A Cache of Porter – Still?
George Thomas Landmann (1780-1854) was an English military engineer, a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, in southeast London. Although the name sounds possibly of German origin, he had no apparent connection to Germany.
His father was a professor of artillery at the Arsenal. Landmann had one of those geographically dispersed careers that was possible long before airlines, or even steamship transport. He was in Canada, Portsmouth, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Portugal, and Ireland, among other places.
He retired as Colonel in the Royal Corps of Engineers, and at the end of his life wrote two volumes of Recollections.
The books enjoyed good popularity due to his close observations on military campaigns and personalities like Wellington. Landmann is still remembered. Jennine Hurl-Eamon and Lynn MacKay include him in their new work, Women, Families and the British Army, 1700–1880.
Our interest in the Colonel concerns beer. He devotes a few pages (pp. 172-175) to an anecdote that reveals, not just a strong liking for the drink, but an impish sense of humour. On his Army surveys in Gibraltar he often had to go lengthy periods without anything to drink, even water.
This moved him to create “depots” of porter on the trails. He stashed away a few bottles of porter in strategic locations, for quick access if he happened near the spot. He chose well-shielded nooks as naturally cooled as possible, to permit a glass of cool, “creaming” porter.
That Landmann was a bit of a madcap is shown by his story that when in Gibraltar’s wilds with a colleague, he would tempt him with an apparently hopeless prospect: wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy a cool glass of porter now? Naturally, this invited a longing, apparently hopeless look.
Landmann then walks away, seemingly on engineers’ business, and retrieves the porter with the comrade out of sight. Rejoining him, he suddenly proffers a glass of foaming porter. He describes well the astonishment of his grateful brother-in-arms.*
The best part is, of the four caches he created, one was never recovered. It is still there, he said, although artfully hidden.
He wrote this in 1854. It is now 2020. Is the porter still on the Rock? It is secreted somewhere off the storied Mediterranean Steps.
I’ll look for you if I visit Gibraltar next year. I’m thinking, a week in Morocco and Gibraltar, then over to the U.K. for The Great British Beer Festival. It would make a statement to stroll into Olympia London with an 1850 bottle of porter. Don’t you think?
But no promises.
Note re image: this 1961 map was sourced from the Wikipedia entry linked in the text. Believed in public domain. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.
*The story has the absurdist ring still evident in British humour today. Monty Python was a good example.