Drinking games

I'm writing an anthropology paper on drinking. Just wondering if anyone can enlighten me about the real meaning of Army drinking. Is it just boys having fun? Is it useful in training? And what about drinking games? What's the point of that. Gory stories would be most appreciated!
Anthropology paper or journo wanting to know why some pissed up squaddies did X in Catterick?

There is a long tradition in the Army of being able to both work and play hard. Drink is usually pretty cheap - the bars in the junior ranks clubs, sergeants and officers messes are only allowed to make a small profit. I think boys having fun (sounds slightly gay) is probably closer to the mark than usefulness in training. As with civilian life drink is also good for raising morale, stimulating conversation and winding down after a hard day at the coal face.

That's about it really.
Sorry... not a 'Heat' or Sun journo... real anthropology PhD student actually, from Imperial College. And I've been out on the piss with squaddies all over the world in the name of research so I know what goes on. What I'm looking for is some intelligent thoughts on why drinking and soldiering are so intertwined. Something a bit deeper than the 'work hard play hard' explanation. I was hoping that both current serving soldiers and veterans might add something to my thesis. I know it's 'the oldest Army tradition' of all, I'm trying to figure out why.
Big Head,

Point 1: if you are a decent anthropological student studying for a PhD then I would have expected you to have selected a less inflammatory screen name. Pointing out to us intellectual challenged Army types how much brighter you are than us is unlikely to win you lots of support and inclination to help you with your thesis.
Deduction: your human study skills are not good enough to get you a job hence your still a student or you are a reptile journalist.

Point 2: Chris if that’s you I don’t constitute getting pissed in Washington and Shrivenham 'out on the urine with squaddies all over the world in the name of research'

Point 3: (Possible helpful one) Every unit should gets a mandatory lecture on alcohol misuse each years. Go and speak to the presentation teams. I can’t vouch for the RAF team, but the guys who currently do the Army ones are really good and the guy who did the Navy one in 2002 could write your PhD for you.

p.s have you any research money to buy me some beer and get me pissed and I will tell you everything?
If your a good student, you'll do your researc. Read the subtitles under each of the forums and see what each of them contains. I can guarantee that at least 2 have copious drinkig tales to amuse you.
bluebells said:
Big Head,

Point 1: if you are a decent anthropological student studying for a PhD then I would have expected you to have selected a less inflammatory screen name. Pointing out to us intellectual challenged Army types how much brighter you are than us is unlikely to win you lots of support and inclination to help you with your thesis.
I think the choice of name comes from "3rd Rock from the Sun" TV show and not the writers view of his own intelligence.
Thanks Man_of_Bronze! It was meant to be self-mocking! .. And to Bluebells, thanks for the tip. I've seen both the annual ITDs and the touring drug and alcohol lectures and the latter are pretty good. And no, I'm not Chris, but he sounds fun. I'm actually female and 40-ish and in full-time employment despite my 'very poor human study skills.' But seriously, this issue really fascinates me. Alcohol misuse costs the Army £111 million pounds a year at last reckoning, yet efforts to 'control' it are weak at best (Although, as Bluebells pointed out, the education is getting better)--certainly in contrast to the costly efforts to 'control' drug misuse [CDT]. Why? I had a very useful private message from a writer who linked alcohol to bonding and creation of a family attachment to one's unit. (many thanks to the sender) Commanding Officers have repeatedly told me that unit cohesion is the foundation of military effectiveness, so without alcohol, where would unit cohesion be? Could the Army achieve closely knit units of 'bonded' men without the celebratory drinking? Also, masculinity is closely associated with fighting capability and drinking is (I have observed) used as a 'proof' or test of masculinity. Are recruits actively 'taught' how to bond, or does the Army exploit alchol's natural ability to loosen and relax people and use it as a bonding 'agent'? Any further thoughts?
This forum might tell you something about current attitutdes -but is it systematic and what evidence might it constitute?

I suspect you might get as much from a study of published workson army customs unless you have some specific hypotheses to test. Or areyou asking us to tell you what should be in your dissertation? If you are looking for data - why not analyse the contents of the naafi forum or even best of arrse?? Plenty of items of data to analyse - postive and negative atttitudes to drink possibly event statistically significant sample sizes.

The truth I suspect is rather simple.

Sedative drugs and soldiers are commonly associated. It something to do with stress. Armies which don't drink might use canabis instead - like the cartheginean oarsmen. Armies whcih forswear any drug are likely to use religion.

Alcohol is commonly beleived to play a role in bonding. Historically we have Tacitus' comments on German tribes only making a decisionj after the matter has been debated sober and drunk. We know in vino veritas. There is a common view that its a good idea to really get to know the people in your team who you trust with your life.

Drinking rituals play a big part in army life, from mess dinners through to platoon smokers. But I didn't think "drinking games" were as significiant - except assome part of an initiation ceremony. By this I mean dining in new mess members as well as something on the front page of the NOW.

