In the graveyard at Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, stands a unique gravestone to a Hampshire soldier. The soldier, according to his tombstone, died by drinking small beer when he was hot in the year 1764. This much loved gravestone has been replaced several times in its history and gained popularity when it was used as inspiration by the group Alcoholics Anonymous.
Personally, I read the gravestone in a rather different light. Small beer has a low alcohol content and in 1764, when water was often contaminated, it was necessary for health reasons for people to drink alcohol. The alcohol content of the small beer drunk by this solider may have been too low, hence the phrase ‘when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all’.
In full, the stone reads as follows:
In Memory of
a Grenadier in the North Reg.
of Hants Militia, who died of a
violent Fever contracted by drinking
Small Beer, when hot the 12th of May
1764 Aged 26 Years.
In grateful remembrance of whole universal
good will towards his Comrades, this Stone
is placed here at their expense, as a small
testimony of their regard and concern.
Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer.
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all.
This memorial being decay’d was restored
by the officers of the Garrison A.D.1781
An honest Solider never is forgot
Whether he die by Musket or by Pot.
The Stone was replaced by the North Hants
Militia when disembodied at Winchester
On 26th April 1802. In consequence of
The original Stone being destroyed.
And again replaced by
The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1966.