Tracking the ‘Enemy Within’: Alcoholisation of the Troops, Excesses in Military Order and the French Gendarmerie During the First World War
Amongst many other factors, food and beverages played a part in sustaining the tremendous efforts demanded of soldiers and civilians during the First World War. Alcoholic beverages in particular made a substantial—though dubious—contribution to sustaining the French army: wine and brandy were served to soldiers on a daily basis but their consumption, when in excess, obviously fostered drunkenness and disorderly conduct—to the point of altering and endangering military order. In this context, the French Gendarmerie played a key role in keeping under control deviant habits and excessive consumption on the part of soldiers posted in the Military Zone or transiting to or from the frontline. In return for this maintenance of order near the battle fields, gendarmes had to face the soldiers’ contempt and a general rejection which caused lasting damage to their public image.