You might also like to look at how the army fought in the worldwars. Richard Holmes mentions it in passing. The difference between "wet" and "Dry" formations gets a passing comment. In battle there seems to have been little opportunity for any kind of drinking games. The RAF were probably heavier drinkers in combat. Check the memoirs from Battle of Britian pilots.
...and Pteranodon wrote that after Happy Hour in the mess.
May I suggest that you post this, together with your thoughts on 'bonding' in the NAAFI? I think you'll enjoy your reception :).
Have you tried linking your research with the drinking that goes on in University/College campuses?

Or perhaps other male bastions such as football/rugby clubs?
Drink? Chance would be a fine thing! Too much work! Plus everyone gets the hell out on weekends. That only really leaves thursday night, or millionaires night first of the month. Germany and NI are probably in a different situation, since they're unlikely to fly home every weekend.
I seem to remember a story about a "brick". Two soldiers on the eve of Waterloo (I think) were caught drinking in a barn by an NCO. The NCO picked up a brick, and after saying "You've got until this brick hits the floor to get out of here and into the battle" threw the brick in the air. The brick got caught in a rafter, and the lads were left to their drinking!

I'm fairly certain a guards regiment still keeps the same brick in their mess. Anyone help me out here?
I was under the impression that the Army (and probably the other Services) had outlawed 'drinking games' after the MOD were taken to court about 10 (ish) years ago after an Officer (RAF?) drank himself to death in Norway. Someone might have a better memory than me and know more details, but I have started on the red wine and my powers of recall diminish with each gulp.
I think that was some lad on a birthday thrash in Germany who was fed a few litres of mixed poison, but might be wrong.

Weirdest: The Jamaica Defence Force WOs & SGTs mess more than a few years ago; a notice was posted up on the Mess notice board telling everyone that "the following Mess Games will be played after tonight's Dinner", listing 'Boatrace', 'Cardinal Puff', 'Fighter Pilot' etc, the times at which each were to start, who was to be the instigator....

I think the RSM was reliving the glories of the past; something which never happens in the British Army.
111 million quid a year wow thats some piss up. squaddies are no different from anybody else as far as drinks concerned. Its just a lot cheaper.. The old bill used to have the same drinking culture except its more expensive and people get to go home to a house instead of sh*t single acoom or a mess. If you really want to see alcohol and culture to excess why don't you look at pissed up civvies in Croydon or Blackpool. Believe me there far worse. As far as drinking games are concerened I saw far worse ones in the civvy rugby clubs I played for. Don't ever get me started on womans hockey piss ups...manic.
Many thanks for your comments. I never really intended to use this site to gather stat significant evidence, but Pteranadon (is this reference to age?) and others have given me several good suggestions for semi-serious data collection from ARRSE. I think this site is usefull for research in that it gives military personnel a relatively free and anonymous voice for opinions. I got a bit tired of interviewing officers who, in response to questions about the Army's drinking culture would say, for example: "We have an AGAI and standing orders concerning alcohol: If it is policy, then that's what happens and I have to believe it happens." I understand their position (and annoyance at nosy parker researchers) but I really welcome some honest opinions.

I am toying with the notion that the culture (of a society or institution) is an integral part of its strategy. O’Reilly and Chatman’s (1996) comparison of ‘strong-culture’ organisations argued that: "Culture can be thought of as a mechanism for social control. As such, culture is important for both the implementation of strategy and as a mechanism for generating commitment among organizational members." What I would like to ask ARRSE members is: do you think there are ways in which the drinking culture in the Army might be beneficial in a strategic sense. For example, Pteranadon mentioned the use of alcohol to demonstrate trust and, in some ways, as a 'truth agent'. If there are any officers/NCOs out there who agree/disagree that "I don't trust a man until I've seen him drunk" as one Sgt once said to me, I'd be interested to know why/why not?

BTW, Pteranandon, I looked up the Tacitus reference and also found this...
From Herodotus, Histories [1.133]
[Regarding the Persians] "It is also their general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk; and then on the morrow, when they are sober, the decision to which they came the night before is put before them by the master of the house in which it was made; and if it is then approved of, they act on it; if not, they set it aside. Sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine." Sound like Mess dinner night?

I have read several works on Army customs but can find few directly related to drinking. If you can point me to some I would gladly repay you in a fair quantity of your favourite tipple. Will definitely look up the R. Holmes ref also.

The comments from Mr_relaxed and knuckle_dragger re comparisons with civilian heavy drinking groups such as sports groups and Uni students are well taken. Comparisons can be, made but do you not think that the Army, as an organisation, has more of an influence in the way young soldiers are taught/encouraged to drink? Uni students may drink a lot, but are they influenced by the University heirarchy to do so?

The Hanging Brick story I had heard in passing but did not know origins of. Does anybody else have any Army myths or heroes stories relating to drinking?

Many thanks to all for this help. I feel like it's my round...Shame there is no electronic system for buying people a drink.

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