Monday, 14 March 2011

The Black-out

Here's something I'd never considered. And which didn't crop up in Goodnight Sweetheart. The damage to the pub trade caused by the black-out.

I can imagine that the prospect of getting caught in an air raid might put you off a trip down the pub. But remember this is from the early days of the war, before the Luftwaffe had started a serious bombing campaign. Darkness was the only enemy likely to be encountered.


That the black-Out had caused loss beer-drinking was stated by Mr. Philip Boddington in his speech as chairman at the annual meeting in Manchester of Boddingtons' Breweries Ltd.

Of the emergency regulations passed since the beginning of the war the one that had affected the company most had, he said, been the black-out. It had prevented many people from venturing out at night, as was proved by the difference in trade noticed on light nights when there was a good moon. The full effect was, however, delayed by the extension of Summer Time last autumn, and he was glad the Government decided to bring the date forward this year. The opponents of the Trade, he went on, had used the emergency to try to get further harassing restrictions placed on the Trade. They had suggested that the output of beer should be seriously curtailed and the hours of sale shortened, and had made comparisons with the action taken by the authorities in the last war.

This war. however, was being started in completely altered conditions, and with many restrictions imposed during   1914-18 still in force. The sale of beer in standard barrels was to-day half what it was in 1914, the permitted hours for opening were only 8 or 8.5, against 17. and there were 13,000 fewer licensed houses. It was, moreover, in the interest of the national effort to keep home and export trade up to their maximum in order to provide the money for financing the war, and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected to raise £93,000,000 from beer duty alone in a single year it did not seem that it would be a wise policy to restrict that enormous source of revenue. He felt that the Trade was too valuable an asset to the Chancellor for him to be indifferent to its welfare."
"The Brewers' Journal 1940" page 242. (Published Mar 20th, 1940.)

That's like a return to the pre-industrial, having the amount of moonlight affect drinking habits. That usually only applies to werewolves in a modern street-lit city.

93 million quid. It still sounds like quite a lot. Back in 1940 it was a stack of money. But, in a contextualisation exercise, it's worth comparing that figure with brewery profits. There are pages of financial results in the Brewers' Journal. Many brewers had profits between £50,000 and £100,000. But some of the larger ones were hitting half a million, pre-tax. So, whatever the complaints of brewers, there was still money in the trade.

Of course, the later German raids caused more direct damage to brewing. By destroying pubs and, in some cases, the breweries that supplied them. Though the practice amongst larger London brewers, like Whitbread and Watney, of maintaining their own fire brigade saved several breweries from destruction.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Ya' know what sounds unusual to me about this?

In October 1940, as Boddington states, the UK began practicing war-time Double Summer Time, keeping the extra hour from the previous spring and advancing the clocks, again, the following March. They did this until the end of the war. So, even during the winter of 1939-1940 sundown was considerably later -8:00pm/20:00ish. By the next March, when the article was written, the clocks would have been advance again so sundown would be closer to 9:00pm/21:00ish.

Under those circumstances, I'd imagine a good bit of beer could still be sold, throughout the afternoon and evening.

This sounds like Mr. Boddington was using the black-out as an excuse to have at, some of his Teetotaling opponents. The He 111 and Ju 87 pilots appreciated his efforts anyhow.