At Hitchin Petty Sessions, on Tuesday January 11th 1917, a Mr Thomas Cooper, licensee of the Green Man in Ickleford was charged under the Defence of the Realm Act for serving H.M. soldiers after hours.
At the beginning of the war the Defence of the Realm Act was created with a number of underlining rules designed for the home front to prevent invasion and to keep morale high at home during the war. The Act stated that alcoholic beverages were restricted to noon till 3pm, and then again from 6.30pm to about 9.30pm. This gap in serving time of alcohol remained a rule until 1988 licensing act.
The act also involved the censoring of press, so stories of the front or battles were kept to basic information, nothing that would give positions away or plans of the British army for the Germans to get hold of. Also, as said before, to keep British citizens morale up, if they saw what really happened in the Great War the home front wouldn’t have been able to stay as strong as they did. The Defence of the Realm Act was a very serious matter, you could be sentenced to death if you were believed to be helping the enemy.
So relating back to Ickleford case, the Act’s tightening of alcohol serving times was to try and reduce the number of drunken soldiers on the streets. This had been a pressing issue in early years of the war. It was also to probably stop people drinking too much, drowning their sorrows in drink during the dark times of the war, to keep spirits up.
On the 15th of December 1916, P.C Brackley of Baldock police stated that he had visited the Green Man at 9.30 p.m. Going in he found two corporals, a private and three civilians. The PC saw the soldiers drink the beer before leaving. He asked for all their names and regiments, but they all gave false names. Superintendent Reed enforced the fact that soldiers were not permitted to remain in any public houses after 9 p.m. He informed the bench that soldiers had been punished by their military authorities. The article then goes on to highlight how serious the act was taken in Britain during the war. The bench imposed a £5 fine and said ‘It was a very serious offence.’ The penalty could be up to £100 pounds but the Green Man had been let off as it was a first time offence. This case highlights how strict the country was to trying to keep morale high and to keep soldiers professional and not drunk all the time.