The Sailors Who Held a Funeral For Their Rum

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Every year on July 31st, sailors across Great Britain and get crunk in celebration of a time-honoured naval tradition dating back several centuries that the British government sadly put a stop to in the 1970’s. Having a tot of rum as part of their daily rations. 

The idea of giving sailors alcohol as part of their rations goes back to well before the 17th century when storing water aboard naval vessels was somewhat difficult due to the fact it had a tendency to go stagnant and begin to, well, kill people. As a result, naval boats often gave sailors weak beer instead, which was sterile and could be kept for long periods of time without it going off. Because not everyone likes beer, especially piss-weak beer that has been stored in a testicle-warm barrel for three weeks, the Royal Navy also offered sailors a half pint of rum instead, which many of them took, because of course they did.

Unsurprisingly, giving sailors half a pint of rum every fucking day soon resulted in a lot of drunken brawls aboard Royal Navy vessels and as a result, in 1740, the Royal Navy reduced the ration to a quarter of a pint twice per day and insisted that it be watered down creating a drink known by sailors as grog. Despite the Navy insisting that the ration be given to sailors twice a day, some still found a way to get their crunk on by saving up all of their rations to drink at once.

"Chug, chug, chug!"
“Chug, chug, chug!”

Again, this didn’t exactly work out and sailors and drunkenness aboard Navy vessels remained a hilariously common problem, forcing the Navy to reduce the size of the ration to a quarter of a pint in 1824 and then to an eight of a pint in 1850. Over time, with the advance of technology making storing enough water to hydrate sailors becoming a non-issue, the rum ration became more of a tradition than anything, with sailors enjoying a small tot of rum with lunch and at the end of each day paid for by the people of Britain.

In the 1960’s the idea of giving sailors charged with operating millions of dollars worth of technology loaded with missiles and shit shots of rum every day kind of made a few people in government feel a little uneasy and in 1969, MPs in Britain began asking if it was, you know, really necessary for sailors to their drink on that consistently or thoroughly. After a few debates in the House of Commons it was agreed that the rum ration was probably a bad idea given that sailors were now tasked with operating highly sophisticated machinery and in the 1970’s it was officially removed as part of sailors’ daily rations.

Sailors took the news well and decided that if they were no longer going to be allowed to drink rum, they’d make a fucking day of it. On the last day the rations were a thing sailors across the UK donned black armbands and nursed their tots like they were newborn babies, after the final drink of the day, they buried their ceremonial glasses at sea, which is code for “drunkenly hurled them into the ocean“. Some sailors even held funerals for the rum barrels, serenading them with drummers and pipers before again, hurling into the sea to be swallowed by the depths.

It wasn’t all bad though because to make of for taking their rum away, the British government gave sailors an extra can of beer with their lunch instead, because the British empire was built on the idea that sailors can get their drink on whenever the fuck they want.