The following document was issued to personnel attending the POs Course at H.M.S. Royal Arthur in 1968. A copy of the original document, in .pdf format, can be seen by clicking [here].

Service Rum

Blended at all the Main Victualling Yards

Standard Blend :

60% Demerara
30% Trinidad
10% Australian & Natal

Supplied to Fleet at issuing strength 4:5 under proof

Entitlement :

20 years of age
Elected to draw
Serving in ship or establishment on the custom privilege list
Not under punishment
Not under medical stoppage of rum


1/8 pint of spirit or 3 old pence per day in lieu
Raw spirit for CPOs, POs and SNCOs Royal Marines
Mixed with a pint of water * for junior rates and Royal Marines below the rank of Sergeant.
Issue to Army and RAF Personnel under the same conditions as R.N. Ratings, BUT ONLY WHEN BORNE FOR DUTY NOT WHEN BORNE FOR PASSAGE. [See Article 1464 of Q.R. & A.I. below. Ed.]

Grog Changes

To "G" on 20th Birthday
"G" to "T" on 1st of Month
(or at any time on the advice of the Medical Officer)
"T" to "G" 1st day of ledger accounting period.

Short Leave Spirit Allowance [available to those messes operating on the old canteen messing system, before general messing was available to all ships and vessels Ed.]

Credited to messes in lieu of Rum rations issued rate of 3 old pence per tot.

My thanks to Gavin H. Scrimgeour for the above document,.

Notes by Editor:

Each man's account on the ship's ledgers was noted with his current entitlement to Grog (rum), and any changes that may have taken place during that ledger period (i.e. the words Grog, not rum, was used in the ledger and spirits in Admiralty Memoranda and Circulars etc., and Queens / Kings Regulations and Admiralty Instructions (QR&AI / KR&AI).

In addition to the "G" (Grog) and "T" (Teetotal) notations, the ledgers also included the UA notation, for personnel who were Under Age, i.e. younger than 20 years of age.

To be pedantic : whilst the theoretical value of a tot of rum may have been laid down as 3 old pence (3d.), following the increase in 1919, grog money was measured to fractions of a penny and the Admiralty authorised the then Director of Naval Accounts, (DNA) to issue tables to reflect this, and grog money for those who were marked "T", which was paid through the ledger with their pay, was based on this table and not on the notional value of 3d. per diem for the tot of rum. I don't have a table for the 1950s or 60s, with which I was familiar, but a table was published in Part II of KR&AI of 1913, App. XVI. when the Grog Money was worth approximately d. per diem, and will perhaps give the reader an idea regarding what I'm saying, where Grog Money for 92 days, works out at about 0.565d. per diem, and that the table ties in nicely with the accounting period with which I was familiar with in the 1950s, i.e. for 3 months, and it wasn't until the 1960s that the ledger period was extended to cover about 4 months. Reading back on some old notes I'd made regarding the rum ration I see that Grog Money was introduced for teetotallers at a rate of 1 shilling and 7 pennies per month.

Whilst producing this appendage to the main document I thought it might give the reader an idea as to the important role grog played in the day to day life of most of the adult members of the lower deck prior to 1 Aug 1970, if I included some of the various bits and pieces that were included in the 1953 edition of QR & AI etc, and how it evolved, along with changes in the victualling of the Fleet, i.e. every time the quantity of grog issued was reduced, in 1824 and 1851, and (see regulations relating to the issue of the allowance of Grog and Provisions in 1851) the victualling in the fleet appears to have been slightly addition, I thought it interesting to note that, in a nod to the temperance movement, which was starting to find its feet in the 1830s, the Admiralty offered men extra rations of tea and sugar in lieu of grog circa 1847-8. I don't have the date it appeared in the U.K., but a copy of the Admiralty Order appeared in the Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List on 20 May 1848.

