The Waste of Man Power through Drink

British Temperance Advocate, The (1916) The Waste of Man Power through Drink. [Image]

[thumbnail of Front page Brit Temp Adv Nov 1916.JPG]
Image (JPEG) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.


Official URL:


In times of war, indulging in drink could even be presented as collaboration with the enemy. This front page from November 1916 shows the temperance movement allying itself with the British forces, lamenting the waste of manpower through drunkenness.

Journal of the British Temperance League




More men are required for the army – 400,000 more some say - and the papers and Parliament are concerned with the problem of where are they to come from. Compulsory service is now the law for all men under forty, and the extension of this compulsion to forty-five is being seriously discussed, as well as a “bombing -out” process conducted in munition and other factories, of all men of military age, their places being taken by older men. The Tribunals are also being tightened up as to the number of exemptions allowed. The imperative need for more men may be gathered from the following, typical of much that is being said :-
We want all men who can be spared to make our victory complete - (General Sir William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Oct. 4th.)
We could only be successful now if we had a constant stream of trained men, and an unlimited supply of munitions – (General Sir H. Smith Dorriea at Islington, October 7th.)
… … determination is that all the resources available in this country of wealth and man-power should be utilised to the … for the purpose of winning this war – (Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, House of Commons, October 12th.)
It is absolutely imperative that all the available men should be enlisted – (The Times, Oct. 25, 1916.)

With all this incessant clamour for more men, no one in the House of Commons has raised the question, “What has been done with many of the men enrolled, and trained?” From all quarters we have reports coming to us of army and navy officers and men put out of action or completely ruined by drink, but of the 250 or more Temperance men we are supposed to have in the House of Commons not one has called attention to this wastage and destruction. We have spectated and debates about corrupt dealing, waste and extravagance upon clothing, hats, shells, food, upon … in relation to these things, and upon corrupt dealing and bribery in connection with army supplies generally, but upon the waste and destruction of men by drink nothing is said. Officers and men are being dismissed from the army in a constant stream through drink. Some are sent to prison, some are incapable of further service because of drink-induced disease, whilst thousands are put out of action and go into hospital through injuries received in drunken brawls and fights, or because of diseases of which drink is not only the exciting cause, but the potent aggravator. How well known it is too, that a night’s drink debauch will be followed by a large proportion of the drinkers falling out of the ranks the next morning, if heavy marching is the order. They are incapable of responding to the demands made upon them, their energy has gone in the alcoholic excitation of the previous night, and now they are subjects for the hospital and recuperative treatment.
Examples of these experiences abound on every hand; we will quote one which was detailed before the Recorder of Dublin, Nov. 3rd, 1914. The Solicitor-General for Ireland, General Friend, and Brigadier-General Hill appeared in the case. Five thousand soldiers has been out on leave ; of these, about half were teetotalers, and these all turned up, right as to time and condition. But of the 2,500 drinkers, 659 returned in a state of intoxication, and unfit to discharge their duties for some time, and the application before the Recorder was for more stringent measures against those powerful allies of the Germans – intoxicating liquor, its dealers, and its slaves.
Six hundred and fifty-nine out of 2,500 is 26 percent – a higher percentage of loss than occurs in many battles. Apply that percentage to one-half of the 5,000,000 of men who have been enrolled, and we have an army of 650,000 men, which number we may safely assume as being permanently lost to the King’s army

Repository Staff Only: item control page