The British army has throughout history plied soldiers with rum and grog to boost morale and quiet dissent. Did this policy continue into WW2, and if so, what was the drink supplied by the state?

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    Are you sure this applied to the British army, and not the navy? Both those drinks have naval connotations. Commented May 16, 2014 at 15:11
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    Question could use some refinement, sounds like the soldier's drink of choice ("what is available") as opposed to the state's drink of choice for soldiers. Commented May 20, 2014 at 21:36
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    Good suggestion - have edited! Commented May 20, 2014 at 21:54
  • Is this about the individual preferences of the soldiers or about the beverage supplied by the institution? Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


The answer is, quite simply, yes.

The daily ration of alcohol traditionally existed to help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and daily life within the military.

In WW2, the British Army did continue with a Rum ration to troops, but only in some situations and only with the consent of a medical officer. This ration was generally given before attacks and during protracted periods of combat.

The Royal Navy continued the practice of a daily alcohol allowance up until 1970. Today, the order to Splice the Mainbrace can be given by Queen Elizabeth II, a member of the Royal Family or a member of the Admiralty Board, where a tot of rum will be issued to each member of the ships company of an RN vessel.

The paper "Alcohol use and misuse within the Military: A review" by Edgar Jones(King’s Centre for Military Health Research) and Nicola T. Fear (Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health, King ’ s College London) is a fascinating read that gives detail on alcohol consumption within the military for a number of more recent conflicts - including WW1, WW2 and Vietnam.

As per the drink of choice, the officially issued spirit (as I have mentioned) was Rum, although it is likely that this could vary depending on availability.

Grog, was a drink made from a mixture of water or a small beer (weak) and rum that was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1740. The juice from citrus fruits was later added to prevent the spoilage of the mixture.

  • 3
    In the British army, gin was mixed with quinine to "encourage" the consumption of the bitter anti-malarial...
    – DJohnM
    Commented May 16, 2014 at 20:56
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    @User58220 Indeed. Quinine is the "tonic" in a gin and tonic. Much less quinine these days though (and none if the "tonic" comes from a soda gun).
    – Comintern
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 16:43
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    Citrus juice was added to Navy grog so that the sailors would actually drink the juice. Lemon or lime juice that has been stored unrefrigerated in casks in the tropics is not very nice. But mixing it with the rum ration overcame that problem. The reason for diluting the rum at issue was to ensure it would not keep. If neat rum was issued, the sailors would try to save it, so that they could accumulate a week or so's worth of issue and get thoroughly drunk. That's dangerous on board ship. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 15:36
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    As well as the rum ration, the WWII British Army occasionally issued bottled beer to troops overseas. This took most of the UK's production at the time. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 15:39
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    +1 for the "the answer is yes"
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 16:48

One other supplement of choice was a pill.

It is not alcohol but due to its strategic importance, maybe that's not off-topic.

It is an established fact that German soldiers used methamphetamine to fight. Blitzkrieg was then the combination of a tactical rush and the devastating effect on adversaries troops' morale to see soldiers tirelessly fight nights and days. Air Force pilots got those pills in priority. (cost/kill ratio) When UK found it out, they launched a research program to have their own magic potion and came up by 1942 with regular amphetamine as the best drug to use. From then on, RAF pilots succeeded to compete with the Germans; amphetamine makes your reflex and attention top notch whereas methamphetamine adds to the sauce an euphoria which can lead to very hazardous and risky behavior which can be good or bad depending on your luck.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands made and sold all those molecules to both armies. It's a very little know fact that is not often taught as school but fundamental in understanding the balance of power of WWII.

P.S. : Later on, amphetamine was freely sold in the UK and US under the name benzedrine.

My source for this info is German/US documentary aired a while ago on Arte. It is available on Youtube. It is in French, although I've just checked out the automatic subtitles translation in English and it does quite a good job !

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    Do you have sources for these speciics? Commented May 20, 2014 at 21:20
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    Yes, I've learned that through the greatest quality but less watched TV channel in France.
    – Irving Poe
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:05
  • Further information on methamphetamine use in Nazi Germany is available in Blitzed by Norman Ohler. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 15:31
  • The question specifies the British Army not German do you have any evidence of amphetamine issued to British troops during WW2.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 2:51

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