How the system worked - the issue etc : usually in sea-going ships, "up spirits" was piped during the latter part of the forenoon watch, usually at 11.00 a.m. at sea, and 11.15 in harbour, per published examples of routines, but it might vary occasionally over the years. This is when the rum was drawn from the rum store, often deep down in the ship, along with all the other store rooms, but being duty free and subject customs regulations etc., and since the neat stuff was highly inflammable, it was securely stowed, and any withdrawals were usually overseen by a number of personnel, including a duty officer, and members of the Regulating and Victualling Staff and the tanky (see for photo. The Regulating Office having, with the Victualling Office, assessed the number of tots to be issued that day, and therefore the amount of rum to be drawn, the tanky measured out the required amount of rum and took it, under supervision, to where the Rum Tub was kept, which was usually somewhere central where a hand from each mess and those supervising the issue could congregate without affecting the life of the ship, and without the issue being interrupted.

Here the neat rum for the senior rates was measured out separately, the rest being mixed with double the quantity of water by the tanky, for issue to the junior rates messes. By this time, say at about 11.50 hands were piped to attend the issue, where responsible ratings from each mess, usually nicknamed the rum bosun, was nominated by mess killicks (Leading Rates), in charge of the various messes, attended the issue to collect the rum for their mess. The person collecting the rum was usually someone who could be spared by their department to perform this duty and it was his job to maintain a list of those ratings entitled to their spirit ration and to tick them off once it had been issued. Once he had been issued with his rum, using a mess fanny - bucket, he returned to his mess, and at 12.00 hands were piped to dinner.

Captain John Wells in his book "The Royal Navy: An Illustrated Social History" states that in 1870 rum was issued neat to officers and senior ratings while the remainder drank it mixed with three parts water as grog.* Brought up from the spirit room in casks and mixed with water in a tub as part of a daily ritual it was either issued individually or carried to the mess in a container. For those that drank it, that is the majority, the tot was the supreme moment of the day ; hardships were momentarily forgotten, dinner became more palatable and for those coming off watch it was the prelude to peaceful slumber. In the wardroom officers preferred wines and brandy to rum, although the latter was popular with warrant officers.

Captain Wells goes on to add that between 1870 and 1885 Admiralty returns indicate that 800 officers (16 per cent of total officer strength) were tried by court martial, of whom the majority were charged with drunkenness or associated offences.....punishments ranged from dismissal from the service to severe reprimands with reductions of pay. In 1881 the wardroom rum ration ceased, although warrant officers, with their roots on the lower deck, were allowed to draw it until 1918.

The rating who issued the rum usually had a willing assistant who would actually do the ticking-off on the list provided, and would probably receive "sippers," once the issue was complete, there usually being more than a few drops of rum left over, since it wasn't unusual to note the presence of part of two fingers in the measure when measuring out a tot of rum.

In later years, exceptions to the issue of rum being made at noon were made for working Fleet Air Arm personnel, when their issue was deferred to the end of their working day, which often didn't coincide with ship's routines. In addition, at some training establishments, after it was observed that the ability to concentrate declined markedly following the issue of rum, the issue was also postponed until later in the day. All of which probably proved how strong the tot really was, and that it was an anachronism by 1970 !

At this stage it may be an idea to expand on the tradition of sippers and gulpers etc. mentioned above. There were various occasions during a matelots life when he wanted to say "thank you" for a favour done, or to simply invite someone down to their mess, say someone from an old ship that they met in passing, or for their company, or to celebrate a birthday etc., when they were offered "sippers", or "gulpers," and so forth, depending on the favour provided, or how close the friendship. In addition a big favour might warrant a whole tot, or "yam sing," as it was often known to those who had spent time in the Orient. Other measures included one, two or three fingers, to give a visible means of indicating how far down the glass a man might be allowed to drink from the other man's tot.

But, it was a far more formal affair for junior ratings when ashore, particularly in large establishments, such as RN Barracks, whereas rum for the Senior Rates was issued to their messes, as usual, where junior rates was concerned the issue was made from the Rum Tub, and was overseen by the usual culprits, including the officer of the day, duty Petty Officer, and senior rates from the victualling and regulating staffs (ship's police), and finally the tanky, who did the hard work, all to ensure that the right man was receiving his tot, and that it was drunk immediately, men not being allowed to slip away and offer sippers to their "winger," or "oppo," stood around the corner, which at the end of the day, was illegal.

