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“Lloyd George’s Beer” – sadly omitted from “Oh What a Lovely War!”

November 21, 2015

I wonder if wikipedia might be in error in this case and those who care more than I might want to do something about it.  I for one rather like the fact wikipedia is sometimes in error and would rather let errant entries stand as a warning to scholars to look elsewhere (at least from time to time).  “Lloyd George’s Beer” was published apparently in 1915 – the work of songwriters Weston and Lee – but it wasn’t recorded until 1917.  Perhaps this year is the centenary of a song, and 2017 will be the centenary of a hit.

I was looking up song centenaries when discovered this Ernie Maye favorite listed under “1915”.  Lloyd George didn’t become Prime Minister until 1916 and the phlegmatic tone of the song doesn’t really suit the earlier phase of the war.  Of course, by 1915, Lloyd George was already strongly associated with temperance as a war measure – but not with watering down beer.  Besides there’s a tendency to blame everything on a Prime Minister rather than a subordinate.

(Herbert Asquith’s Beer fails to roll off the tongue quite so neatly.)

Here are the immortal words:

Lloyd George’s Beer

We shall win the war, we shall win the war,
As I said before, we shall win the war.
The Kaiser’s in a dreadful fury,
Now he knows we’re making it at every brewery.
Have you read of it, seen what’s said of it,
In the Mirror and the Mail.
It’s a substitute, and a pubstitute,
And it’s known as Government Ale (or otherwise).

Lloyd George’s Beer, Lloyd George’s Beer.
At the brewery, there’s nothing doing,
All the water works are brewing,
Lloyd George’s Beer, it isn’t dear.
Oh they say it’s a terrible war, oh law,
And there never was a war like this before,
But the worst thing that ever happened in this war
Is Lloyd George’s Beer.

Buy a lot of it, all they’ve got of it.
Dip your bread in it, Shove your head in it
From January to October,
And I’ll bet a penny that you’ll still be sober.
Get your cloth in it, make some broth in it,
With a pair of mutton chops.
Drown your dogs in it, pop your clogs in it,
And you’ll see some wonderful sights (in that lovely stufo).

Lloyd George’s Beer, Lloyd George’s Beer.
At the brewery, there’s nothing doing,
All the water works are brewing,
Lloyd George’s Beer, it isn’t dear.
With Haig and Joffre when affairs look black,
And you can’t get at Jerry with his gas attack.
Just get your squirters out and we’ll squirt the buggers back,
With Lloyd George’s Beer.

It’s strange that Joan Littlewood and Co. saw fit to omit this song from their Lovely War playlist.  Few songs evoke the true horror (or rather despair) of war better than these heartfelt verses.

What’s the point of rotting in a trench for months and years, seeing all your pals blown to pieces, eventually defeating Kaiser Bill on the western front only to discover when you get home that Accrington has been conquered by Coors Lite?

Oddly enough, there’s a pub in Loughborough named after Lloyd George.  Or there used to be.  Maybe there are other pubs named after him.  The most temperate (boozewise – he had other vices) Prime Minister Britain ever had has at least one pub named after him?  Not only was Lloyd George famous for draconian licencing laws making it harder to get beer – he was clearly regarded as having ruined what little beer was left?

What makes people go for a beer in a house named after beer’s greatest foe?

Curiosity, I’m thinking.


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