [of that Battle fame] changing names to HMNZS Achilles. Bourke stayed on fighting in the RN as an RNZNR'er until the end of WW2 still as a Lt Cdr RNZNR.  In June 1945 he was promoted to commander RNZNR and transferred, in 1946, to the RNZN as a commander bringing with him immeasurable and invaluable expertise to a navy still only five years old. He held several appointments in the RNZN both at home and overseas, particularly back with his beloved royal navy.

 On the 30th June 1950 he became a captain RNZN. In 1956 he was appointed to command the Sheffield which must have been the zenith of his career in peacetime. He must also have been the senior captain in the Fleet.  In his honours you will see the "RD" standing for Reserve Decoration, an extremely important recognition for a reserve officer.  This was given to officers who served for long periods in the reserve and were deemed to have given meritorious service. The award takes account of his time in the mercantile marine and as a master mariner as well as his full wartime service.  His OBE, given in June 1959, was the climax of his service life which he received towards the end of his command of the Sheffield.  On relinquishing his Command of Sheffield in 1959 he was promoted to commodore RNZN and retired from naval service on the 5th April 1960. It is quite incredible to note that he was fifty two years of age when he took command of the "Shiny Shef" in 1957. He died in Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand on the 26th May 1992 aged 87. This is a copy of his total naval service:-

01.01.1919
-
31.12.1921
Cadet Midshipman, Permanent Naval Forces of Australia (RAN College)
Made redundant through the cuts in public expenditure ("Geddes axe"), he joined the Merchant Navy (eventually becoming a Master Mariner), and in the late 1920s joined the Royal Navy Reserve (New Zealand Division).
20.11.1939
-
(06.)1943
Gunnery Officer, HMNZS Monowai (armed merchant cruiser)
07.08.1943
-
12.1943
Commanding Officer, HMS Dacres (frigate) [based at HMS Eaglet (RN base, Liverpool)]
15.12.1943
-
(07.1945)
Commanding Officer, HMS Bayntun (frigate)
03.1946


transferred to RNZN
(04.1946)


HMS Ausonia (repair ship) *
25.03.1946
-
(07.)1948
Commanding Officer, HMNZS Tamaki (RNZN training establishment, Motuihe Island, Auckland) **
18.08.1948
-
(05.1949)
Commanding Officer, HMNZS Taupo (frigate) **
11.08.1949
-
(05.1950)
[Commanding Officer?], HMS Philomel II (Navy Office, Wellington)
?
-
(05.1950)
also: Naval ADC to the Governor-General
30.11.1951
-
(05.)1953
HMNZS Philomel (additional; as Naval Attaché, Melbourne)
1953
-
1955
attended Imperial Defence College (London) [HMS President]
24.01.1955
-
(01.)1957
Naval Director, Senior Officers' War Course, RN College, Greenwich [HMS President]
25.02.1957
-
(01.)1959
Commanding Officer, HMS Sheffield (cruiser) & as Flag Captain to Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean (Suez crisis)
1959
-
1960
Naval Officer-in-Charge, Auckland
Head of Northern Zone, Civil Defence of New Zealand, 1960-1970.

I wonder whether he commiserated with Captain Salt RN after the loss on the next "Shiny Shef" in 1982?  It is nice to think that he did!

 <end of commanding officer profile>      

Oh, I remember it all very well!: the quality, wholesomeness and presentation of food in the 1950's was nothing less than appalling, when 'warm' or 'hot, but dried-up' food was "dished up" on a take it or leave it basis, with most of us either leaving it or picking at it, voluntarily supplementing this joke for naval cuisine at the NAAFI counter at our own expense.  The last Sheffield refit was a revolution in one or two departments, but mainly in the way food was procured, stored, costed,  prepared, cooked, served, ditched {?} and the general through-put management of the eating and mealtimes for the ships company: but note, not the wardroom.