Rum for most Senior Rates Messes was usually collected by a Senior Rate delegated by their Mess President, or even a messman, if considered trustworthy, but a senior rate was responsible for the issue to those who were entitled. Since the spirits for Senior Rates were neat it wasn't unknown for it to be bottled, again illegally, for a later occasion.....or in my case, since I was working with WRNS and figures in the afternoon, I often bottled it for later to avoid breathing rum fumes over everyone, staff and customers, when I'd returned to rum, not having drunk spirits for some 5 or more years, having been based ashore in London and then Kenya, and soon found that rum and work didn't mix, and in more recent years that I was probably allergic to it anyway, and hence, perhaps my attitude to the stuff !

Most matelots have probably got stories related to the tot, many happy, a few quite the reverse. But on a happy note I seem to remember, with a few mess members, being invited on board a New Zealand frigate when we were in the Far East, the Otago springs to mind ? where we were given a can of beer or two, but no trace of any rum....but were eventually invited to look under the bench seats, to see them filled with small kegs of rum, which were apparently to be used at the next mess "do," so they too rarely drank their tot when it was issued, preferring to use it for other purposes : this would have been circa 1971, so I don't think I'm letting the cat out of the bag ;-), but maybe might revive old memories ? On the reverse side of the coin, there were a few occasions when men, who were perhaps celebrating their 20th birthday, and therefore their first tot, drank far to much, and went to bed afterwards with the intention of sleeping it off, but were sick, and not being watched, they inhaled their sick, and died. Much as this problem was advertised on messdecks etc., and whilst it was very rare, it does give one an idea as to some of the problems associated with rum, especially when they are no used to it and don't fully appreciate what they are drinking.

And whilst we are on the downside, I've never been able to put together the statistics, which are probably not available, but am convinced that discipline improved generally after 31 Jul 1970. I appreciate that at the same time the Navy was probably recruiting a better educated recruit, but they still went ashore and enjoyed their pint, I just feel that to those men who were verging on being alcoholics, the ones often described in those days as "rum rats," who used to hang around the rum fanny in case someone didn't fancy their tot that day and was offering sippers, and to make sure that nothing was left in the fanny following the rum issue and were subsequently unable to control their drinking once they had started, if often meant that they put themselves positions that they wouldn't have been in had they been sober.

I mention the term fanny, on a number of occasions whilst writing this, but rather than me relate the story as to how the name supposedly came into use, I would suggest that you Google for the words "Fanny Adams," whilst retaining the inverted commas, where you can find the story, and also, on one or two sites, a picture of men holding a fanny whilst queuing up for the mess rum.

As mentioned, some of the rules and regulations relevant in some respect to Grog, or rather Spirits, as it is nearly always referred to in QR&AI for 1861, KR&AI for 1913 and B.R. 13 aka QR&AI for 1953, although the latter only mentions rum once in the index, to refer one to spirits, presumably as a cover all for all spirits :

Regulations & Instructions - 1808

References to Spirits / Grog / or Wine can be found at :
SPIRITS Precautions for issuing the same - 300 21
- not to be kept in any Store-Room - 211 19
- Measures for Security thereof against Fire - 137 4
- Not to be issued in Port, except in want of Beer - 302 23
- Seamen not to drink it in Drams - 301 22
- to be carefully kept from the sick - 255 4
- no Sutlers thereof allowed - 138 5
GROG to be mixed before Spirits be issued - 301 22
WINE and Spirits, Debt Prices charge - 321 5
- Precautions against Smuggling - 302 23
- for the Sick, how supplied by Purser - 272 14
- Surgeon to note Wine supplied in his Journal - 282 32
- to be carefully kept from the Sick, except prescribed - 255 4
Of the Payment for the Provisions, which may be saved by the Ships Company out of their daily allowance, or become due to them by their being put on Short Allowance.
Copies of Admiralty "Regulations & Instructions" are available in Google Books for 1731, 1734 and 1757, and may be other dates in the 18th Century, but that is outside my period of interest and I don't really have the time at present to investigate further.

