A Few Rum Rations
The rum ration was transported to France
in the traditional stoneware rum jars up to January 1916. It was not
uncommon, at this time, for everything to be packaged in England. From
January the rum arrived at No.2 Base Supply Depot, Rouen in 106-gallon
puncheons or large barrels. These were then decanted by the Army Ordnance
Corps into rum jars for onward transit to the forward areas by the
railways and Army Service Corps.
Off the ship, puncheons were stored in a barbed wire enclosure directly opposite Hangar “J”, where they were decanted into one-gallon jars. The puncheons were stored on their ends to save space and during warm weather were sprayed with water to prevent them drying out and cracking.
A 53x60ft area of Hangar “J” had been fenced off to enable decanting in a safe area, free from pilfering. A wooden tap was inserted into the puncheon, which was then placed on a stand and the rum drawn off into half-gallon measures and transferred into one-gallon jars for onward transit. Bowls were placed under the tap and containers to collect any drips or spillage. Corks were obtained from the AOC and sealed with wax and stamped ‘ASC’. Empty puncheons were left to drain for twenty-four hours and returned to England.
The jars were obtained from the Yardmaster, who ensured they had been thoroughly cleaned with hot water and drained. All the bowls, funnels and measures used were thoroughly washed with hot water at the end of each day. A careful record was kept of the exact quantity obtained from each puncheon and any shortages, and surpluses were recorded against the advised quantity provided with each puncheon from England.
Petrol cases and bacon boxes returned from the front and no longer suitable for return to England or other purposes were used for packing three one-gallon jars. These were packed with condemned hay and straw to secure them for onward transit. Each case was stencilled ‘RUM’ and fed into the Line of Communication.
The decanting party consisted of six men decanting, two corking, one sealing, one stamping, three stacking, and ten packing and stacking the cases. The twenty-three men were able to decant ten puncheons, 1,060 gallons daily provided there was sufficient packing cases available. The men were identified as the decanting team by wearing the authorised ‘rum’ armband and no other man was allowed inside the rum enclosure, which was keenly supervised by the Army Service Corps NCO in charge of the decanting party.