31.07.

Free rum abolished in the British Navy, sailors in deep mourning (1970)

Free rum abolished in the British Navy, sailors in deep mourning (1970)

Rum began to be given in 1655, after the British occupied Jamaica, an island rich in sugar cane from which rum is produced. After the abolition of free rum giving, some sailors put black ribbons on their upper arms on that day out of grief. They also organized symbolic funerals on some ships.

The British Royal Navy has maintained the practice of giving free portions of rum to its sailors for hundreds of years. Rum began to be given in 1655, after the British occupied Jamaica, an island rich in sugar cane from which rum is produced. There was a special rum barrel on the ships called Rum Tub. It was usually decorated with ornaments, and sometimes reinforced with brass shackles. Each member of the Navy was entitled to half a pint of rum twice a day, which was a considerable amount.

Rum was suitable for transport on ships, because it does not spoil, unlike beer that was used earlier and which used to spoil. In 1740, the daily portion of rum was reduced to 0.7 deciliters once a day, between 11 a.m. and noon. That time of day was therefore called Up Spirits (a play on words because spirit means both alcohol and the spirit of life). Sailors under the age of 20 were not given rum. If someone declared that he did not drink alcohol, he received a sum of 3 pence a day instead of rum.

On July 31, 1970, the free giving of rum was finally abolished. Some sailors put black ribbons on their upper arms that day out of grief. They also organized symbolic funerals on some ships. The Navy explained the abolition of rum by saying that sailors ’alcoholism could diminish their ability to operate heavy machinery.

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