Sunday, 29 December 2019

The problem of providing beer for troops overseas

Learning new stuff. It's the main resaon I do all my research. I'm always happy to be pointed at something I'd never contemplated.

In this case, it's about all the beer shipped to the British troops serving abroad. Well, not so much the beer, as the bottles, crates and barrels in which it was packaged. It shouldn't come a surprise that virtually none of the packaging was returned. Which was a big problem during the war and its immediate aftermath as they could not easily be replaced.

The head of the off-licence trade organisation was very aware of this problem and made an appeal to the public in this letter:

"Christmas Beer
Sir —Despite acute shortages of hops, barley, labour and transport, the brewing industry is doing its best to provide Christmas beer for the public and our troops overseas.

Of the millions of beer bottles sent overseas very few return, and the consequent strain on supplies for home distribution is enormous. Brewers, licensees and off-licence holders will be faced with a breakdown in the bottled beer supply over the festive season unless they have the wholehearted co-operation of the public in returning all empty bottles, complete with stoppers, whatever their condition and wherever they may be unearthed.

May I, therefore, appeal to every beer consumer to search his cupboards and deliver to his "local” or off-licence every bottle he can find, and to renew the effort after the holiday.—Yours etc.
Secretary, National Federation of Off-licence Holders’ Association."
Birmingham Daily Gazette - Monday 17 December 1945, page 2.
Here are UK wartime exports by destination:

UK beer exports by destination 1939 - 1945
Destination 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Egypt 26,597 28,857 28,519 3,658 45 4,804 2,966
Irish Free State 52,081 35,306 25,843 16,730 14,810 4,878 128
British W. Africa 12,468 13,873 22,328 15,544 19,161 10,225 1,190
India & Straits Settlements 63,186 69,963 62,260 11,523 638 2,506 38,333
Brit. West India 10,925 8,499 8,081 5,082 6,629 1,701 7
Belgium 29,140 13,080
Other Countries  89,577 97,188 78,521 42,259 65,736 53,483 78,732
Total  283,974 266,766 225,552 94,796 107,019 77,597 130,443
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 57.

Why the big fall in 1942? Could it be connected with the USA's entry into the war?

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