October 22, 2017

1941. Beer Shortage Hits British Pubs

A New Threat to Morale
"A group of Home Guard sit in the local village pub in Orford and enjoy a pint of beer and a chat. Many of the these men served during the First World War. Second from the left is Lieutenant Oliver, the local estate manager and Commander of the Home Guard Company," 1941 (source)
United Press story printed in the Kansas City Kansan, 1941:
That 'itler Won't Harf Catch It Now
British Workers' Pubs Feel Pinch of Beer Rationing and It's Tough
United Press Staff Correspondent

London. — (UP) There was more grumbling than beer last night at the famous "Chain and Anchor," the "Bird in Hand," and the "King's Head"—all of which are pubs and all of which represent in these days the core of a real danger to the British war effort.

The average Britisher has shown the world that he can take a lot, but there is no inclination in official sources to disregard the traditional viewpoint that if you deprive him of his regular pint of bitter or ale there will be trouble.

The London Cockney has watched his home burn to the ground without comment, the Welsh miner has dodged bullets from raider planes, and the North Country farmer has filled bomb holes in his fields without complaint.

Rationing Voluntary

But the current shortage of beer is regarded as a real threat to British morale and as more likely to cause widespread discontent than anything that has happened thus far in the Battle of Britain.

Due to lack of grains, sugar and other ingredients, the beer manufacturers have embarked on a program of voluntary rationing of public houses. Some pubs have been forced to close for several days a week. Others have cut down their hours in an effort to give the workers a break in the evening. Some allow only two pints per customer. Others refuse to sell beer until 8 p. m.

The beer itself is not up to standard. Its alcoholic content is less, and most of it is now the same as America's Prohibition "near beer." The seriousness of the beer situation is clear only when it is realized that the "nightly pint" is very important to the average British worker, on whom the greatest war effort is concentrated.

Peril to Adolf

There is nothing comparable in America, but the British pub ranks as a national institution. Many "blue law" communities strictly regulate Sunday theaters and movies but the pubs stay open.

It is in the pub that workers vent their feelings about Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt, King George and anybody else. There is one point, however, that lessens the seriousness of the picture in regard to war effort.

The shortage of beer can be blamed on Hitler. If the British worker gets that idea firmly in his head he almost will certainly be mad enough to do something about it—something like winning the war.