A Porter of Gibraltar

A Cache of Porter 

George Thomas Landmann (1780-1854) was an English military engineer, a graduate of Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, south-east London. The family name sounds German but George Thomas had no connection to any German place, as far as I know.

His father was a Professor of Artillery at the Arsenal. Even before the era of steamships and airlines it was possible to have a geographically diverse career, of George Thomas provides an example. His postings included Canada, Portsmouth, U.K., Gibraltar, Cadiz, Portugal, and Ireland.

He retired as Colonel, Royal Corps of Engineers, and towards the end of his life authored two volumes of Recollections.

These enjoyed good popularity due to his perceptive observations on military campaigns and famed personalities like Wellington. Two modern scholars, Jennine Hurl-Eamon and Lynn MacKay, discuss Landmann in their new book Women, Families and the British Army, 1700–1880 – he is certainly not forgotten.

I’ll remember him here in a lighter context, nonetheless of interest to beer and travel historians.

Landmann devoted three pages (pp. 172-175) to an anecdote that reveals not just his strong liking for beer but an impish sense of humour. During Army survey work in Gibraltar he might go for long periods without anything to drink, even water.

This moved him to create “depots” of porter. He stashed away on the trails a few bottles in strategic locations, for quick access if he happened near a spot again. He chose shielded nooks that were naturally cool, to permit an instant glass of cool, “creaming” porter.



Landmann had a madcap side in that he would tempt a colleague on treks with an apparently hopeless prospect: Wouldn’t it be grand, he’d ask, if we could enjoy a cool glass of porter right now? Predictably this elicited a longing, hopeless look.

Landmann then wanders away, ostensibly on the engineers’ business, and with comrade out of sight retrieves his porter from a grotto. Once returned, he strides up to the colleague proffering  a glass of real, foaming porter. He describes well the astonishment of the grateful brother-in-arms.

The account has a loopy edge, still evident in British humour today. Monty Python …

The best part: of the caches Landsmann created one was never broached. Unless it was uncovered sometime later, the Victorian porter is still on the Rock.

Landmann wrote the account in 1854. It is now 2020. The porter could be slumbering away still, near the famous Mediterranean Steps. 

I’ll look for it if I visit Gibraltar. Maybe next year.

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.








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