"UP SPIRITS!"

 

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PUSSER'S RUM continue to support the
RNA and any Organisation connected with the Royal Navy.

R.I.P.
31st July 1970

A standard naval tot of rum consisted of an eighth of a pint of rum (which was over 50% ABV, and was traditionally named "overproof"). Generally spirits are about 40% in comparison.

Labelling spirits today as overproof or underproof is derived from the early method of treating Jamaica rum in the naval victualling yards before it was issued to the warships. The rum used to arrive in England at 140 degrees overproof after which it was reduced to 95.5 degrees underproof by having water added to it. A small amount of the mixture was poured over some grains of gunpowder and then a magnifying glass was used to ignite it. If the burning alcohol managed to stay alight then it was said to be "proof". And if it didn't light then it was underproof. If it exploded then it was overproof. Proof spirit today is legally defined as that which has a specific gravity of 12/13 (92.3 percent) at 51F, and of course they don't do the gunpowder/magnifying glass test any more. 

Once a rating reached the age of twenty he was entitled to draw his tot. Senior Rates were entitled to drink this neat, however Junior Rates had "2 in 1" which meant that it was mixed with two parts water to one part rum. The reason for this was so that the rum could not be stored and saved for another day. The rum was a blend from different countries in the Caribbean, most notably British Guyana, British Virgin Islands and Trinidad

The official reason for stopping the tradition of supplying a tot to ratings was that the Royal Navy had much sophisticated equipment and weaponry onboard and needed sober sailors to operate it. 

It was deemed that the Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers would be allowed their own bars to purchase any spirits or beer. The Junior Rates would be entitled to purchase an extra can of beer, making three cans of beer a day. In compensation the Sailors Fund would be created with a lump sum that would be invested and used to purchase recreational equipment for ships companies.

 

BLUE LINERS

Duty Free cigarettes for Royal Navy personnel serving in the UK were known as "Blue Liners" because they had a blue line running down the cigarette to identify them as being duty free. The allowance of Blue Liners was 300 per month. This privilege was eventually withdrawn towards the end of 1991 when it was recognised these were not a healthy option anymore.

 

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Many thanks to the photographers and the editor of the Tenby Times,
my old oppo Phil Rowe, for sourcing the photos.
Copyright, as always, remains with the photographers.

Ships and establishments marked Friday 31st July 1970 in their own way. Some buried the tot along with a headstone, as in the Middle East. Many threw the last tot over the side of their ships. HMS Dolphin was one of the establishments that had a gun carriage bearing a coffin that was flanked by two drummers and led by a piper playing a lament.

This photograph shows the rum tub being committed to the deep on the 1st August 1970.

Photo: Pete Ridler

This was one historic occasion that nobody wanted to be a part of. In lieu of the tot there would be an extra can of beer making the allowance of 3 cans of beer a day.

The Senior Rates mess on HMS Blake with Pete Ridler seated on the left. (Note the supply of Tiger - great beer! as a standby)

Photo: Pete Ridler

Ceremony on the flight-deck of HMS Blake, Friday 31st July 1970.

Photo: Pete Ridler

Royal Marine buglers sound the 'last post' for the tot onboard HMS Blake, Saturday August 1st 1970.

Photo: Pete Ridler.

Tot time onboard the submarine HMS Ambush
The final tot card (below) issued to Phil Rowe of HMS Tenby, when the ship's company were billeted ashore in HMS Drake. HMS Tenby was having a refit in Devonport. The issuing officer (when he was on duty) was notably Ted Briggs of H.M.S. Hood fame, one of only three survivors.

Without this card you wouldn't get your tot, which is why they were normally placed inside the back of the plastic wallet holding your Identity Card, the two most valuable cards in your possession.

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More photos of the 'last tot'

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On the back of the bottle of Pusser's Rum it reads:

British Navy Pusser's Rum.


For more than 300 years, from before the days of Admiral Nelson, wooden ships
and iron men, the sailors of Britain's Royal Navy were issued a daily ration of rum by the ship's Purser. This tradition, one of the longest and unbroken in the history of the sea, carried forward from the year 1655 to August 1st 1970. The superb rum in this bottle is the same rum that was standard issue aboard Their Majesties' ships at the time of the custom's termination in 1970. For centuries, British Navy Jack Tars drank their Pusser's Rum and appreciated this spirit's exceptional quality. Its distinct character is still created from six of the world's finest Caribbean rums which were discovered on their excursions at sea.


Product of Guyana, Trinidad & British Virgin Islands.

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When the official issue of the tot of Pusser's Rum was stopped in the Royal Navy,
it was then purchased by Charles Tobias, and Pusser's Rum was then sold
commercially to the public for the first time. Much later Pusser's Rum was sold to
the Jim Beam organisation (well known for Jack Daniels) and then after a while the
white ensign was dropped from the labels. When this was known about many former
sailors were understandably very upset over this and it was then pointed out to the
CEO, who then had the white ensign put back in its rightful position on the label. I
have it on good authority that the white ensign is here to stay on the Pusser's Rum
labels. Have also had confirmation (April 2002) that the Americans too are displaying
the white ensign on their labels of Pusser's Rum.

Pusser's Rum is now back in the hands of the original purchaser, Charles Tobias.
The bottle and labels are only slightly different (2003) but you'll no doubt be
pleased to know that the recipe is exactly the same. Same taste, same strength.

 

The white ensign remains prominent, though now fluttering in the breeze
and more yellowish with age. Note that the shoulder of the glass bottle now
has an anchor embedded in the front.

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Open the bottle for more of the very best

Pusser's Rum