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Drinking Culture in the RAF – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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Drinking Culture in the RAF – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Old 29th Jun 2013, 14:11
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Drinking Culture in the RAF – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

As I sit here nursing a beer following the loss of the British Lions game (it’s not over yet) it reminding me of a conversation I had in work a few days ago about drinking in the RAF.

When I joined in 78 the drinking culture was huge. Between joining in 78 to leaving in 07 I saw a dramatic change in attitude from high level leadership towards the drinking culture.

At Swinderby and Halton at aged 17, getting hammered was totally normal, and sociably acceptable by everybody from the top down, despite the fact you were underage. Yes, you were given special coloured epaulets if you were over 18, but they were just shared amongst the under aged chaps (lass’s were treated quite differently in those days). Everybody knew it went on and provided you did not get into trouble it was unofficially accepted.

After being posted in to the real Air Force, lunch time drinking was the norm and Friday midday or end of shift the whole Sqn/Flt/Section was off down the pub or had a beer call.

A posting to Germany and the drinking culture went into 5th gear. I remember when I first went to Bruggen and the Stash used to have a yearly competition on which Sqn/Section/even MQ blocks down in Elmpt, had the best bar.

Over the years I saw this attitude change. Bars and booze slowly, but surely became frowned upon and some bars were closed down and banned. Ironically, this change of attitude came from the top leaders (strangely the same chaps that used to get hammered when they were young officers’ in a sociably acceptable culture), but in my experience it continued at working level. Most still enjoying going for that “Shed On” on a Friday beer call.

I have been out 6 years now, but now and again I meet up with the old crowd and we still go for it big style

So, I was just wondering what it is like now and what the attitude to a great big pi$$ up will be in the future.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 14:46
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Hmm. Having joined in '79 I agree with SRENNAPS and his description of those days both in the UK and RAFG.

However, with hindsight , it seems that the drinking culture was seen as the lesser of two evils compared to drug use.

In saying that you have to remember the Septics with their Vietnam fiasco and the prevalence of drug use and the problems that arose in the field.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 15:04
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I third the previous two posts. Joined B/E in 1960 at 16 y/o. Sitting in a pub in Barry Island with some mates when in walked a large Welsh policeman. Fortunately he was a good chap who just said "I'll be back in 10 minutes lads, I suppose you'll have left by then". Never found out if he returned because we had gone.
Once in the real mob lunchtime and nightshift supper sessions were the norm.
Happy daze!
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 15:08
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I was posted from Halton (in 1971) as a wet behind the ears 17 1/2 year old Jnr Tech. I was employed on a Base 3 Servicing team, which consisted of around 50 personnel of all trades. Managed by a Flt Sgt, the Airframes and Engine trades were run by Chf Techs. We had our own OC, a Fg Officer Engineer Branch. Every Thursday the whole team "paraded" at the " Fox" in Colerne village. On walking in there were pies and pints for everyone, which was usually followed by another ale. The bill for this was paid for out of a team fund, which we all contributed to, dependant on rank. I never saw anyone drunk in the 2 years I was on that team, there was never any "trouble" and I suspect that most of us learned the "art" of how to drink sensibly from our SNCO's who were always the last to leave at 1300 hrs. I think the drinking got a lot heavier by the 80s and that's when I believe, restrictions began to enter the service. By the time I left in 1997 it was frowned on to have a pint with your lunch, and then return to work. I'd like to say, looking back, aahhh those were the days, but I'm not convinced that the service is now the worse for controlling alcohol consumption. I know that many of the Drivers Airframe and their fellow crew members always had the 8 hour bottle to throttle rule, which always seemed sensible to me, and generally did not impede on people's needs for a beer or two. It's fair that the Groundcrew operate similarly, if they are to maintain their professional integrity.


Last edited by smujsmith; 29th Jun 2013 at 15:09.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 15:29
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Smudge, I wasn't suggesting we returned to work legless which wouldn't have been acceptable even back then. A max of two pints of beer would rarely, if ever have been exceeded. If later, 1980's, alcohol consumption needed to be controlled then that's another story.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 15:38
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As a young airman in Germany I was an enthusiastic member of the drinking culture, along with just about everyone else. Although enthusiastic I wasn't (fortunately I suppose) very good at it. The same drinking culture existed on every RAF Base, in my experience, especially o/seas. The furniture in the 'Pigs Bar' at Tengah was bolted to the floor for obvious reasons!
As Ord. Sgt. at Akrotiri, I had to clear the Airmen's Club of about 30 hard drinking Paras. Fortunately there were a couple of dog handlers hovering outside and on seeing them the Paras upped and left, in a semi orderly manner.
The IT company I joined in the early '70s also had a drinking culture, especially among middle management. By the time I left in the mid '90's that too had diminished somewhat.

Last edited by goudie; 29th Jun 2013 at 15:38.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 16:23
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Sorry if I leave the wrong impression. I certainly wasn't insinuating that anyone was rolling back to work at 1300 canned. I just had the impression that for a period of time it became quite acceptable to partake, and, as always, one or two overdid it. I for one am certainly no saint, and certainly used my time as a Herk GE to sample some delightful watering holes. Apologies again for any idea I may have left that I thought you had a drinking problem.

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Old 29th Jun 2013, 16:47
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I'm afraid you wouldn't recognise it now then. I suspect the work hard play hard culture was part of the military being a way of life rather than a job. Unfortunately, that has diminished and we have become more and more corporate in our outlook, our language and our ways of working. There is little room for a hard drinking culture these days, especially as post-incidents, the investigative chain has a very long reach and can include breathalysers and testing for blood alcohol levels.

