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First World War - 1914-1918

The British government became concerned about the consumption of alcohol during the First World War, fearing drunkenness was affecting war production.

They were not alone. In August 1914, Russia outlawed the production and sale of vodka.

The Russian people, however, simply produced their own, and the government suffered a 30% reduction in its tax revenue.

Other attempts to reduce alcohol consumption were made in Germany, Austria, Hungary, France and Italy. In January 1915, Lloyd George said Britain was "fighting Germans, Austrians and drink, and as far as I can see the greatest of these foes is drink."

He started a campaign to persuade national figures to make a pledge that they would not drink alcohol during the war.

King George V supported the campaign and in April 1915 he promised that no alcohol would be consumed in the Royal household until the war was over.

No Treating Order

In October 1915, the British government announced several measures they believed would reduce alcohol consumption.

The No Treating Order laid down that people could not buy alcoholic drinks for other people and reduced Public House opening times.

Before the law was changed, public houses could open from 5am in the morning to 12.30am.

The government also increased the level of tax on alcohol.

In 1918, a bottle of whisky cost five times what it had cost before the outbreak of war.

Alcohol consumption was reduced. Britain consumed 89 million gallons in 1914, but this had fallen to 37 million in 1918.

At the front

During the war each battalion had its own supply of rum that it distributed to its soldiers. It was usually given out after, rather than before an offensive. It was also issued during very cold weather.

The French and German armies were more generous and supplied their soldiers with daily amounts of wine and brandy.


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