The dockyard had provided the 'tools' for change [overseen by the ships refit senior officer Lieutenant Commander G E Peattie RN from 22nd May 1956 until the 24th of February 1957, and it was up to this single ship to apply these tools to resolve the pan-naval problem of feeding the men. Into Sheffield  was built a self-service dining hall, and the latest galley equipment,  with its manning  Depot drafting a team of enthusiastic cooks and supply ratings, which from the first day of the ships last commission, produced choices of hot and cold food. To overcome fears of exceeding  general mess allowances, the 'left overs' at the servery were offered as an extra choice on the following day, instead of being ditched down the gash-shute and into the sea. The multi-choice selections proved to be cheaper, and the teething problems of queues formed by ratings being selective, perhaps over-selective, were soon addressed and shortened in length. It was called cafeteria messing and almost from the beginning was a qualified success. Few if any complaints came from the lower deck, but from the wardroom came a comment from the medical officer that the crew were putting on weight and that ratings were being treated better than officers in the victualling stakes.

Eventually, that general messing allowance was increased allowing new construction ships to be designed as cafeteria ships, and for older ships to be modified in like minded fashion to that of Sheffield. In some ships, all cooking was done in the same galley and that, with the better training at a newly commissioned central school of naval cookery, dissolved the division between a 'cook' [for ratings food] and an 'officers cook', making them as one branch. These trainees were encouraged to acquire City and Guilds qualifications and the more advanced and ambitious, Hotel and Catering Institution standards. Diet was not forgotten, and caterers addressed the need to plan daily meals for breakfast, dinner and supper prepared under a cost-controlled budget with very little waste. Very soon afterwards, these changes were introduced into shore establishments and within a very short period, hitherto berated and slagged-off  cooks saw an ascendancy in status throughout the lower deck and deservedly so. I remember the food and the pleasure of dining in one of my last ships, the cruiser HMS Tiger, an experience which I compare with four star hotels my wife and I have often frequented on our travels, only without the waiting-on service, the wine and the ambience of course!  In my last ship, the destroyer HMS London victualled in 3 Mess down aft as a WO, we visited Norfolk Virginia USA. By design or just good naval practices, CPO's from the USS Mount Whitney dined onboard.  As a returned gesture [a quid pro quo], we dined in their much bigger ship/mess. Their senior MCPO [Master Chief Petty Officer - my equivalent] stood up before we dined to greet us and to formally welcome us to the States, saying that he hoped their food was in some ways nearly as good as ours was, and that with good food and alcohol, we Brit's had gotten {sic} the show all sewn up.  He was sincere in his comments, meant what he said, which was fully justified. We were and are the best!

I ask you, what with good pay, worldwide travel, good company, good food and wine [well, rum and beer] and a worthwhile job, weren't we the lucky boys?

Yes we were, undoubtedly, that is until the next great social change came about, although in truth, it didn't affect me one iota. The change is the second "great naval change" mentioned in the title above.

——————————————————————————————

FILE TO BE USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THIS PART OF THE PAGE
  THE_NAVAL_TOT_THE_LAST_CARD_CLIP

First off, I ask you to view this little snippet which dates from 1933. It is relevant back-ground reading, because just a few years later, in 1937, the lower deck asked the Admiralty to make the proverbial tot a much 'nicer' drink {perk} by reducing the water content from three parts to two parts in the issue of grog.  The Admiralty agreed and "two and one" became the norm from that year.  By agreeing to this request, the Admiralty signalled their implicit approval of the issue of rum, allowing it to continue because there were no known discipline issues of any significance or detriment to the performance of duties carried out by those who had drawn and consumed their daily tot. Read also these relevant snippets which will help you in the understanding of rum in the navy - READ 'A' - READ 'B'

To help you understand the strength of rum as issued by the royal navy, think of a bottle of wine [red or white] which has a reading of usually between 11 and 14% printed on the label. This is the amount of alcohol in the bottle per volume of liquid in the bottle.  If you were to buy a bottle of Pussers [70cl] Rum {trade name} today, printed on the label would be 54.5% ABV. This rum is known as 'dark heavy rum' which is aged in wood for long periods, sometimes up to twelve years.

The strength of the naval rum throughout its many years of issue was always called 'proof', but in 1980, its standard was dropped and in its place came ABV [alcohol by volume] as discussed in the previous sentence.

