Military Non-Drinkers

In the seventies, there wasn’t anybody I knew who didn’t like to hit the sauce. We were all of a youngish age and relatively fit so physically, we could all cope with copious amounts of alcohol. That didn’t mean you wouldn’t get a pretty painful hangover but it was a case of either get through it or just go out and top it up and the hangover would go away.

Pads had a slightly different attitude. They all liked the sauce but on a Friday afternoon when the weekend was kicking in and all the single blokes were changing into civvies to go and party, the pads would mostly be going back to their wives for the weekend. They still partied but nearer to where they lived and of course, they had families to support so money had to be managed much more wisely.

When we were all away somewhere though, there was no difference between anybody. Everybody like to knock it back in copious amounts.

I do know a couple of guys though who after serving many years and reaching quite senior ranks who had to drastically knock it on the head because of their misspent alcoholic younger days in the mob.

Ultimately, we all cut back quite a bit as our age increases and we find we either can’t do it like we used to or we just don’t fancy it like we did when we were younger.

An evening out for me these days will see between six and eight pints of beer drunk and that will be probably once a week and sometimes much less beer or a longer frequency between visits to the pub.

As a young man, I’d drink double that amount most evenings often six or even seven days a week.

My Dad was a drinker which is where I claim to get it from never mind my time in the army. I’d probably live in a much bigger house now if I’d left the beer alone but I have to say, I’ve enjoyed all the fun so no regrets really!
 
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I've been in the RAF for 36 years now. I've been teetotal all my life. Ok, I've had one or two in that time, but the reality is that the stuff just doesn't agree with me. I just feel really sick and ill, so I don't bother.

Always interesting when I arrive at a new unit, but by and large, everyone accepts that I don't drink and it's not a problem. Of course I had the odd few that try to persuade me that I need to have a drink or two, but they soon give up and realise that I don't need it and it doesn't need me.

During my career I have come across quite a few alcoholics or ex alcoholics. The first one I didn't recognise to start with. He was a young JT when I was an SAC. I used to knock him up in the morning on the way to work on my way out of the block. He was definitely a high functioning alcoholic as you really couldn't tell that he was pissed at work. It was only when I realised that he was hitting the apfelkorn before he went to work that I cottoned on that it was serious.

He was sent to Wroughton to dry out, but within six months he was back on the sauce.

I've known lots of ex drinkers, and in general the lads have always treated them well, usually with respect for getting themselves out of the hole they were in and trying to ensure that they didn't fall off the wagon.

Those that didn't want help, well, they all fall by the wayside in the end.

I think the service is much less tolerant of heavy drinking now. When I joined my first unit, the Sgts and FS were always up the mess every lunchtime. Not now.

I have had one guy in my section, just recently actually, who is a heavy drinker. He's been warned and that he risks not just his role in my team but also his clearances. He didn't change his ways and he has gone now.

I'm all for the guys having fun, but not to excess, every day. That said, if people want to change, I'll move heaven and earth to get them the help and support that they need.
 
I think that the perception of drinking in the under 25s has certainly changed. A lot of my junior sailors and officers are more concerned with WiFi connectivity and getting to the gym than they are drinking.
My experience of younger soldiers is similar. It also means that those with a real problem stick out like a sore thumb.
 
Same here. Exact same rampant drinking culture in all of the DF, for decades. Same stone age attitudes. The Air Corps had it's "duty" alchos,including some who were allegedly working on aircraft and in one or two cases, pilots. The routine for some,who permanently lived in the camp,was beer at lunchtime in the Mess, beer after tea and then walk or drive out to a local pub which facilitated late drinking. Weekends were a blur for them and it was common for them to burn their entire wage packet on drink. One or two were thrown out by their families and had to live in camp. At one stage, the lunchtime drinking got so bad, the Station Commander had to threaten to close the NCOs Mess and start jailing people until the RSM got the message and made them close the bar at lunchtime. Same for the Officers.
Events such as airshows were an excuse to really go on the batter but things evolved and alcohol became less of a problem as the old sweats either died, left or were sent off for drying out. When the whole DF was compelled to change to a new, better fitness regime, it basically emptied itself of all the alchos and fat lads,many of whom were dead within a year. The DF also had an alcho/psych ward but most of them have died off. Truly sad state of affairs, when you think about it.
 

