An Unexpected Bene(dictine)fit of the Great War

Life during the Great War (aka) World War I was harsh.  Trench warfare was not for the faint of heart.  The heat and fury of war was broken by long slogs on freezing and/or wet boredom.  The 11th Battalion from East Lancaster, Britain were assigned to trenches near the Normandy Coast, where cold damp breezes swept in from the English Channel

One of the ways that the Lancastrians found to keep warm was to drink the locally prepared Benedictine.  According to Wikipedia

Bénédictine is a herbal liqueur beverage developed by Alexandre Le Grand in the 19th century and produced in France. Every bottle of Bénédictine has the initials D.O.M. on the label, which stands for “Deo Optimo Maximo” (“To God, most good, most great”). This abbreviation is commonly used at the beginning of documents of the Benedictine Order as a dedication of their work.

Gastro Obscura places the origin of Benedictine earlier.

The origins of Bénédictine date back much further than the Great War. It all began in 1510 when a Benedictine monk is said to have distilled an elixir of local herbs to raise funds for his abbey in Fécamp, France. Legend has it that the recipe was lost during the upheaval of the French Revolution, only to be rediscovered in 1860 by a wine merchant named Alexandre le Grand.

The Lancastrians became so fond of the liquor that they took it back home to England.  Even though the original soldiers have passed on, “(t)o this day, the Burnley Miners’ Club in Lancashire is one of the largest consumers of Bénédictine in the world. Their drink of choice? A 50/50 mix of Bénédictine and hot water, aptly titled the Bene’n’hot.”

14 thoughts on “An Unexpected Bene(dictine)fit of the Great War”

    1. I thought it was interesting and since we just celebrated the centenary of the Great War, thought the timing made it worth sharing. I have not tried Benedictine. May have to buy a shot at a bar sometime.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s a lovely bit of historical arcana. Thank you. My grandfather arrived in France during the final months of the Great War and saw nothing but boredom, for which he was grateful. He had no exciting tales of wartime glory to tell us, and none of the disease and discomfort either. Arriving in the summer meant not having to endure cold, wet life in the trenches later in the year. I can imagine that drinking was a popular way to pass the time, although I’m surprised that the Lancastrian battalion could afford Benedictine, even at 1917-19 prices. They must have made a nice boost to the local economy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having deployed as a volunteer civilian Morale, Welfare, Recreation specialist with the Army during the Bosnian Peacekeeping Mission in 1997, I sent most of my salary home, and did not have much to buy with the portion I had left. Your uniform, lodgings, and meals are provided. You mostly pay for a few personal items. I wonder if the troops faced similar circumstances. If the officers also contributed they could possibly afford some small luxuries and this was probably one of the perks of being in that part of France. Glad your grandfather survived the Great War. Thanks for commenting.


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