QR&AI 1862
Chap 12, Discipline, there are references to Six-water grog for those under punishment, if allowed grog. (see This probably follows the introduction of the new punishments as a result of corporal punishment being phased out or suspended ?
See Chap 25, provisions, where grog is described as spirits....can find no reference to rum.
Senior rates would not appear to be entitled to neat Spirit at this date, and it wasn't until the latter part of the 19th Century when the value of respecting senior rates for their worth took place. They were still accommodated in the Junior Rates messes during the early half of the 19th Century and therefore found it very difficult at times to impose their will, especially when they sympathised with, for example, the junior rates when flogging was still rife on some ships, and some senior officers would appear to have got satisfaction from imposing it, according to accounts by junior officers, before they either became hardened to the problem or left the Service, which most couldn't afford to do.

Topic in Index Subject Page Article Chapter Title Chapter No.
Spirit Room: Duty of police when it is opened 130 1 Police XIII
  Keys of Spirit Room to be in charge of the Master 359 9 Instructions for Masters XLVI
  Lights [i.e. naked lights Ed.] not to be used in Spirit Room 343 81 Instructions for Captains XLIV
  Master not to allow lights to be carried into the Spirit Room 359 9 Instructions for Masters XLVI
Spirits; Extra issues of Spirits to be made on Captain's s written order only to Engineers and Stokers 199 5 Provisions XXV
  Spirits not to be allowed to Naval Cadets, Boys 2nd Class, or Boys on passage under 17 198 4 Provisions XXV
  Spirits not to be issued to prisoners on passage 198 4 Provisions XXV
  Spirits not to be received on board without permission 107 l9 Discipline XII
  Spirits not to be sold on board 108 21 Discipline XII
  Penalty for bringing Spirits into the ship without permission 109 22 Discipline XII
  Police to prevent traffic in Spirits 129 1 Police XIII
  Raw Spirits, not to be issued except to the Officers' messes except the officers messes 281 44 Stores and Provisions XXXVI
  Sale, loan, transfer, gift, or barter of Spirits, prohibited 291 44 Stores and Provisions XXXVI
  Spirits stopped for punishment of troops embarked 199 9 Provisions XXV
  Spirits stopped for punishment when to be paid to sick mess 199 8 Provisions XXV
  Sugar and tea issued in lieu of Spirits 198 3 Provisions XXV
  Spirits to be drawn off only on upper or main deck 343 81 Instructions for Captains XLIV
  Spirits to be mixed with water in the presence of an Officer 284 44 Stores and Provisions XXXVI
  Spirits, to whom not to be issued 198 3 Provisions XXV

KR&AI 1913
bungs of casks - method of extracting, 1698
casks - care of and return into store, 1729 (4)
consumption of - supervision by Captain, 578 (1), (2)
deficiencies by evaporation. &c., 1756
duty free in H.M. Ships, 1886
extra issues - authority for, 1690 (10)
gangway book for, 821 (6)
issue - certificate of measurement on, 1735
issue on repayment forbidden, 1701 (1)
private - stowage of, 540 (16)
purchases - rules for, 1773
raw - persons entitled to issue of, 1697 (2)
receipt on board, stocks. and issues of, 845
sale or exchange forbidden, 845 (3)
shipment free of duty, C.L. 7 1911
shipwreck. &c. disposal when saved from, 616 (2)
sick list - checking of men on, 1272 (2)
smuggling into ship or intending to do so arrest and penalty for, 736
stowage place of, 1717
subordinate officers - limit of ale for issue to, 845 (5)
traffic in - prevention, 815 (5)
trafficking in - forbidden, 735, 1697 (2)
warrant officers requiring - issue to, 845 (6) (7)

Spirit Ration
absence from ship - not to be issued during, 1696
allowance in lieu of, 1682 (a). 1695, App. XVI. , Pt. II.
issue to officers in special circumstances, 1693 (3)
persons entitled to receive, 1693
preparation and issue, 1697
stoppage beyond 30 days for punishment - credit of allowance, 1696
stopped - record of, 821 (2)
strength - procedure to ensure issue at normal, 1694

Spirit Room
inflammable liquid - stowage in, 540 (9)
keys - arrangements for safekeeping of, 537
lights, &c. - not allowed, 540 (2)
opening procedure, 820 (3)

Spirit Stoppage Book, 821 (2)
record in - of persons on sick list, 1272 (2)

B.R. 13 aka QR&AI 1953
Spirit Ration
duties of regulating ratings, 3228-9
entitlement and issue, Army and R.A.F., 1464 (3)
- canteen staff, 1525 (5)
- Commonwealth and foreign ratings, 1469
- Royal Navy and Royal Marines, 4923
- refugees (not entitled), 1470 (2)
- workmen, 1466 (2)
Spirit Stoppage Book, 4928
'Splice the Mainbrace,' 4923 (8)
stoppage as punishment, 1978
- involved in No. 10 punishment, 1967

QR & AI, Art 3228. Spirits. A Regulating Petty Officer [ship's police] is always to be present when the spirits room is opened, and is to remain present until it is closed or he is relieved.

