19 “THE O-PIP”
“Who got our rum ration last night?”
Without a doubt this is the most popular subject under discussion among the troops now that the wet, dreary weather is setting in and a shot of the invigorating juice would set one’s heart doubling. You may be on a trip up the line, stumbling over a pile of bricks and lumber, or tangled up in some unit’s wires, shivering like a chicken’s tail on guard in the gun-pit, or doing picquet over your faithful long-faced friends, stuck into the mud up to your middle and with a gloomy outlook ahead, or toasting your feet in front of a roaring fire in a billet far away from the noise of battle, and ultimately the inevitable question will arise : “Who got our rum ration last night?”
The scene most suited for the discussion of the rum ration is a billet when the fire is getting low and the last stick of wood is on, the roof is leaking, your blankets are wet, and there are a dozen or more dirty-necked, long-whiskered warriors who feel like the prodigal son, and would like to return unto their father. “Where’s our rum ration to-night? Yes! And who got it last night?” blurts out the battery drunk.
“Where is it? Well, I can’t say as to that,” explains a wise one, “but I notice that the quarter bloke’s nose is coloring and shining better every day, and now one can almost get a light off it-”
“Ha! Ha! That’s not bad,” argues Pete, the battery greyhound, “but how do you account for the cook’s rolling motions after they just got a smell at the cork?”
“I think I can explain that,” puts in the Q.M.’s assistant. “You see the cooks’ got the rations of some of the teetotal boys and saved it in their water-bottles, and the cork had nothing whatever to do with it.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” commences Lomax, who arises from a dead slumber to make an oratorical effort. “That stuff doesn’t go here. That last issue of rum we got wouldn’t have put the chaplain to sleep if he’d drunk the whole jar. They tried to say it was straight stuff, but they couldn’t fool me. My taste hasn’t gone back on me. Why you could taste the chloride of lime in it and that shows that water was added. So I says again, ‘Who got our rum ration.’ I suppose someone had the straight stuff and then to make it look as though we got our full ration, turned the water tap loose in the jar. I’d just like a swig now, believe me, boys. Oh! Hell!!”
And so the talk continues until the fire’s out, the last candle’s sent up its last flicker and everyone’s passed off to the land of sleep.
Even then one can almost hear the battery drunk snoring, “who got our rum ration last night?”