In the British Army in the 1800s drunkenness among the soldiers was a constant problem, particularly in India where there was little attempt to provide alternate amusements and recreation for the troops. Several of the more enlightened officers established Temperance Societies in their Regiments to encourage sober habits, but it was not until 1862 that the Army in India organised the “Soldiers’ Total Abstinence Association”. The men were encouraged to sign a pledge to abstain entirely from alcohol. Similar organisations were formed for the Royal Navy in 1868, and for soldiers in Britain and Colonies outside of India in 1893. All of these organisations issued medals for varying lengths of time that a man had retained the pledge, from 6 months to 20 years, as well as additional medals for anyone who had rendered a special service in the cause of temperance.
A total of over 100 different types of medals were produced, and these are sometimes found today among possessions handed down from ancestors, as well as in antique shops and dealers’ catalogues at modest prices. They are even advertised for sale on eBay.
These have now been brought together in a single book. This 84 page reference and identification guide catalogues all the temperance medals that were issued by the various different Church, Army and Naval Temperance Associations to the British Army and Royal Navy from 1860 to 1939. There are 121 medals and medal variations included, each with a complete description and reason for the award, 103 photos of the medals and a two page ribbon chart in full colour. The 9 page introduction gives information on the history of the temperance movement in the Armed Forces as well as about the Associations which issued the medals, including details of the many bars and attachments associated with these medals, 37 of which are illustrated.
The Guide includes information and photos never published before, and is an indispensable reference for anyone with an interest in the temperance movement or in medal collecting. It also provides an intriguing insight into the rewards available to soldiers and sailors who resisted the lure of alcohol.