2. The Master at Arms is to keep the Spirit Stoppage Book, Form S.763, in accordance with Article 4928.

Article 3229. Petty Officer of the Day. A petty officer or non-commissioned officer is to be detailed daily for duty in connection with the issue of provisions and spirit. The Duty of Petty Officer of the Day is to be taken daily in rotation by all available petty and non-commissioned officers. The Petty Officer of the Day is always to be present when spirit is being measured off for, or issued to, the ship's company. Any complaint with regard to the measure, issue and quality of spirit is to be made through the Petty Officer of the Day who is to represent the matter to the Officer of the Watch (Art 4923).

I well remember the first time when I was present as Duty Petty Officer when the required amount of water was being measured and mixed with the rum for the junior rates messes by the tanky, a rating who had obviously "performed" the task many times, and had developed it into an art form ;-) and with much splashing of water and rum, using the various measures available to him, being completed in no time at all, and with no wastage, issuing the result into the mess fannies as the representatives of the messes came forward. Very impressive, very quick, and no hanging about, rum for the senior rates having already been issued, at a far more sedate pace in comparison with what was to follow!

Who, in addition to RN personnel, were also entitled to a rum ration, Civilian canteen staff, Army and RAF personnel, to Commonwealth and NATO personnel etc., depending on the circumstances:

Article 1464. Army and R.A.F. Sub para 3. Troops or airmen victualled by the Royal Navy are to be victualled in all respects as naval ratings, except that neither the spirit ration nor grog money is to be allowed to troops or to airmen unless serving with the Royal Navy for duty. Troops or airmen, when serving with the Royal Navy for duty and borne for victualling, are eligible for the spirit ration or grog money in lieu under the same conditions as naval ratings (4922). Troops or airmen accommodated and victualled in H.M. ships or naval establishments while training for, and when taking part in, combined operations, may also receive the spirit ration or payment of grog money in lieu, under the same conditions as naval ratings.

Article 1525. Victualling of canteen staff. The canteen staff are to be victualled by, or at the expense of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes.

2. In seagoing ships the Manager may take up reasonable quantities of Service provisions for the use of himself and his staff on board on repayment at the issuing prices in force for naval ratings.

3. In General Mess ships, the Manager may arrange with the Supply Officer for himself and his staff to be messed in the General Mess on repayment, the amount paid being calculated on the rate of victualling allowance.

4. If the canteen staff are included in any of the ship's company messes in ships on the victualling allowance system of messing, the Canteen Manager should settle with the messes for the full cost of the victualling of the canteen staff.

5. Except in seagoing ships, the spirit ration is not to be drawn by canteen staff. In seagoing ships United Kingdom and Maltese canteen staff who have attained the age of 20 years may be permitted to draw the spirit ration on repayment if they so desire.

6. Canteen Managers may draw the neat issue (4922 (2) ) but other canteen staff are to receive mixed with two parts of water. Issue of the spirit ration is to be made preferably in the evening, but it may be made at another time at the discretion of the Commanding Officer with due regard to the proper performance of canteen duties during the busy hours.

7. Payment at the rate of 3d. per ration per day is to be made monthly by the Canteen Manager to the Supply Officer of the ship or parent ship.

1469. Commonwealth and foreign ratings. Commonwealth and foreign ratings victualled by the Royal Navy are to be victualled in all respects as naval ratings except that the issue of the spirit ration, or payment of the allowance in lieu, is to be made in accordance with the following table:

Australia Yes Yes Yes Yes
Canada Yes Yes Yes Yes
New Zealand Yes Yes Yes Yes
South Africa Yes No Yes No
Ceylon No No No No
India No No No No
Pakistan No No No No
Belgium Yes Yes No No
China Yes Yes No No
Denmark Yes Yes No No
Egypt No No No No
France Yes Yes No No
Greece Yes Yes No No
Israel Yes Yes No No
Netherlands * Yes Yes No No
Norway Yes Yes No No
Portugal No No No No
United States of America Yes Yes No No

* Spirit is not to be issued to Netherlands ratings under the age of 21.

t Grog money is not payable to R.N.Z.N. ratings when on leave and on certain occasions of detached duty.