You will have heard of the expression "keep your powder dry" which came from the days of the cannon and the flintlock rifle, where wet gun powder would not ignite [explode] rendering the weapon useless leading to being beaten in battle. However, wet, in this case meant water or dampness, and it didn't  mean liquid per se!  Spirit [whether distilled or fermented then distilled] is extremely volatile and inflammable - take the burning brandy on the Christmas pudding as an example - and should be kept well clear of a naked flame.  Think also about petrol, even low octane products. Rum was no exception. When rum was mixed with gun powder it added to its ignition point measured in temperature in degrees - flash point. Not just neat rum, but also rum mixed with water. Pursers [Pussers] the forebears of the supply officer and now the logistics officer, and Gunners of the late 18th century well understood that gun power, inadvertently mixed with seawater could, within reason, be dowsed with rum to reinvigorate its volatility. Neat rum worked well but it was wasteful and the Purser, always a shrewd and cautious man, watered it down to make it go further.  Experiments over time with a hydrometer developed in the fourth century, showed the measure of the maximum amount of water which could be added before the mixture became too weak for purpose. Further experiments were conducted ashore both in Portsmouth and Plymouth in the victualling, stores and armament depots which existed before the Clarence Yard and the King William Yard were built, in respectively Portsmouth [Gosport] and Plymouth [Stonehouse] in the third decade of the 19th century. Mixing gun powder with a rum-water mix, where the rum was greater than water, still allowed the ignition of the powder - it was still consider "dry". That mixture was found to be 57.15% ABV later assigned a dedicated specific gravity measurement *, a point where the gun powder would ONLY JUST BURN. Since such a liquid when mixed with gun powder could ignite, it was stated as being 100 degrees proof, and any greater measure of rum increased the proof and conversely, decreased the proof for lesser amounts. At this point have no fears that naval gun powder was reliant upon watered down rum which is not the case, for the navy got the best powder and used it to rid the seas of our enemies, but it did continue to be used as an expedient to keep the guns firing when the powder had come into contact with sea water, indeed, any water.

* The specific gravity [SG] {measured with a hydrometer or an alcoholmeter} of rum with an ABV of 40% [Captain Morgan's for example] is 0.9755 whereas water has an SG of 1. Thus, the strength of this rum is 2.45% less dense than water. The SG of proof [57.15%] is 1.3937, 39.37% more dense than water - battery acid by the way, has an SG of 1.265 for a fully charged battery going down to 1.2 for a 50% charged battery. However in modern commercial terms, where excise duty is charged on the strength of the spirit, the way of measuring Proof  is to take two identical measuring jars and in the first {A} they add distilled water at 51ºF and weigh it.  In the second {B} they add the rum spirit mixed with distilled water, also at 51ºF and of exactly the same amount of liquid as in {A}, and weigh it. The weight of {A} is 999.64 kg/m³ and the weight of {B} should be 922.74 kg/m³ and this would confirm PROOF = 57.15% ABV. In the case of the Pussers Rum {trade mark} laboratory {for example} selling a mixture rated as 54.5% ABV, their measuring jar {B} should have weighed 879.95 kg/m³.

However, a practical use of this variable criteria was in assessing rum as being suitable for issue to worldly-wise and hardened sailors of the fleet. The rum was mixed with a pretty accurate amount of water, often rancid water from static water storage tanks as per pre-testing times.  Then keeping to the principles of the new findings/experiments, the issuing yards tested samples of rum vats [the volume] by mixing the diluted rum with gun powder, and if the product ignited it was indicative that the correct amount of water had been added. If too much water had been added, which was more likely than too little, then more neat rum was added to achieve the correct result. The sailors were happy with the outcome as were the Yards, although it was known that they often short-changed the Fleet on all provisions if they could get away with it. 

Since 57.15% ABV equated to 100 degrees and very soon afterwards to 100% proof, and 57.15% was as near as damn it a fraction of four sevenths [4/7], then by multiplying 57.15 by seven and dividing by four would give the proof value. 57.15 x 7 = 400.05 ÷ 4 = 100.01 proof.  With this, now imagine a mixture which was 100% neat rum spirit alcohol.  Its proof rating would therefore be 100 x 7 = 700 ÷ 4 = 175 proof. This is referred to as being 75 degrees over proof.  Further, let's now return to those bottles of wine previously mentioned and take the middle ground i.e., the bottle with a label saying 12.5% ABV. Its proof ratings is 12.5 x 7 = 87.5 ÷ 4 = 21.88% proof.

