Beer Keg flights…

This one goes out to Ex-Bootneck,  and all the other Brits I’ve worked with over the years…  We used to do R&R runs from Iceland and other places to Holland and they were known as “Beer Jug” events in tribute…

The underbelly of history. A lot of stories like this buried with the men who fulfilled the missions…

In the lighter moments of WWII, the Spitfire was used in an unorthodox role: bringing beer kegs to the men in Normandy.

spit 1During the war, the Heneger and Constable brewery donated free beer to the troops. After D-Day, supplying the invasion troops in Normandy with vital supplies was already a challenge. Obviously, there was no room in the logistics chain for such luxuries as beer or other types of refreshments. Some men, often called ‘sourcers’, were able to get wine or other niceties from the land or rather from the locals. RAF Spitfire pilots came up with an even better idea.

The Spitfire Mk IX was an evolved version of the Spitfire, with pylons under the wings for bombs or tanks. It was discovered that the bomb pylons could also be modified to carry beer kegs. According to pictures that can be found, various sizes of kegs were used. Whether the kegs could be jettisoned in case of emergency is unknown. If the Spitfire flew high enough, the cold air at altitude would even refresh the beer, making it ready for consumption upon arrival.

A variation was a long range fuel tank modified to carry beer instead of fuel. The modification even received the official designation Mod. XXX.  Propaganda services were quick to pick up on this, which probably explains the official designation.

A staged shot of the Mod. XXX tank being filled.

spit 2

As a result, Spitfires equipped with Mod XXX or keg-carrying pylons were often sent back to Great Britain for maintenance or liaison duties. They would then return to Normandy with full beer kegs fitted under the wings.

The Spitfire had very little ground clearance with the larger beer kegs.

spit 3Typically, the British Revenue of Ministry and Excise stepped in, notifying the brewery that they were in violation of the law by exporting beer without paying the relevant taxes. It seems that Mod. XXX was terminated then, but various squadrons found different ways to refurbish their stocks, most often done with the unofficial approval of higher echelons.

Spit 4In his book Dancing in the Skies, Tony Jonsson, the only Icelancer pilot in the RAF, recalled beer runs while he was flying with 65 Squadron. Every week a pilot was sent back to the UK to fill some cleaned-up drop tanks with beer and return to the squadron. Jonsson hated the beer runs as every man on the squadron would be watching you upon arrival. Anyone who made a rough landing and dropped the tanks would be the most hated man on the squadron for an entire week.

I not going to say ‘we’ ever did anything like this, since I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is…  🙂

h/t JP


Beer Keg flights… — 19 Comments

  1. I’m not saying anything but I might recall some bush planes crossing the border from Alaska to BC with undeclared liquid refreshments for some Yanks and Canuks playing in the bush.

  2. Nope, we never flew to Lajes for cases of Rose’ and cheap class 6 booze, ever. Nor Roosy Roads, Puerto Rico for rum.

  3. With all deference to American Beer, I much preferred Aussie Fosters smuggled into wherever. The Australians simply did a better job of supplying their allies than the Americans did because they had a superior product.

    And as to MSGT B and Sang Thip — It’s wicked brew. And brings to mind (in a haze, mind you) Cobra Gold…

  4. I’m still amused that the US Navy is dry. The Royal Navy sets a good example in this regard. As a result of their enlightened policies they are apparently always in demand to host receptions when the US Navy and the Royal Navy do exercises together.

  5. Pilots need to stay current of course, and if some of those flights ran into ‘trouble’ over Brunswick or Bangor and you had no choice but to land… Well, there couldn’t be any harm in loading up with some live Maine lobsters while the ground crews ‘checked things over’…

  6. LOL, so “I” am not the only one in ‘denial’… At least Sang Thip was better than Mekong… And Opus, we’re ALL Sgt. Shultz!!! 🙂

  7. I was stationed in Brunswick when the Tom Kitty’s first made their appearance on the scene. We had one come in from Calif. and load up with about $300 dollars worth of lobsters stowed in the aft end of the “DROP tanks”. We asked the pilot to do one of those high performance takeoffs where they would go the length of the runway then pull up and go clean out of sight. It t’was a beautiful sight! They came back two weeks later for more lobsters. When asked to do the takeoff trick again, this crew said NO! in no uncertain terms. Seems that after the previous crew got back to the land of “la la la” all they had was a mass of crushed lobsters and seaweed!

  8. @ opus06- when one is in the military organizations, there are a LOT of things that we,errr,’they’ didn’t do. Never happened, nope.
    Amirite, NFO?

  9. Dad was Corps of Engineers. The most honest, upright, and moral corps in the U.S. Army … heck! The Whole U.S. Military. He told me himself.
    So stories of RAAF fields being paved in exchange for Australian beer is total hearsay.
    Or ROK troops getting a reinforced concrete bunker in exchange for Ginro beer.
    Or …

  10. Ev- LOL, showing off DOES pay a price… 🙂

    DT- That you are my friend!!!

    Stretch- yeah, right… LOL