Le bon vin de France …
The good wine of France…
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1915
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 37 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre .
The print’s caption reads: ‘In an admirable show of solidarity, French winemakers sent our soldiers a large proportion of their wine from the harvest of 1914…’ The men are fondly called les poilus (‘the hairy ones’), due to their unshaven faces. The term was often used, and linked the defenders of the country to the Biblical figure of Samson, who drew strength from his hair.
The generosity of the French winemakers was not entirely selfless. They had become frustrated by restrictions on alcohol and the campaigns of the anti-alcohol group, Ligue nationale contre l’alcoolisme , which had formed in 1903 and propounded moderate consumption of wine, beer and cider. By 1914 it had 125,000 members and some support from the ministries of war and education.
Temperance propaganda began in earnest during the war. Towards the end of August 1914 the French government banned the consumption of absinthe and public slogans warned of ‘the enemy within’. Alcohol producers tried to counter the propaganda by offering gifts of wine and linking the valour of French troops to the daily wine ration, the pinard. Restriction of alcohol in war zones did not happen until 1917.
The French inscription with English translation:
Le Bon Vin de France
Les vignerons français, dans un admirable élan de solidarité, ont envoyé à nos soldats une bonne partie du vin provenant de la récolte de 1914. C’est une joie profonde pour nos soldats lorsqu’ils ont bien fait leur devoir et qu’ils peuvent profiter d’un repos bein gagné, de déguster un peu de ce “ bon vin de France “. Il leur paraît d’autant plus savoureux qu’ils en furent longtemps privés. Voici dans la chambre de repos précédent la premiere ligne, les poilus du X… bataillon d’infanterie. Ils sont animés de la plus saine gaieté et boivent à la “Victoire des Alliés”_
The good French wine.
The French winemakers, in an admirable show of solidarity, sent our soldiers a large portion of wine from the harvest of 1914. It is a great joy for our soldiers, when they have done their duty and can enjoy a well earned rest, with that ‘good French wine’. It seems to them all the more delicious because they were deprived of it for so long. Here in the rest room arrive the first line, the men of the X… infantry battalion. They are moved by a healthy joyfulness and drink to the ‘Victory of the Allies’.