Royal Ale Force

WWII-SpitfireBy coincidence, Beer, the Campaign for Real Ale‘s magazine came with an article about delivering beer during WWII. Since Dribs and Drams recently had a picture of a Spitfire equipped with beer tanks instead of drop tanks, I can’t resist parsing author Martyn Cornell’s prose.

The first delivery to troops was made four weeks after D-Day. The RAF had sporadically dropped shipments to French towns before and when the Allied  troops needed delivery service, Spitfires filled their 45-gal drop tanks with Chichester ale from Henry & Constable.

Even though the metal was steam-cleaned, the beer still tasted of petroleum and was still welcomed enthusiastically. Soon Hawker Typhoon fighter/bombers came into use – they could hold 90 casks. Later P-47 Thunderbolts were added to the supply chain.

At 15,000 feet (I said 12,000, sorry) altitude the beer reportedly chilled nicely. Ale was also sourced from High Point Brewery and Bushnell Watkins & Smith of Kent.

The picture here is of wood casks with streamlined nosecones, an innovation started by a Polish flying wing of the RAF. These were known as “XXX depth charges.”

When the Allies broke out of the Calais countryside and captured Caen on July 21st brewers and pipefitters were brought in to set up Ale breweries in Normandy that were re-taken from the Germans. The Royal Ale Force (as Cornell has termed it) existed for a month.

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