Binge Drinking in the Ranks

May 11th, 2015

Binge drinking is often depicted as a new phenomenon, a bad habit only indulged in by today’s youth. However, letters in the Record Office show that it was a serious problem for the armed forces during the First World War. As Glynn discussed in his previous post, the Government decided to take action and introduced measures to control excessive drinking. The new laws reduced the legal opening hours for pubs and made it illegal to buy a drink for someone else. However, these laws didn’t seem to be making enough of a difference in Belper. Correspondence between George Strutt and other members of the community show that there was a serious drinking problem.

‘There are eight officers at Bridgehill, they seem a very tidy lot. They told me they have had a hundred men sent to them by some other unit and that about half of these are a bad lot, and they expect trouble with them, one of them was drunk and violent before noon today’

March 6th 1915

The next day, there is a letter from George Strutt to Mr. Hunter, reporting an alcohol fueled brawl among the new soldiers.

‘I believe Dr. Allen had to be called in to some of them this morning, and it really is a disgrace. We don’t want Belper to get the name other places have got, both as regards to women and drink, and if the magistrates could close the publichouses, I am sure it would greatly mitigate matters.’

There is no evidence to suggest that the pubs ever were closed to deal with the problem and there are no other letters discussing it in the archive, it must have been a serious concern in order to petition for the closure of all the pubs!