Now back to that bottle of Pussers Rum [trade mark] we bought with a label saying 54.5% ABV. The proof ratings on this product is 54.5 x 7 = 381.5 ÷ 4 = 95.375% proof.

This article from RN Documents gives the proof rating of rum issued neat to the senior rates of the royal navy.

You will see that navy rum was 95.5% proof, "4.5% below proof which = 100%. Thus the Pussers Rum [trade mark] product is excellent at 95.375%, only 0.125% below original navy standard. 95.5% proof equates to 54.57 ABV.  Commercial rum [other than Pussers Rum {trade mark}, despite its cost, is nearly always at 40% ABV which equals 70% proof.  Why not try a bottle of "El Ron de Cuba - Havana Club 15 [15 years old] - Gran Reserva - at a cool £126.69 per bottle and whilst it may be mellow and delightful to drink, is still only 40% ABV? Navy rum [dark heavy rum] could only be made from sugar cane [blackstrap] molasses and not from sugar beet molasses.

All in all then, when you have a get together to celebrate the 'old times' your tot will be a near perfect match out of the Pussers Rum [trade mark] civilian bottle, as it was from the naval rum tub, mess fanny, and tot measure.

That was the 'intro folks, now for the story bit.

Admiralty documents reveal that during the six years of WW2, six million gallons of rum were issued to the navy, drunk by some 75% of ships companies*. That's a lot of tots given that one tot was ⅛ of a pint of neat rum for CPO's and PO's and the same for junior rates but with two parts of water added making their volume ⅜ of a pint in all. From our school days there are 8 pints in one gallon and eight tots to a pint, which  = 64 tots to the gallon. That, times 6,000,000 = 384,000,000 tots!

* Although I cannot extract the numbers of eligible ratings for drawing a tot from the total numbers bourne on the books of the Admiralty, it is of interest to note the numbers were as follows:-

1939 134000 - 1940 276000 - 1941 405000 - 1942 507000 - 1943 671000 - 1944 779000 - 1945 865000

Despite the laissez faire approach by the Admiralty in 1933 [see document above entitle "this little snippet"] in leaving the rum issue unaltered except for changing grog from 3 and 1 to 2 and 1] the Admiralty admitted that whilst in many cases those 384 million tots brought cheer to moments of low morale, they also recognised that rum was responsible for recurrent crime and punishment, and its abuse became far too prevalent.  In 1945 a pair of 18 year old twins died from an excess of 'sippers' on their birthday. Similar sad events occurred in two separate years later on involving five young men.  These matters were, collectively, of great concern to the Admiralty, and they were looking for and hoping for an alternative to the dreaded rum issue. It came, but not obviously, in 1944 in the beleaguered Far East where, unlike Europe and the Normandy Landings with an ending in sight, things were still very much led by the Japanese invading forces. By the end of 1944, in the October, General MacArthur had fulfilled his promise and had landed back in the Philippines as a returning conqueroring hero. The war in the Far East was still ten months away from finishing which was in August 1945, as the war in Europe ended in May 1945.  

Now it just so happened that stores of each and every type shipped to the East Indies [Ceylon eastwards] were at a premium and operationally prioritised within the CENTO Command of Lord Mountbatten [based in Ceylon], whose Command supported all Allied forces, too numerous to list here, but involving the British, the Americans, the ANZACS,  Asian States and African States. Rum was a very low priority even though it would have benefitted several of these listed navies.   Beer, from the USA or from the Antipodeans was liberally distributed throughout the Far East Theatre whereas British beer was almost non-existent. Moreover and notwithstanding  the blood, guts, gore and bullets, the Yanks and the Ozzies/Kiwis, had cold beer even in the most demanding environments. Rum, more intoxicating but in short supply and surprisingly in low demand, was becoming a specialty whilst cold beer was becoming a natural choice for the many Brit's serving in the Far East theatre.  It was distributed free of charge to all British troops including the royal navy, with the added attraction that after free issue [this issue is not known] other beers could be purchased at rock bottom prices. Not surprisingly RN ratings much preferred cold beer  to the one-off issue of grog. The shift in preferences did not go unnoticed back home in London and soundings were taken as to whether beer could supplant rum as an acceptable alternative throughout the royal navy.

