World War I, Part 5: Tobacco in the Trenches

Unlike my previous posts, today’s entry focuses on the war as a whole rather than on a specific army. Tobacco was ubiquitous at the front and ever-present in prewar society. The war ushered in several changes to European smoking culture: Pipes began to fall out of fashion as cigarettes became more popular, and women smoked more in the postwar era as wartime social changes led to questioning of nineteenth-century gender norms. This is most famously embodied in the the “Flapper” archetype.

At the war’s outbreak, pipe smoking was the most common form of tobacco smoking in the militaries of Europe. Soldiers usually received packets of loose tobacco and matches with their rations. Pipe and cigar smoking were also associated with nineteenth-century ideas about masculinity. Cigarettes, although available, were not nearly as popular as pipes and cigars during this period. The war ushered in nothing short of a revolution in American and European tobacco cultures. It was also a period where modern cigarette advertising began.

The Tsarist regime asked civilians to donate tobacco for the war effort. Source: http://riowang.blogspot.com/2011/06/killer-game.html

The Tsarist regime asked civilians to donate tobacco for the war effort.
Source: http://riowang.blogspot.com/2011/06/killer-game.html

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World War I, Part 3: The American Expeditionary Forces and Prohibition

Editor’s Note: This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I’s outbreak. Today, contributing editor Nicholas K. Johnson brings us the third installment in a five-part series on alcohol, drugs, and the Great War. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

The experience of American soldiers and Marines with alcohol on the Western Front was fundamentally different than that of their allies from France, Belgium, and the British Commonwealth. Unlike the French and British armies, the men of the American Expeditionary Forces were not issued alcohol in the trenches. This would have been anathema to the powerful temperance movement on the home front. The temperance movement issued anti-alcohol propaganda during and after the war and connected it with the American cause.  Behind the lines, YMCA camps offered “wholesome” entertainment for American troops free from alcohol and other vices. However, the temperance movement and YMCA ultimately failed to prevent American troops from consuming alcohol during the war.

This image, published by the United Committee on War Temperance, emphasizes the "cleanliness" of temperance. Image courtesy The Ohio State University: https://prohibition.osu.edu/anti-saloon-league/dry-propaganda/world-war-i

This image, published by the United Committee on War Temperance, emphasizes the “cleanliness” of temperance.
Image courtesy The Ohio State University: https://prohibition.osu.edu/anti-saloon-league/dry-propaganda/world-war-i

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World War I, Part 2: The British Rum Ration

Editor’s Note: This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I’s outbreak. Today, contributing editor Nicholas K. Johnson brings us the second installment in a five-part series on alcohol, drugs, and the Great War. You can read Part One here.

“Why don’t we get a rum issue every night, or a bottle of beer with dinner? The French get their wine.” – Frederic Manning, Her Privates We.

The British Tommy had a somewhat different relationship with alcohol than his French ally and German counterpart. Although not as restrictive as American military regulations, British policy concerning alcohol in the trenches was more conservative than that of the French, who issued wine as a matter of routine to their frontline soldiers. However, soldiers of the British Commonwealth were given a daily rum ration. The rum ration, much like the wine ration issued to the French poilu, is a key part of British depictions of the war and formed one of the few pleasures of trench life.

Two Tommies drinking rum out of the standard-issue jar in December 1916. © IWM (Q 4619)

Two Tommies drinking rum out of the standard-issue jar at the “Chalk Pit” on the Somme in December 1916. The daily rum ration was much less than that pictured; enlisted men would be hard-pressed to access the unit’s rum jars, which were strictly controlled.
© IWM (Q 4619)

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