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National Service in the Royal Navy, 1949-1950: Rum issue

A guest contribution by Fred Peach

All the pages by Fred Peach on his National Service in the Navy:

Stages in the experience:

basic training
job-related training
on the job

Interesting facts:

allegiance to Crown
rum issue
swimming proficiency

Every member of the Royal Navy is entitled to a daily issue of rum.

Neat or dilute rum

In the case of Petty Officers and above their rum is issued 'neat'. For ranks below Petty Officer the rum is diluted with two parts of water, sometimes three. So the ration for us post-war national servicemen was either 'Two and one' or 'Three and one'.

Grades for recipients of the rum issue

Everyone was classified according to one of three grades.

• The first was 'Grog', so a G appeared on one's Ships Card.

• The second was 'Temp' meaning Temperance, for someone who did not take his rum ration for whatever reason. His card was stamped with a T. A daily sum was supposed to be added to his pay in compensation for the lack of the rum ration. However many who were T classified complained that they never saw a penny of this compensation money.

• The remaining classification was 'Under Age'. This meant that the sailor was under the age of 20 and therefore not entitled to draw the rum ration. His card was stamped UA. They received neither a rum ration nor an allowance in lieu.

Serving the rum issue

In barracks the serving of the rum ration was by all entitled personnel queuing up before a large barrel on which was inscribed the words "God Save The King", and being given a pub-type half-pint of the watered rum filled to the brim. The rum had to be downed immediately and in very short time, with no loitering. One gulp and it was gone. Then the glass was swilled around in a fanny of cold water and put back on the tray next to it before the order "Next man!" was called. No time was wasted. Certainly there was no time for the rum to be savoured.

At sea the ration for the whole mess was drawn by the Cooks of the Day and poured into glasses, one for each person entitled to a ration. The rum was often used as a sort of currency. Doing a favour for someone might result in 'Sippers' which meant that the donation was just a quick sip out of the proffered glass of rum. 'Gulpers' meant a more prolonged drink. It was very rare indeed for the whole ration to be offered but it did come about from time to time.

Page contributed by Fred Peach who may be contacted at the following email address.

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