AIR FORCE WINE


There were two reasons I didn't buy it. First, it was 20€. Second, I had no earthly use for it; though I suppose it's more useful than a half-mannequin. I suppose I could add a third: it was empty. You have to admit, though, that it's a lovely idea: a standard 10 litre government jerry can, in olive drab, with the squadron markings stencilled onto it and the simple observation, “VIN”. Wine. 



The guy who was trying to sell it swore it was genuine; but then, he would, wouldn't he? On the other hand, it had been knocking around in that state for a long time – the paint was far from fresh – so if it had been a joke, it was quite an old one. 

When you encounter something like this, you always have a choice. You can take it at face value, or you can dig about a bit. It turned out that 53 Squadron was a World War One outfit, and thus antedated the invention of the jerry can. So: was this made (or rather, stencilled) by some WW1 veterans? Or by the members of some successor squadron? Did it ever, in fact, contain wine? I regret to say that I didn't open it and sniff. 

This in turn leads to ruminations on booze and the armed forces. “Dutch courage” is of course well known, though its origins are surprisingly hard to pin down, and it is only comparatively recently (1970) that the Royal Navy abolished the rum ration, though by that time it was down to a miserly 1/8 pint from the half a pint a day that was issued in the early 18th century. That's an Imperial pint, of course: 20 ounces, not the American or wine pint of 16 ounces. And by the end of World War One, Biggles (Captain James Bigglesworth, RFC, possibly the greatest fictional pilot all time) was capable of putting away half a bottle of whisky before breakfast, as recorded in The Camels are Coming

Regardless of all this, the wine jerry can remains a mystery. Like so many of the things I see at vide greniers, it certainly inspired a flash of acquisitiveness; and, like so many of the things I see at vide greniers, I'm glad I didn't buy it. 


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Words and picture copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2018.