RMR’s love affair with SRD Begins in 1915

Friday, February 26, 1915

In billets, Armentières  

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Platoons in trenches again relieved.  On call for volunteers for patrol in No-Man’s-land, 4 French Canadians of No. 4 Coy. immediately offered themselves and were afterwards complimented by the Company Commander of the Rifle Brigade for their work.”    [1]

First World War Rum Jar
First World War Rum Jar

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: TOMMY’S RUM – PART 2 – “One of the most welcome sights in British [and Canadian] trenches during the First World War was an earthenware grey and brown coloured jar stamped with the initials “S.R.D.”  This probably stood for “Supply Reserve Depot,” although sources differ.  These initials were jocularly interpreted by soldiers as meaning “Soon Runs Dry” or “Seldom Reaches Destination,” the latter in reference to dark suspicions that rear area troops helped themselves to rum destined for the front line. *

The rum tot had to be consumed there and then, in the presence of an officer, to prevent it being hoarded. Some very unpopular teetotal officers objected to issuing their men with alcohol and instead provided an innocuous substitute.  Often rum was administered on a large spoon, or sometimes added to tea. The official ration was one sixteenth of a pint (30 millilitres), a quarter of a gill, but as historian Alan Weeks has pointed out, soldiers actually received roughly half this amount.  Rum could give a soldier “Dutch courage.”  Opinions differ on how important alcohol was in maintaining morale and helping soldiers cope with the fear and stress of battle, but it certainly played a role.”   [3]

* It has often been written elsewhere that the troops would jokingly suggest the initials S.R.D stood for the any of the following:  Services Rum Diluted;  Service Ration Depot;  Special Red Demerara;  Standard Rum Diluted; or Seldom or Rarely Delivered.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Feb 26, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089695.jpg
[2]   http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-equip/grog.htm
[3]   Gary Sheffield, The First World War in 100 Objects – The Story of The Great War Told Through The Objects That Shaped It, London, Sevenoaks, Carlton Publishing, 2013, “Rum Jar,” pp. 46-47.

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