While the Simonds business was being consolidated at Reading in the first half of the nineteenth
century, fundamental changes were taking place in the organisation and structure of the British
Army.  In the early part of the century the soldiers’ food and drink was supplied by Sutlers who
accompanied the army wherever it happened to be.  This system had gradually been regularised
into a pattern of regimental canteens.  But at the time of the Crimean War in 1854 the Hon. Sir John
Fortescue, a great authority on the subject, has written,  “...
as of all previous wars ... for all
comforts and luxuries the army depended upon private adventurers
.”  He goes on to explain: “Vast
changes, administrative and other, were effected in the Army during and immediately after the
Crimean War, though the Indian Mutiny followed so closely upon it that the greater part of the Army
was abroad, practically from 1854 till 1859.  Foremost among these changes was the transfer of the
Cornmissariat from the control of the Treasury to that of the War Office, and the establishment of
what was called the Military Train, a forerunner of the present Army Service Corps

This reorganisation of army catering arrangements meant that it was possible for a concern like
Simonds to build up a military connection in the same way that brewers in Southwark and elsewhere
had built up a trade with the navy.  This of course was facilitated by the concentration of military
forces in nearby Hampshire.

Aldershot was originally purchased as a military exercising ground in 1853.  Queen Victoria and the
Prince Consort rode over the site with Lord Hardinge who had acquired it for the Government, and
it was said that the Prince pointed to part of the newly acquired land and said: it would be a pretty
site for a camp.  Hardinge treated this as a royal command and sited the camp there without further
question.  It was opened for militia in 1855.  It was the first and for many years the only training area
for military manoeuvres.  “
The idea of an exercising ground was excellent” writes Fortescue, “for in
time of peace there was only one quarter in the British Isles - Dublin - where troops enough could
be collected even for the drilling of a brigade.  Furthermore the situation of Aldershot, strategically,
was well chosen.  But there seems to have been some halting between the two opinions whether
Aldershot should be merely a training ground or a permanent station; and apparently the Crimean
war decided that it should be more or less permanent.   As a kind of compromise, wooden huts
were erected instead of stable buildings, and thousands of pounds were wasted in throwing up
these shelters of green timber, which were cramped, uncomfortable and, in the matter of married
quarters, not too respectful of decency.  In fact, as one member of Parliament truly described it,
Aldershot became a kind of squatters village; and through extreme bad management, the
undesirable population, which invariably haunts a camp, was able to settle down close to it and yet
beyond the reach of control.  For the camp was placed on the edge of the government’s property;
and the Government, having raised the value of the adjacent land, so to speak, against itself, was
obliged later to buy it up at an excessive price.  Altogether Aldershot at the outset was far from an
attractive place.

Nevertheless the mere concentration of a comparatively large body of troops was productive of
good to the soldier.  At Aldershot crime diminished, while the general health of the men was
bettered beyond precedent; and thus it was proved that with a little care the lives of thousands of
men could be saved.  Moreover, provisions could be bought in greater bulk and so retailed more
cheaply to the rank and file.  The soldiers were very suspicious of this latter change at first, but
presently became reconciled to it, and then welcomed the improvement.  The Commissarjat, of
which more shall be said later, was learning its business, and the bread which it issued at Aldershot
was far superior to that baked in London.  Gradually these benefits were extended to foreign
stations. .

With Simonds owning property at Sandhurst, an army connection had been made even before the
Battle of Waterloo.  On 15th June 1814, the year before Waterloo, Blackall Simonds wrote a letter,
which is still preserved, about the supply of beer to Sandhurst.

    I have taken the liberty to address you respecting the supply of your canteen
    at Sandhurst with Beer.  Having supplied the College for some time past I beg
    leave to refer you to the Commanding Officer of the same for the satisfaction I
    have given should you have it in your power to assist me I shall esteem it a
    particular favour.
    I am Sir...Yr Obd. Svt."

So, the records say, the victory at Waterloo was duly toasted at Sandhurst in Simonds’ beer, and
the firm was well placed for contracts for the supplies to the canteens of Aldershot, and to the
public houses established there to serve the needs of the ever increasing static population.

During the second half of the nineteenth century Simonds became so closely associated with the
army that they followed the troops overseas, establishing branches in Malta, Gibraltar, Egypt, South
Africa and Cyprus.

The firm’s connection with Malta, for instance, started with the appointment of an agent there, Mr.
Hearn - a relative of the Simonds family - in 1875.  The trade flourished and in 1890 a branch was
established which ultimately became Simonds-Farsons, and from 1928 - when the brewery at
Hamrun was
built - was associated with a famous local enterprise and became known as Simonds-Farsons-Cisk.
A similar development from an agency to a branch took place at Gibraltar where it ultimately
became associated with Saccone & Speed Limited, renowned as suppliers to the armed forces, and
now a part of the Courage Group.

In this country these developed a speciality in catering for the troops which became a byword.  Not
only the regular army but the militia and volunteer forces were much taken up with manoeuvres.
Whenever the time and place of such exercises were rumoured it was always said “Simonds’ man
will know”.  The firm in fact developed an innocuous intelligence service in order to be on the spot
with their barrels and bottles even before for supplying the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in
1925.  After the Second World War they reopened trade in Antwerp and acquired an interest in
East African Breweries Ltd. in Nairobi, Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam.

All rights reserved.

SIMONDS, continued

Chapter 9
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