American Southerner Meets English Beer


Junius and Katherine: More Letters From WW II: From Field to Battlefront was published in the United States in 2013. The book appeared in two parts, the link is to the second volume.

Junius Harris was a native of the State of Florida, stationed in wartime England with a U.S. artillery regiment. After finishing high school he married, and soon entered military service. He performed a clerical role in the army, travelling with the forces in the field.

After training Stateside and in Britian he soldiered in Belgium and Germany.  He survived the war, and lived to the age of 81. While serving he wrote letters home, which a descendant published for their evident historical value.

His remarks for England have particular interest, including how rationing affected civilians. He recounts that children would wait patiently for hours for a small handful of “soggy” chips from a fish and chips shop. As to fish, it was not an option – none was available.

Often the children had to leave without getting any chips. He remarks on the considerable sacrifices of British civilians, noting that many items considered essential at home for daily living were simply not available, or rationed.

British beer, while rather different from iced American lager, struck a chord with him contrary to the impressions of many G.I.s. He wrote:

I went to the pub here on the post (that’s a beer hall) and had a few glasses of bitters last night. They were out of [mild] ale. The bitters tastes a little like [American lager] beer only it has a far better taste and is not near as bitter as the beer they sell in the states now.

It seems odd he found British bitter less hopped than American lager. Wartime constraints on British brewing perhaps explained this, but more likely I think the sweetness and body of British ale disguised the bitterness.

Of Belgian beer, he was unappreciative since it “has no alcohol in it”. This was wartime, low-alcohol beer, or so-called table beer.

Yet in Germany in 1945 he thought the beer “pretty good”, “like States beer … but [the beer] we had in England was the best I have ever had anywhere”. Quite a compliment considering the many reports of American Forces’ dissatisfaction with “warm”. “flat” English beer.

I was struck, finally, by how completely American he was, to the point of viewing Britain as a foreign place akin, he says at one point, to Holland!

A young Harris is pictured next to his wife on the book’s cover. By his visage and name he appears clearly of British ancestry, perhaps Ulster Scots, or Scots-Irish as the Americans would say.

Yet not a word appears in the book suggesting any connection to Britain, socially or culturally. He never refers to the place in Britain whence his ancestors came, for example.

Migration to America and long settlement in the New World completely effaced any lingering connections with Britain, it seems.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the collection of the Imperial War Museum, here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Note: the book contains some objectionable commentary in relation to Blacks and some other minorities. We must take the historical record as it is, and learn from the mistakes and blind spots of previous generations.