Sunday, 17 April 2016

Battle hardened

"Everybody must get stoned" sang Bob Dylan in Rainy Day Women. Even if you're in uniform, apparently.

Throughout history (and I mean throughout) soldiers have gone into battle high as a kite.Viking warriors almost certainly stuffed themselves with magic mushrooms - and observers of the Swedish-Norwegian war of 1814 said they were still at it. The ancient Greeks probably went into battle drunk and King Harold's men spent the evening before the Battle of Hastings drinking heavily. In the 1760s British soldiers fighting in the American colonies drank about half a pint of rum a day. After the first Opium war, c1840, 9 out of 10 Chinese soldiers were reportedly taking opium, though some overdid it, became ill and died after the battle. And half of our Sikh troops used it. In the First World War, Harrod's sold a kit called "Useful Presents For Friends At The Front", which contained morphine, cocaine, a syringe and needles. Charitably one might think in case they were wounded, I suppose. But by the 1940s, Finnish soldiers resisting the Soviets were routinely given handfuls of heroin tablets, RAF pilots were offered two Benzedrine tablets before missions and General Montgomery handed out 100,000 amphetamine pills before the battle of El Alamein. Hitler and the Germans were supposedly against drugs but  their soldiers were given an "assault pill", Pervitin, an early version of crystal meth. American officers handed out hundreds of millions of amphetamines in Vietnam, though many GIs preferred to take drugs of their own choosing. American pilots in Afghanistan and Iraq were given "go pills", also amphetamines. As I said, throughout history! Source: Shooting Up by Lukasz Kamienski, published by Hurst and reviewed in Sunday Times 27 March 2016, plus personal confirmation from a couple of RAF old timers.

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