Headstones with unusual stories to tell: The soldier whose beer was too weak
In Winchester, there is a grave which pays homage to a 26-year-old grenadier in the North Regiment of the Hants Militia. Thomas Thetcher died after drinking contaminated small (weak) beer when he was hot.
Before the invention of modern sanitation, people would drink small beer when fresh water was unavailable. This was because the alcohol was toxic to water-borne pathogens.
However, it was not enough to prevent Thetcher catching a fever and dying.
Following his death in 1764, his comrades arranged for a jocular headstone inscription warning of the dangers of drink. It read:
Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier,
Who caught his death by drinking cold small beer,
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye're hot drink strong or none at all.
In 1918, the tombstone caught the attention of a young American soldier called Bill Wilson, who was camped nearby with his US Army unit.
Twenty-one years later, following a battle with alcoholism, he founded Alcoholics Anonymous and in 1939 published a book about his experience.
In it he claimed the gravestone had been an "ominous warning which I failed to heed", and printed the first two lines of the verse in the front of his book.
However, it appears he misunderstood the headstone, as he missed out the crucial advice about only drinking strong beer.
On 12 May - the anniversary of Thetcher's death - people gather at the grave to drink (strong) beer and raise a glass to the grenadier.
at 12:00 AM