After the war, the Admiralty  took it upon themselves to make a provision in all warships to provide a stowage for beer in casks as well as in cans, involving a commercial element when incorporating the NAAFI into their plans. The navy would stow it, replenish it, and provide the humping-party to shift it:  the NAAFI would pay for it, issue it, and give a percentage of its profits from selling the beer [after the free issue paid for by the navy] plus other goodies,  to the ships welfare fund.  What the navy didn't provide was a system to cool the beer, a typical British shortcoming!

Many things changed in the period 1947 to 1964 much of it for the benefit of personnel, and by the mid 1960's, the abolition of rum to be replaced by beer issues was seriously considered for a navy changing socially as well as technologically.

Admiralty files clearly show that by this time, only 45% of personnel now opted for grog and the numbers were diminishing yearly. The performance of junior and senior rates in the handling of complex equipment after a tot of rum often washed down with a can of strong beer, gave rise to anxiety. The then Commander Far East Fleet [COMFEF] Admiral Twiss noted, that the tot was the equivalent to three or four pub gins which when added to the beer consumed, put the sailor over the breathalyzer limits.

Punishment returns highlighted the affects of intoxication in all cases of indiscipline, which far outnumbered those returned by the Army and the Air Force pro rata. Returns from RN Hospitals and from the psychiatric hospital at Netley showed that alcohol was becoming a health concern, and many of the naval patients at Netley were there because of alcohol addiction whereas soldiers and airmen were there for other social disorders, non-alcohol related. The Admiralty were also seemingly concerned that senior rates were bottling large amounts of rum to keep in their personal lockers for future use. They would have a shock if they had visited my submarines [indeed, the submarine fleet], for this was the norm amongst submariners where in the CPO/PO Mess each and every member was a HOD [at lower deck level] - Head of Department - and would not/could not run the risk of any form of intoxication when at sea. So tot's were privately bottled, and the left-overs from daily issues [Queens] were bottled on behalf of the mess and used in the entertaining of others when in harbour off duty. We very much enjoyed our drink in these off duty periods, and by drinking what was ours by right, saved us paying through the nose in commercial drinking houses ashore.

No admiral would run the personal risk of taking the privilege of the rum issue away from the lower deck without some form of compensation to the men below. Many a senior rates mess president had proposed that their mess be allowed bar facilities, so that they could sell commercial spirits [brandy, gin, whiskey, vodka etc] but this had been placed on the bottom of somebody's pending-tray, probably because it impinged upon the perk much enjoyed by the wardroom messes and used to excellent affect when giving official cocktail parties. The senior rates were asking that they too might have the ability to entertain their families or naval visitors in ports away from home, instead of offering beer or yes, a tot from the bottle, which when ladies were present were laced with additives like coca cola:  few enjoyed or drank this concoction! Although 'engineered' by other admirals, it befell to Admiral Sir Michael Le Fanu the First Sea Lord to put the cessation of the rum issue into being.  He [and they before him] accepted the senior rates mess bar request which did much to elevate the messes and their members socially, and this was the peace offering [the quid pro quo] accepted between the MOD and the senior ratings of the navy. However, the rum would be stopped for all on the same day, so a quid pro quo was needed for the junior rates.

Earlier in 1968 when Admiral Sir Frank Twiss was the First Sea Lord, it was ascertained that rum would cost the navy £300,000 in that year, and obviously set to increase year on year. Since that was the amount of saving had the rum issue been stopped at that time, wise heads, admirals and admiralty civil servants, decided that since the want for stopping the rum issue was for efficiency and discipline reforms and not merely a money saving exercise, why not stop the issue, but carry on the funding for a finite period of time, and in that time, do something useful with the money for the good of the lower deck. Marvellous idea, but would the Treasury accept such an expenditure when it could have been a tangible saving on the defence budget?