As we move to the NEM and more and more people are encouraged to live off base, what little reamins of the work hard play hard culture post-PAYD will be finally killed off as beer calls become soft drink calls as people have to drive home.

Now I must admit to being a bit of a lightweight these days - I did most of my life's drinking between starting uni and finishing my second tour, but even I can see the benefits of getting everyone together for a session to enhance unit cohesion, following a success, or as a way of bringing people together after some bad news.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 17:05
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Sorry, it's now all part of the "Nannie" culture. The RAF ethos was in my time partly bar based (happy hour , POETS hour, drinking on a dead mate's bar bill etc,)
Some Aircrew USED to drink a bit at lunch time and fly in the 60's . 70's no way , unless there was nothing on in the afternoon- perhaps.
Happy hour was always a good opportunity to collar the Boss about some real or imagined bugbear, keeping in mind that his quarter was likely fodder for a "Taceval" later in the evening.
Yes, we drank hard and played hard. "In vino veritas" taught us youngsters a lot from our seniors and all was forgotten on Monday Morning.
Later, in Industry, I found that a definition of a "Good Farnborough" was one in which more alcohol than aviation fuel was consumed.
All terribly non -PC now.
You're welcome to it.
P.S. Posted before reading the above submission......

Last edited by Haraka; 29th Jun 2013 at 17:07.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 17:20
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Delving through the ULAS archives in about 1992, I found a bar chit dating from our time at White Waltham 20 years earlier, Haraka - which vividly described the vile concotions created for a night of 7 - 14 - 21.....

I've no idea how we survived!

In 1977-9, if we landed the tin triangle after night flying, it was common to adjourn for a 'crew round' if the Scruffs' Bar was still open. Beer was 20p per pint, there were five in the crew and we all bought a round for a pound. Five pints later, we all went home - and thought nothing of it. We simply didn't know any better.....

Last edited by BEagle; 29th Jun 2013 at 17:22.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 17:55
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Drinking Culture.

I think it's an age thing:

"When the blood ran in my veins
And the curls lay on my brow
Then did I, O undergraduates
Much as you are doing now"

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Old 29th Jun 2013, 17:57
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Can't remember a thing.......

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Old 29th Jun 2013, 18:05
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Chad says ...

Taken in moderation and occasional excess once the Hangar Doors are closed ... not a problem

Last edited by CoffmanStarter; 29th Jun 2013 at 18:51.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 19:04
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I remember in RAF Bruggen Alcohol was allowed in the Blocks as long as it was for immediate consumption and a crate of Grolsch was acceptable.

We had a couple of deaths when I was there, one in Roermond involving a train sadly and another ran over on the way back from the Feardry Inn, poor kid that hit him as he staggered out in front of his rover had only been driving a short time.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 19:21
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Ha! Someone will claim that there were Joker cards soon.

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Old 29th Jun 2013, 19:52
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Had the same conversation with my Daughters on a recent long drive:

My experience of the RAF's Friday drinking was this:
Pub at 1200
Out by 1500
Sweep & Sign-Up 'til 1600 (ish)
I did that more or less for four years 'til my Fitters Course.

Posted to RAFG in the v. early 80s: I went for a 2200 Duty Evening meal and was taken to the Naafi instead where we quaffed three pints each...when I got back to work - I found I couldn't!

I haven't done that since.

...well, not when at work!
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 20:29
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It is down to two reasons I reckon.

In the "old" days people had nothing in there room so would pop out for a quick beer to the Naffi/Mess to be social. Fridays were an excuse to finish early to be honest and beer calls were looked forward to all week.

Now, everybody has internet in their rooms and cars on the car park. People just sit in most nights now and play console games and bugger off at the weekend in their cars.

Naafis and messes are like ghost towns now with some closing at weekends because nobody stays on camp.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 20:58
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Sounds like a right bunch of sado's these days from that description.

Might not of had Internet in those days, but had motorbike / car, TV, Video, kettle, Toaster, HiFi, PC and could while away many an hour waiting for my game tape to load whilst watching the bright flashing colours on the screen...

And still went out socialising...

Ahh I wondered how we ever did it, out on the town, night clubbing to 5.30 am in Jever, back to the station and the block, have a wash and pop on the uniform and await the crew van at 7am to take us to work

Ahhh anyone remember the 52 hour discos they used to do at Rheindalen for charity? When the bar shut a beer store opened... Remember getting home Sunday night late, having left on Friday evening early to go to it...

Same at Christmas at Bruggen, a bar was open all day in the NAAFI to some silly time, was normally followed by Champagne and Strawberries for breakfast in the ermmmmmm WAAF block.

Then there was the block parties........exercise, in at a stupid time, back to the block 7pm ish with 5am ish start, so corridor party and so drunk was one and all no one knew the police block next door had even burnt down until subsequently we were all interviewed by the SIB

But as said, it was the culture of the time.... Damn miss those parties

Last edited by NutLoose; 29th Jun 2013 at 21:11.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 21:10
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Looking back, to 1963 when I joined, pretty well every event was either preceded by alcohol, had alcohol involved or was succeded by alcohol. I do not drink at all these days having realised, over the years, that I had built up some dependence.
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Old 29th Jun 2013, 21:13
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Maybe's it's just that we are old farts and dont get invited anymore.
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