By Tim Ryan
It was a truly enlightening experience when Ed Moore graced the Rotary Club of Newport News with his presence for a captivating presentation about the historical role of alcohol in naval warfare.
Mr. Moore embarked on his talk by detailing the often-overlooked aspect of naval life, the routine practice of alcohol rationing. He depicted how this prevalent tradition heavily impacted the behavior and morale of the sailors. Moore intriguingly mentioned a figure named Penson who recognized this issue and initiated the elimination of both flogging and alcohol rationing. This, according to Penson, would mitigate alcohol-induced conflicts and enhance the overall disposition of sailors.
Drawing from significant historical events, Moore also touched on the American battle in Forest Harbor. In this instance, rum was served even amidst combat. The inefficiencies that resulted from this practice sparked a revelation about the detrimental effect of alcohol on the effectiveness of sailors during mechanized warfare. This led to an executive order by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to stop alcohol rationing on American warships.
Moore also dove into the peculiarities of alcohol preferences between nations, showcasing how rum and whiskey were selectively favored. He cited the example of the infamous mutiny on the Bounty and Captain Bligh’s journey, where daily rum rations continued to be a significant morale booster despite the dire circumstances.
Transitioning to the Crimean War era, Moore shed light on the dichotomy between naval and regular infantry regarding alcohol access. He critically noted the reduced effectiveness of the naval infantry as a result of their alcohol rations.
Fast-forwarding to the early 20th century, Moore discussed the cessation of rum rationing in the British Navy in 1970, emphasizing its public nature. Furthermore, he brought the commercial aspect of rum production into focus, highlighting that a portion of the sales continues to contribute to sailor welfare programs even today.
Moore ended his presentation by stating the last nations to end rum rations, New Zealand in 1973 and Australia in 1990. His riveting talk left us with a vivid and nuanced understanding of the historical role and cultural significance of alcohol in the naval world. The Rotary Club of Newport News was indeed privileged to host Ed Moore and his enlightening discourse.