Thanks to David Hayes for passing this along. There is something slightly frightening about sailors on a nuclear submarine receiving daily rum rations.
Alcohol and the Royal Navy often seem to go together – there are the nautical phrases for the time in the evening when a drink is OK, “the sun’s over the yardarm”, and having one too many can lead to a person being described as “three sheets to the wind”. And, of course, there’s the old sea shanty, “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?”
Even given all that, though, it might come as a surprise to learn that the Royal Navy was issuing daily rum rations to all enlisted men (even those in nuclear submarines) until 1970. After “Black Tot Day”, the final rum ration was replaced – by 3 cans of daily beer, instead……
The Up Spirit Ritual
The issuing of the rum ration became an elaborate ceremony. At 11am, the boatswain’s mate piped the tune “Up Spirits”, and a procession ladled out the rum, into portions for more senior NCOs, and the rest mixed with water (etc) for the ratings.
At midday, the boatswain’s mate piped the tune, “Muster for Rum”, and the crew came and got their half-pints of grog.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the officers’ rum rations were accompanied by toasts – first the Loyal Toast (to the King or Queen) followed by a different toast for each day of the week:
Monday, “Our ships at sea”
Tuesday, “Our men”
Thursday, “A bloody war, and quick promotion”
Friday, “A willing soul and sea room”
Saturday, “Sweethearts and wives, may they never meet”
Sunday, “Absent friends, and those at sea”