A bad omen as the Navy dries out – we haven’t won a naval battle since the rum ration went

The Brits won this with booze in their bellies...

The Brits won this with booze in their bellies…

It sounds like a right rum load of bollocks to Alf, but the New Zealand Navy is clamping down on its booze culture.

Rear Admiral Jack Steer is reported to have announced a slew of new alcohol rules for the service.

Ships, at sea and docked, will go dry and sailors won’t be able to splurge on duty-free booze, or cigarettes, when overseas.

And during working hours, no sailor will be allowed to drink alcohol without express permission.

Steer announced the changes yesterday in an “all despatch” post to the approximately 1900-strong force.

He sounds awfully like one of those bloody wowsers from the days of the temperance movement.

“I no longer want to come into work on a Monday and find out that one of you has been arrested doing something stupid while drunk,” Steer said.

He added a small number of people had been getting into fights, drink-driving and acting inappropriately around members of the public.

It turns out he’s a 40-year navy veteran who remembers sailors being doled-out midday tots of rum.

But he reckons the rule change isn’t about making the navy “alcohol-free”.

“As the saying goes, it’s not that we’re drinking, it’s how we’re drinking,” he said.

“These changes are about changing our culture and championing an environment where our people take responsibility and behave like ambassadors for our navy and nation.”

Steer wanted to remove social pressures to drink, emphasizing get-togethers are about people, not booze.

The navy has gone all namby-pamby.

Other changes include raising the price of alcohol in messes and doing away with alcohol-related prizes.

The navy will increase its education and awareness programmes and ban all alcohol advertising from its bases.

And sure enough, the wowsers have got something to say about it.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams has welcomed the navy’s changes, but offers caution about their delivery.

Data posted at Stuff show the rate of serious alcohol-fuelled incidents in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

It’s a record that suggests our sailors are nothing more than a bunch of Kiwi blokes and sheilas letting off a bit of steam.

* 21 Navy personnel have been reported to police for alcohol related incidents since August 1, 2012.

* All but one of those was for driving with excess breath alcohol. Another was reported for being drunk and disorderly.

* Of the 21 reported incidents, 17 personnel (80 per cent) were charged and convicted for their actions. Four others were granted diversions and faced other penalties.

* Other incidents reported to police in the same period involving Navy personnel included manslaughter, burglary, assault, and possession of objectionable material.

Dammit, this is a service with a long and glorious history of imbibing on board ship.

The rum ration was originally beer with a daily ration of one gallon. This official allowance continued till after the Napoleonic Wars. When beer was not available, it could be substituted by a pint of wine or half a pint of spirits, which depended on what was locally available.

The booze didn’t nobble our lads when they were giving the Frogs a bit of biffo at the Battle of Trafalgar.

In later years, the political influence of the West Indian planters led to rum being given the preference over arrack and other spirits. The half pint of spirits was originally issued neat…

At some point the practice of diluting rum (half a pint to one quart of water) was  introduced.Rations were cut in half in 1823 and again in half, to the traditional tot , in 1850.

The last rum ration in the British Navy was on 31 July 1970.

The Royal Canadian Navy abolished the rum ration in 1972.

The Royal NZ Navy can proudly boast being the last navy issuing the rum ration regularly, but we abolished it in 1990.

Dunno if it has done us any good. Have we won any naval battles since our involvement in the Battle of the River Plate?


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