Posted by: Bob Ringma | August 8, 2011

Beer ‘n Booze


Our men were only allowed beer, but it wasn’t in short supply.  The NAAFI ( British Navy,Army and Air Forces Institute) imported limitless quantities of Asahi and Kirin beer from Japan. It must have created a logistical problem for the troops in the front line, since it came in heavy, one-quart glass bottles, which would have to be packed up the endless Korean hills.  For logistical as well as disciplinary reasons, units necessarily regulated the amount of beer allowed to all ranks.

Tax-free Canadian beer could be purchased but was often donated, sometimes in large quantities, by generous brewers like Labatt’s and Molsons.  In recognition of the donation of 3,440 cases of Labatt’s ale, the engineers of 57 Field Squadron named one of their bridges “The John Labatt 50th Anniversary Bridge.”

Another source of alcohol for Canadians was SRD rum, a rationed commodity, issued occasionally in inclement weather when authorized by brigade HQ.  I remember that it came in one-gallon earthenware jugs.  Depending on which search engine source you believe (I use Google a lot), the abbreviation stands for Service Reserve Depot, Services Rum Diluted or Special Red Demerara.  Experienced Canucks said the SRD stood for, “Seldom Reaches Destination,” since the service troops behind the front lines managed to get their hands on it before the more deserving infantry.  I also recall that if a jug was not finished after a ration issue, the cork would be replaced and red sealing wax was melted over it to discourage pilfering.

It has been stated that SRD was introduced to cold, miserable, trench-bound infantry in World War I.  I like to think that the custom started centuries earlier when some grunts heard Royal Navy sailors bragging about their daily rum ration.  The soldiers didn’t want to be bested by the sailors, so they threatened mutiny until they too received a tot, albeit only in foul weather.


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