Arte_et_Marte

ADC
Moderator
Whilst in lines, weeknights would regularly see upwards of 6-10 pints consumed nightly, with the exception of Monday nights (block night), the intake was probably reduced to around 4 pints on those nights, the unit club was shut, so we would have to use the NAAFI. Weekends consisted of starting at lunch time in the unit club, continuing in the Company common area after it closed for the afternoon. Picking back up at opening time, heading down town around 2300, hitting various clubs and bars and ending up the 24 hour bar until around 0900 the following day. Then back to lines, brunch, shower, 2-3 hours of gonk, rinse and repeat until the early hours Monday morning.
I don't think I was physically dependant on ETOH, as I stopped the day I left depot for the straße, but between that, and women, it certainly destroyed a promising career, leaving at 11 as opposed to 22+. Up and down the rank ladder, the last couple of years became an open ended 252. Peer pressure? Possibly. Cheap booze, a drinking culture? Most definitely!
I do know of 4 or 5 full blown alkies during this period. One ended AWOL, Collie and out (a real stereo typical punchy drunk), one pulled the pin after his 6 (again, typical punchy drunk), one that had the best case of delerium tremons I have ever seen, and one that made it to Sgt in 22.
In not one case was rehab ever an option, always punitive punishment. The drinking culture flowed from the top down, the biggest piss heads formed the core senior NCO group, with part time officer participation. It was an expected, encouraged behavior, that did not benefit the individual or the group. Although BAOR was a total blast from the social perspective, in retrospect it was incredibly damaging to a lot of blokes.
The non drinkers were totally shunned, and frequently the subject of harassment.
Before going to BAOR, my UK unit was completely phys focused, and that, combined with the price of booze prohibited prolonged continuous drinking feats.
This.

That too, was my experience in the 70' and 80's in BAOR, but with the added excitment of pushing the limits during the week as well, if it was a birthday/engagement/birth/death or no particular reason at all. Wednesday 'sports' afternoons were classic drinking sprees. Coming back, drunk, from town in the early hours would involve standing in the shower for ages, getting dressed and off to work

Drinking six or seven pints at lunchtime and going to work on the Tank Park were not unusual in the slightest. Single shots of spirits were not sold in the NAAFI, it was so cheap, the staff didn't want bothering with the small change.

Every one of my peers drank to excess, we (as Recovery Mechanics) were even gifted crates of beer for pulling vehicles out of swamps. The word 'crating' entered the military lexicon. The JNCO's encouraged it, you were not a team player if you tried to go to bed early, (so you slept with your head on the bar) every game involved drink, the SNCO's were often absent from the workplace, drinking in the mess all afternoon. (as was I, when I reached Sergeant.)

We often spoke of a 'posting' to Netley as a badge of honour, but we didn't know of anybody that actually went there. There was zero help from anybody and we didn't ask for it.

Looking back, I have no idea how I survived, those booze filled, idiotic days.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
During my time in the 60s and 70s the army was a drinkers' heaven. Alcohol was included in virtually everything, including prizes at competitions. Non drinkers were considered 'strange'.

My last posting before leaving regulars was at ERE away from my cap badge, still Inf though. The RSM was a very nippy wee jock about 5'5" tall and very bitter about it! :). He did not drink and was super-fit. However, he had a habit of staying at the bar on Mess Nights, watching what was going on/being said without comment. People enjoying themselves with a good drink in them. Next working day he had a queue of SNCOs and WOs outside his office being handed extras for their antics in the Mess. He was not a popular RSM!
 
P Wing at RVH Netley was the military drying out establishment. Whilst it dealt with psychiatric patients of sll types, the majority were alcoholics.

So yes - they were helped.

Yep. Helped in deed - but it takes both sides.

