"Drink is doing more damage in the war than all the German Submarines put together..." Lloyd George.


WW1 - Beer Searcher Blog
Prior to the outbreak of war, enthusiastic drinkers were consuming in both volume and in high strength.  This combination was to lead to high levels of convictions for drunkenness, sometimes exceeding 200,000 convictions in any one year. A parliamentary bill back in 1908, eventually saw the number of pubs or licensed premises reduced in many local authorities and further, carried a provision that banned barmaids from serving behind bars. (A perceived immoral attraction!.)
This Bill would become the start of the slippery slope towards the reduction in output by brewers, and an opportunity for all the temperance movements to step up their protests that might eventually lead to prohibition on our shores.

Unusually, one of the first men to generate mass interest in abstinence from alcohol was Joseph Livesey, a local politician and newspaper owner in Preston in the 1830's. Having started quite a substantial temperance movement, his organisation, famously used the phrase 'Teetotal', invented by a member, one John Turner.
History reveals that it would be Lloyd George, the minister for munitions, a renown prohibitionist of the Liberal Party and future prime minister, that would use temperance and the outbreak of war as an excuse to close pubs and breweries.

With the introduction of the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914, licencing hours were restricted to five and a half hours a day. The 'Intoxicating Liquor (Temporary Restriction) Act' gave powers to local authorities to reduce hours and introduce a compulsory afternoon break where historically a pub could  have opened from 5am until midnight! Initially, the powers were given to both military and naval authorities. The reduced hours also conserved heating fuel.

An MP and brewer of the day, the late Charles Buxton was heard to say that 'the fight between the temperance forces and the drink traffic is nothing more or less than part of the great struggle which is waged between heaven and hell'. And surely other parts of the forces of hell have been let loose this week'.
Little evidence exists of past temperance movements, although perhaps the most famous example is Maine Road, the former Man City stadium. The road named after the 1953 American Maine Law, a statute that restricted the sale of alcohol in the state of Maine.

We are approaching 1915 and the Government has concerns about the amount of alcohol being consumed by female munition workers, and indeed those working in or near heavy industry and munitions. One survey in London revealed that in one hour on a Saturday night alcohol was consumed by 1,483 men and 1,946 women. Reports claimed that soldiers wives were 'drinking away their over-generous allowances'.
In an attempt to further curb drinking and beer production, the government introduced a 'No Treating Order'. Any drink ordered was to be paid for by the person supplied.
No-one was allowed to run up a slate! Hard to believe, but to defy this order meant six months imprisonment!

In Southampton on 14th March 1916, Robert Smith was fined for treating his wife to a glass of wine in a local public house. In this instance Mrs Smith was fined £1 for consuming, and Dorothy Brown, the barmaid £5 for selling 'the intoxicant' contrary to the LCB ( Liquor Control Board)  regulations.

The metal hoops were tightening around fewer and fewer barrels as the government had growing concerns over the drunkenness of both male and particularly women munition and shipyard workers. In 1916, under the State Management Scheme, partial nationalisation of brewers began, with the aquisition of 119 licensed premises and four breweries in Carlisle alone. 

The government took over the brewing, distribution and the sale of liquor centred in Carlisle and the surrounding areas close to armament factories. Three 'brewery controlled' schemes covered Gretna, Cromarty Firth/Carlisle and Enfield Loch. Carlisle being the larger, supplied beer to Gretna. 119 licensed premises were acquired, four breweries and a further 134 premises in Mayport and District. Almost half the original public-houses were closed. It is a daunting thought, yet over 10,000 navvies on good salaries still had to be fed and watered!
Civil servants on full pay were established as public-house managers, their brief to minimise beer sales, to install additional eating areas and to remove "snugs", that had become areas of alleged immoral activity! Sales to young adults under the age of eighteen was also prohibited.

The 'Scheme' also banned the consumption of spirits on a Saturday, spirit chasers and all drinking on a Sunday! Food and soft drinks were then introduced for women in pubs controlled by this legislation. It is worth recording that it wasn't until 1922 that the Enfield Loch scheme sold its public houses back to private enterprise. Total denationalisation only came about under the Heath government in 1971.

By now, throughout the UK, prices of pints had doubled as heavy taxes were imposed on beer.  In 1918 a bottle of whisky cost £1 the equivalent of £35 in today's money! Five times its worth before the commencement of war.
Beer production was seeing massive cuts from 37 million barrels in 1913 to just 19 million by the year 1917. In addition, the average strength of beer also dropped from a starting gravity of 1052 in 1914 to 1030 in 1918. We were to be thankful that at least total prohibition never materialised in the UK.

'National efficiency' won in the end, as Government laws did indeed increase industrial output, furthering the war effort. Convictions for drunkenness fell dramatically. In London alone, 67,103 people were charged with being drunk, yet, by 1917 this figure had fallen to 16.567.
By the conclusion of World War 1, 900,000 women had served in munition factories, 117,000 in transport associated work, over 113,000 on farms, and 100,000 served as nurses. Honest work and new drinking skills by this hard working group brought a new independence, and out of conflict came rewards! In 1918 legislation was passed, giving the vote to all women over the age of thirty.
ww1 Beer Searcher Blog
A dreadful 'State' of affairs! Prohibition USA
'National efficiency' won in the end, as Government laws did indeed increase industrial output, furthering the war effort. Convictions for drunkenness fell dramatically. In London alone, 67,103 people were charged with being drunk, yet, by 1917 this figure had fallen to 16.567.

By the conclusion of World War 1, 900,000 women had served in munition factories, 117,000 in transport associated work, over 113,000 on farms, and 100,000 served as nurses. Honest work and new drinking skills by this hard working group brought a new independence, and out of conflict came rewards! In 1918 legislation was passed, giving the vote to all women over the age of thirty.