British army officers wrongly believed alcohol made WW1 troops better fighters, claims addiction specialist
British army officers wrongly believed WW1 troops fought better if they were drunk in battle, an addiction specialist has claimed.
Senior commanders encouraged drinking among soldiers as they were following medical advice that claimed alcohol made them more effective fighters.
Go live in a trench, under battle conditions, then say booze isn’t a good idea.
Many colonels agreed that the recommended level was too low and would give nervous fighters extra helpings to improve their confidence before infiltrating enemy lines.
Lt Colonel J.S.Y. Rogers, a medical officer to the 4th Black Watch, said in the Report of Enquiry into Shell Shock in 1922: “Had it not been for the rum ration I do not think we should have won the war. Before the men went over the top they had a good meal and a double ration of rum and coffee.”
Quite so. Our modern man:
Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival near Salisbury, he said: “There are a lot of myths around. If you want people to charge into the enemy machine guns and you give them a bit of alcohol, it probably makes them a little more likely to do that but on the whole most of the research I have seen shows there is no real evidence that this really helped.
“It was the opinion of the Black watch medical officer that WW1 would not have been won if people had not been drinking. I think that on the whole the effect of these drugs on military effectiveness was negative.”
Dr Leighton added: “It is probable that it made them braver and more willing to take risks. Whether this always made for more effective operations is open to doubt.”
Which is to be an idiot. Well up into 1917, even into early ’18, the problem with the British Army was that it couldn’t conduct complex operations. The well trained Expeditionary Force was mostly gone and had been far too small for this sort of war anyway. The Pals Battalions Followed, then the conscription army from 1916 onwards. That last really only becoming capable of anything more than a “walk that way men!” after that year and a bit of both training and then experience of the real thing. This all being not so much about the private solder, that’s only a part of it, it’s about having the NCOs with experience.
The booze got them to move forward. The tactic required was to get them to move forward.