Dad was RN. Joined as a boy sailor and rose to Fleet Chief (well, up and down and up) marine mechanical engineer. A steam and turbine specialist. Dad broke his neck in a car accident early 70's. Fortunately not paralysed but laying in traction in RNH Haslar for a few months wondering if he would walk, have a job, pay the mortgage with wife, and two brat boys must have tipped him over. Not helped by his home port being Plymouth so 100 miles away on horrible roads for mum to visit in the crap cars of the time. Was always a drinker, part of the life then. It took over when he left hospital. Couldn't concentrate, couldn't take stress. RN tried to dry him out at Netley, RNH Devonport, even Moorhaven a civi psychiatric unit near Plymouth. All to no use. RN kept him on in office or simple roles out of the way as he was close to his 23 years. and he got his discharge. My game as a kiddie was mum sending me off to find the vodka bottle in coat pockets, drawers, toolboxes. Lost count of the number of times he demolished the gates to the drive by going straight through them because he was drunk.

Dad died alone on his 50th birthday. Basically his organs imploded in a not nice way.

Dad had had quite a good career and was very very good as an engineer and had a lot of mates. Dad's mates looked out for him and tried to occupy him. Go for coffee rather than drink. Get him to look at their faulty cars. Get him on board various ships to advise on a valve or a gauge, anything to keep him from having spare time to himself. Their patience was sorely stretched. RN did everything they could. Sent him for treatment, counselled him, looked out for him, found jobs with no pressure looking after out of the way and closed down depots but drink was his crutch and there was no helping.

So, I can say some were definitely helped.
 

Chef

LE
Certainly a drinking culture when I joined the TA in the late 70s. I recall one PSI who was rattling mid week in the morning until a mug of scotch sorted him out. I asked why the army kept him on (I was an arrogant, judgemental young twot) and was told the only way to bin him was a medical discharge which had an effect on his pension, good or bad I don't recall. The solution was to post him to a quiet TA unit where he couldn't do any damage and let him serve his time out there..

Even when I left in the 2000s the attitude was changing, one trooper was sent home on a Friday night before an excercise for smelling of booze.

A bit like the change towards smoking.
 
Naturally I view anyone who cant handle their ale as a lightweight homo, but that's because A, I can drink, B, It doesn't control my life.

Most of the stories of the old and bold from the 60s to the 90s of drinking were simply because there was **** all else to do and if you were in Germany it was mega cheap.
Booze for the poor/lower classes has been a UK think for centuries, it was the only thing they could afford.

If you didn't drink what else could you do at the time? Either you joined in or you were by yourself. Very few 17-21 year old lads wanted to be the outsider when they arrived at their unit.

There was a drying out clinic in the Germany in 2014 because I know of a lightweight homo from the RAF who had to attend, but I seem to recall you had to admit you had a problem to go, you couldn't be ordered to go.

In the past when Ive mentioned being forced to go to shit Mess functions, those who shouted the loudest about supporting the Mess clearly didnt give a shit if their peers were struggling with a drink problem.

The Army is slowly changing, people dont hang around camps at the weekends anymore, drinking related shenanigans are less likely to be covered up, the RSMs/COs can no longer order the Mess bars to stay open past their normal hours (Unless pre-planned with proper authority), no more booze on exercise/tours, getting a platinum achievement on the PlayStation 5 is viewed as a more worthy use of time than standing around NAAFI bar with other men, etc etc

Where as not drinking use to be slated by all and sundry, thanks to Muslims in the Army not drinking, no one in a position of power wants to be associated with disrespecting a minority so even the piss taking has been toned down.

Bunch of lightweight homos.
 
My experience of younger soldiers is similar. It also means that those with a real problem stick out like a sore thumb.

Same, I don't think the younger soldiers (reserves at least) are that bothered about drink anymore. The culture from when I first joined and now is very different and I've not even been in all that long (2015), all the old heavy drinkers have left and that culture hasn't carried over with many of those coming through the system now.
The downside of it is that not many of them are that interested in getting involved with socials either which I think in moderation is important for building those working relationships as a unit.
 

Hohenidoom

Old-Salt
I'm unsure if the appetite for binge drinking amongst the youth necessarily has reduced all that much - I certainly see a decent amount of people up for it outside the army.