They came up with the idea of the treasury giving over, as a one-off lump sum of £3M into a fund, which would equate with ten years of rum funding at a fixed annual cost. Once the fund had been set-up, it would be shown on the books of the MOD[N] as an asset, at par value, suggesting that the navy were better off financially than voted to be by Parliament.  This asset, as in any business, could be gradually written-off so that its book value after ten years was zero, but the fund still has value and remains up and running! As an example of this, consider a company purchasing a car with a value of £20,000 resulting in an asset which affects the company's balance sheet which could affect its Corporation Tax liability. Here we are not interested in who uses the car or of the petrol used or of the maintenance.  It is written off after a period of time, say four years, so each year the book asset gets less and less: at the end of year one it is worth £15,000, year two £10,000, year three £5,000 and year four nothing. However, the car still works and it has a worth, a value, so can be sold off without a charge. After four years of being well looked after it could be worth £5,000 of anybody's money. Thus the net cost of the car to the company was £15,000. This is what the money-crunchers call amortising, which is the gradual writing-off of an asset. The 'mort' in amortising is the same mort as in mortuary and post mortem, meaning death, in this case the death of a debt - on paper, the navy paying back the money to the Treasury after ten years.

The Treasury readily agreed to this proposal and the MOD[N] got its money and with it set-up the Sailors Fund also known as the TOT FUND.

Now, with good grace, rum could be stopped with all sides gaining as a result. The provision to 'splice the mainbrace' was retained so all naval units still carry enough rum for a tot all round for those over the age of twenty.

The Sailors Fund was designed to provide amenities for the lower deck which could not be provided for out the Defence Budget. The Fund of course grew with the interest accrued being added to the original capital and the lower deck did indeed benefit, senior rates as well as junior rates.  Although many lamented the passing of such a major naval tradition, time proved that the cessation was just and reasonable, and that all in all, the lower deck was a better place under the new social agreement.

 As the Sailors Fund was increasing in value, outgoings accepted, the MOD[N] asset was decreasing meaning that they were not unduly encumbered when seeking increases in its budget, avoiding the accusation of being "asset rich but cash poor" when in reality they were "asset and cash poor".  

FOOTNOTE

There are several stories told about liquor and the Brit's, one being that brandy and wines, produced in great quantities by the French before their revolution in the 18th century and liberally drunk by the British,  ceased to be popular during the Napoleonic Wars when favour and taste was switched to drinking port, the product of our oldest ally, Portugal. The lack of trade was known to have hurt the French economy!

Rum is also of great interest to our Islands. The beginnings of rum come from the middle 1600's from the Caribbean thought to be Barbados or Jamaica. Vice Admiral William Penn first mooted it as a viable product. Its great value, apart from its potency was that unlike beer it would keep and not turn sour, and remember, beer was drunk because water went off even quicker. It was a veritable "fire water" and was known to arouse the 'devil' in all that partook of this "black" liquid. The Dutch language is very hard to understand so I am told but fortunately, most of them speak good English so not important. When they took their invention, raw gin, it aroused the 'devil' in them too, leading them to talk much faster than normal accompanied by wild gesticulations, rendering their speech incomprehensible.  Hence the expression "speaking double-Dutch". From the 1600's certainly, and possibly before, English sailors were given one gallon of beer or wine per day. Given that their ships were slow and laborious sailing to navigate the globe and to fight in distant lands, their ships must have been half full with barrels of beer and racks of wine to sustain this consumption, otherwise, conditions were ripe for mutiny. From 1731 onwards all that changed, and the daily ration became half a pint of raw rum  - absolute gut-rot  - plus of course the wine which continued to flow.  Just nine short years later in 1740, after this change-over, Admiral Vernon introduced water into that half pint tot to stop drunkenness and the 'grog' was born.  On the 1st January 1851, that half pint tot was reduced to an eighth of a pint, a big reduction. The cessation of the rum issue saw a tradition which had lasted for 239 years come to an end.

AMEN