2. Where applicable, the issue of the spirit ration is to be made under the same conditions as those which apply to ratings of the Royal Navy (4922). Instructions regarding payment of grog money are contained in B.R. 1950 Naval Pay Regulations.

1470. Refugees. 2. Those who are unable to pay for their own entertainment, and are not accommodated in officers' messes, may be victualled from the General Mess; spirit ration is not to be issued.

To add a bit of history to the subject of the spirit ration, I think most of us are probably aware of the origins of where the name grog originated, (to those who are not aware, V.-Adm. Edward Vernon arranged that 2 parts water should be added to the rum, the mixture being named after Adm. Vernon's nickname of Old Grog, after the material of the coat or cloak he wore ie grogram. See

The quantity of spirit, before adulteration, drunk at this time, right through to 1824, was a half pint a day, a half of which was issued twice a day, a half at dinner time, probably what we would call lunchtime these days, and the other half in the evening, probably, shortly before meal times, although pusser appears to have been a lot more stingy in those days with regards to what food was issued.

In 1823 the Admiralty announced [click here] that from 1824 victualling rations would be improved, and that they were reducing the issue of rum to a once a once a day event, thus reducing the amount of rum issued to of a pint, or a gill, aka 5 fluid oz., or approx. 142 ml. It could be said that the announcement appeared within the context of the following comparison - where 1 Pint of Wine or Pint of spirits was to be considered equal to a Gallon of Beer.

And again in 1851, when further changes were made to the Navy's victualling [click here] the opportunity was taken to halve the amount of rum issued to a gill, which was how it remained until 31 Jul 1970.

As stated above, the daily pipe or announcement of "Up Spirits" disappeared from a ship's routine on 31 Jul 1970, known as Black Friday [click [here] to see a farewell illustration produced for the occasion] by some, but to be quite honest was a blessing in disguise IMHO, and not before time, which I understand was reflected in the punishment numbers falling accordingly, and was welcomed by the likes of the WRNS, who had to put up with the often rum laden breath of their male oppos most afternoons, etc. An oppo in the RN was usually someone with whom you worked on a regular basis e.g. naval ledgers were run in tandem, as a method of double checking them, invariably being made up by a male Petty Officer or leading rate running what was known as the Rough Ledger, which was sent off for audit, a younger rating, often a member of the WRNS in Barracks and shore establishments, running a Fair Ledger, which after about 1954, officers and ratings were issued quarterly with a copy of their pay account.

And, perhaps, as I come close to ending this piece on the matelot's daily tot of rum, I should note that the matelot didn't have the monopoly on rum and that it was issued to the troops at the front at difficult times, particularly on the Western Front during the Great War, where, during the boredom and hardship of the trenches some Pongos even managed to wax lyrical including mention of "The sergeant-major...Thieving all the squaddies' rum." - see

Which I guess takes us through most of the highs and lows of Rum in the Royal Navy, but avoids the usual question that crops up at this stage, regarding when US Navy discontinued their spirit ration, to which I've found the following :-

1862 Spirit ration was discontinued by act of Congress on 14 July. But there is probably more to it than that, much as I've avoided the fact that some RN officers used to be entitled to their tot too, the US navy created Wine Messes, for the officers, but they were closed by further legislation circa 1913.

I don't do external links : they get broken too often, but I do often put in an address which can be copy and pasted into your browser, and don't cause error messages which have to be chased down when I do my occasional checks to see that all the links on my website are working, all 15,000 + of them ;-)

* The mix of 2 of water to 1 of rum was introduced in 1937, per some old notes that I've made, prior to this date the measure being 3 of water to 1 of rum, which would appear to have been introduced in 1870. Which poses the question as to whether measure prior to 1870 was 4 of water to 1 of rum ?

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