The perceived change within the Army might be down to just how accepting the CoC is with the associated high-jinks and aftermath as compared to days of yore. I get the impression that previously if you were hanging the morning after, you might have been told to bugger off to a quiet corner of the vehicle park - today you'd be having an interview without coffee.

With loads of people competing for ever fewer jobs (and no tours) I'm not shocked people don't get biblically pissed any longer and blot their records.

Oh, and the last bar I was in said they hadn't opened it in six months - people just drank in their rooms.
 
I'm unsure if the appetite for binge drinking amongst the youth necessarily has reduced all that much - I certainly see a decent amount of people up for outside the army.

Boozing numbers are going down on civvie street.

Since 2005, the overall amount of alcohol consumed in the UK, the proportion of people reporting drinking, and the amount drinkers report consuming have all fallen. This trend is especially pronounced among younger drinkers

 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I remember on a training day, there was a discussion about a colleague, known for his problem with drink.
Basically it was along the lines of would it be better to be treated in the morning when he was a bit shakey or in the afternoon when he'd had 4 double gins for lunch.

No firm conclusion was reached.
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
When in the 70's around 73 i went to the M R S because of my drinking the doctor said " just stop drinking then " I was 52 before I could stop. I wonder if things have changed now and what response I would get today ??
 
I'm unsure if the appetite for binge drinking amongst the youth necessarily has reduced all that much - I certainly see a decent amount of people up for it outside the army.

I think one of the bigger changes among the civvy youth at the moment is cheap and very easily available cocaine, many of them live these seemingly healthy lives of being in the gym all the time and eating healthy to achieve that "Love Island" body (although steroids are common to achieve it) and vaping instead of smoking, but are shovelling the sniff away like there's no tomorrow when socialising. Obviously coke wasn't invented by these lot and has been around for decades now with previous generations all going at it, but currently I think they see it as more sociably acceptable than booze.
 
Naturally I view anyone who cant handle their ale as a lightweight homo, but that's because A, I can drink, B, It doesn't control my life.

Most of the stories of the old and bold from the 60s to the 90s of drinking were simply because there was **** all else to do and if you were in Germany it was mega cheap.
Booze for the poor/lower classes has been a UK think for centuries, it was the only thing they could afford.

If you didn't drink what else could you do at the time? Either you joined in or you were by yourself. Very few 17-21 year old lads wanted to be the outsider when they arrived at their unit.

There was a drying out clinic in the Germany in 2014 because I know of a lightweight homo from the RAF who had to attend, but I seem to recall you had to admit you had a problem to go, you couldn't be ordered to go.

In the past when Ive mentioned being forced to go to shit Mess functions, those who shouted the loudest about supporting the Mess clearly didnt give a shit if their peers were struggling with a drink problem.

The Army is slowly changing, people dont hang around camps at the weekends anymore, drinking related shenanigans are less likely to be covered up, the RSMs/COs can no longer order the Mess bars to stay open past their normal hours (Unless pre-planned with proper authority), no more booze on exercise/tours, getting a platinum achievement on the PlayStation 5 is viewed as a more worthy use of time than standing around NAAFI bar with other men, etc etc

Where as not drinking use to be slated by all and sundry, thanks to Muslims in the Army not drinking, no one in a position of power wants to be associated with disrespecting a minority so even the piss taking has been toned down.

Bunch of lightweight homos.

So people just go back to their rooms having stocked up in the NAAFI beforehand.
 
But enough do to still make excessive drinking a problem.

Not really, I know of very few Senior/officiers who continue after the mess has closed, the pads go home, the singlies usually call it a night.
 

Chef

LE
When in the 70's around 73 i went to the M R S because of my drinking the doctor said " just stop drinking then " I was 52 before I could stop. I wonder if things have changed now and what response I would get today ??
Regrettably that advice and idea still persists.

An alcoholic friend was advised earlier this year to wean themselves off by cutting down their intake in stages. The advice was given by a drugs and alcohol abuse worker. Which is rather worrying.

As my friend said,

'If I could do that I'd not be an alcoholic nor on the phone asking for help!'

They are currently a few weeks sober. Which is nice.
 

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