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THE TOT

2.5 Ounces Daily Rum Issue of 151 Proof Pusser Rum

by Naval Radioman Donald Courcy

Half a century ago

Onboard Her Majesty's Canadian Submarines

 

Pusser rum was helping me get a good afternoon nap every third day while at sea in submarines. The Royal Canadian Navy at the time was following the Royal Navy's tradition of issuing daily rum rations while at sea. Each sailor was entitled to 2.5 ounces of beautiful 151 proof pusser rum.

 

On surface ships, the rum was kept in their original bottles. Sailors wanting their tots reported just before lunch to the rum party with an empty glass or a glass with some water or coke in it.  The rum party consisted of an enlisted man issuing the rum in the presence of an officer who had a check list to make sure nobody reported more than once. As each name was checked off the list, the rum was poured into the sailor's glass. If the glass was empty before the rum was poured, the sailor had to swallow the entire 2.5 ounces of rum quickly in front of the officer. If the glass had water or coke before the rum was poured, the sailor was allowed to walk away to his mess so he could take his time drinking it. This procedure was to prevent anyone from saving and accumulating their rum over a period of time, and then getting drunk while at sea.

 

Things were a bit different onboard submarines. There was no space for rum bottles. Bottles were emptied into a tank before going to sea. Each day, rum was extracted from the tank and poured into a few buckets. One bucket for each mess onboard. For example, if there were 21 crew members in the forward mess, including the forward torpedo room, 21 tots were poured into that bucket, etc... The number of tots was sometimes lower than the number of crew members for a certain mess.  Some of the crew members might have officially declared that they did not want their tots on a permanent basis. There might also be some ongoing disciplinatory action forbidding a crew member from having his tot for a period of time.

 

Once the rum had been poured into the buckets, a bit of water was added to make sure the rum was not pure before the buckets were taken to each mess.

 

3-DAY ROTATION SCHEDULE OF WATCHES AT SEA

DOG WATCHES ARE TWO HOURS INSTEAD OF FOUR HOURS

SO THE CREW WILL ROTATE THROUGH ALL THE WATCHES IN 3 DAYS

WATCH

 

DAY 1

DAY 2

DAY 3

NIGHT

0000-0400

BLUE

RED

GREEN

MORNING

0400-0800

RED

GREEN

BLUE

FORENOON

0800-1200

GREEN

BLUE

RED

AFTERNOON

1200-1600

BLUE

RED

GREEN

FIRST DOG

1600-1800

RED

GREEN

BLUE

SECOND DOG

1800-2000

BLUE

RED

GREEN

EVENING

2000-2400

GREEN

BLUE

RED

 

The watches at sea were on a 3-day rotation schedule to make sure everyone worked each watch at least once every third day. Each watch lasted four hours except the first dog watch (1600 to 1800) and the second dog watch (1800 to 2000). The crew on the afternoon watch (1200-1600) had only two hours off before going on the second dog watch (1800 to 2000).

 

Some crew members going on the afternoon watch did not drink their tot before lunch and left it in the bucket. They felt that drinking their tot would have made them a bit less alert while on duty. I know in my case, the tot made me a bit sleepy and if drinking it before going on the afternoon watch, it felt like the watch lasted longer than 4 fours. So every third day, when going on the afternoon watch, I did like a few of my shipmates and left my tot in the bucket. If I remember correctly, the expression for leaving your tot in the bucket was called "Queens". If someone said "Queens", his rum was left in the bucket and his name was checked off the list.

 

By the time the forenoon watch was over at 1200, lunch was well underway, most everyone off duty had already taken their tots and one third of the ship's company was already gone on the afternoon watch. What was left in the bucket were the tots for the crew coming off the forenoon watch plus the leftover from "Queens". Another important factor was the fact that the crew coming off the forenoon watch was now off for the next 8 hours, going back on the evening watch at 2000. What a great opportunity to have a bit of extra rum and crawl into your bunk for a few hours of bliss before going back on duty at 2000. As you can imagine, supper was missed on many occasions and some had to scramble at 1930 to put something into their stomachs before going on the evening watch at 2000.

 

Unfortunately, the Royal Canadian Navy, which became Maritime Command of the Canadian Forces in the early 1970s, lost the daily rum issue after they were unified with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army. The last rum issue was on March 30th, 1972. I was on ONONDAGA that day, tied up at the Halifax dockyard. What was left in the bottle was dumped over the side of the boat. I think I cried....

 

Those were the days....

 

Donald Courcy

12 April 2017

 

THE LAST RUM ISSUE ON HMCS OKANAGAN

March 30, 1972

Ross Webb, (Coxn), Brian McEachern and Wilf Broyden

 

THE LAST RUM ISSUE ON HMCS OKANAGAN

March 30, 1972

Pat Rodden, Ross Webb, (Coxn) & Brian McEachern behind

 

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