On the 100th anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war together with the allies against Germany in World War One, Robinsons Brewery looks back at the effects that the Great War had on the brewery and, indeed, the entire country.
Britain joined the war following Germany’s refusal to withdraw their troops from neutral Belgium. The decision resulted in 8.7 million men from the British Army being deployed.
Dennis Robinson, fifth generation of the Robinson family and director of Robinsons Brewery, recalls the effect that the war had on the brewery: “The brewery, prior to the outbreak of the war, was completely male dominated and had no female workers. Of course, this all changed when the men were stationed across the globe to fight for Britain in the conflict. For the first time, Women were very much an important part of the day-to-day operations of the brewery and certainly helped keep the beer flowing throughout the war.”
Demand for beer grew exponentially throughout the war years as Britain’s national drink embodied a placebo effect that lifted the nation’s spirits when consumed. As a result, the war years saw the introduction of beer duty as a measure to raise money for the war effort; a tax that is still prevalent today.
Whilst the brewer was fulfilling more orders than ever, it was about to be dealt another blow when the British Army required all working horses be sent to the front line.
“My father, Sir John Robinson, told me about a particular day during the war when all the horses from our stables were auctioned off in the brewery yard to help with the war effort. It brought my father great sadness as the horses were, and still remain to this day, an important part of our brewery and animals that he had grown very close to.”
The shires were sent into Europe to pull heavy artillery including canons. As a result, the breed almost disappeared completely. Luckily, some of the horses returned home following the signing of the Armistice in November 1918.
Today, the tradition of the shire horse continues at the brewery with Trooper and Royale continuing the long lineage of working horses.
During the war, Sir John Robinson was also called up to active duty in Salonika, Greece. The little-known campaign began in 1915 and continued until the Armistice in 1918.
During the conflict, Sir John was seriously wounded by gunshot and given the ‘Red Label’ – a mark that was given to casualties that were not expected to be alive the next day.
“The Robinsons story could have turned out very differently” said Dennis. “Of course, I would not be here nor would my brothers or even the sixth generation who operate the brewery today. It would have changed the entire complexion of our family and the brewing industry as a whole. The sacrifices our men made during the Great War can never be understated and should always be remembered and respected.”
To find out more about the history of Robinsons from 1838 to present day, please pop into the Visit England accredited Robinsons Visitors Centre on Apsley Street, Stockport.
Browse the museum, drink and dine in the Unicorn bar and perhaps take the trip through time with a daily brewery tour.