WHEN war weary troops arrived home in Skipton at Christmas time 1915, desperate for a pint in the pub, they found they had jumped from one conflict into another.

The weapons being deployed at home weren't the shells and bombs of the Western Front in France, but the ammunition was explosive enough.

They were met by a barrage of words calling on them to defend their liberty in a cause equal to that for which they had been battling in Europe - or so it was argued. Tommy was being encouraged to rise up and fight a new class war - over the sale of booze.

Townsfolk were fired up over the new licensing laws brought in to keep the manpower of the country sober in the face of the Germans.

The front page of the December 3 edition of the Craven Herald was splashed with a huge advertisement from the Skipton and District Licensed Victuallers' Association headlined: "Appealing to the men of Craven" - women weren't in the equation - and with a sub-heading: "Licensing restrictions and the Liberty of the subject." In a nutshell, they were urging men to oppose the draconian new restrictions on when pubs could sell beer, wines and spirits.

Publicans and wine merchants declared that if free citizens valued their rights, it was high time to protest against the iniquitous restrictions with one voice. "It is no use fighting for liberty with one hand and giving it away with the other," they pronounced.

Before 1914, landlords, who were licensed to sell alcohol, could more or less serve alcohol when they wished. But come the war, the Government, through the Defence of the Realm Act, introduced a series of restrictions.

Broadly they allowed drinking only between noon and 2.30pm and from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. The "supper time" restriction was even more drastic in that customers could only buy wine and beer - spirits were banned.

Publicans in 1915 were frothing at the gills particularly because of the unfairness they saw existing between the common man and those toffs in parliament.

MPs refused to follow the example set by King George by abstaining from booze "for the duration of the war" and they scoffed at the attempt to introduce the same restrictions which applied in the wider London area to the bar of the House of Commons. MPs went on supping to their hearts' content whenever they fancied.

Landlords, who branded MPs "killjoys", lashed out claiming that it revealed a "deliberate blow" by one class against another under the cloak of the war. If MPs could be exempt so therefore should the agricultural workers of Craven!

They declared in defence of their argument: "Some of the villages are ten miles from a railway station and 20 miles from a market town. The farmers arrive at the market at 7am or 8am, half frozen and more often than not, wet through; and although the hostelries are only too ready to supply soup and oxo and coffee to a man who is used to a stimulant, these are no use and the inconvenience caused to the businessmen who come to supply the farming community with cattle and cake must be seen to be believed."

The pub was a necessity in the life of the British citizen a place of cheer and hospitality where one could retire and forget one's troubles over a friendly glass of liquor going home "no sense the worse, but more probably a much better man, able to take up business again with renewed vim."

The new measures should be "strangled at birth", said opponents, because it encouraged people to take booze home and consume it at even greater quantity and for it to come within the reach of children. They were the thin end of the wedge because they could set a precedent for new laws "forbidding travel, except on business, buy furs for our wives or spend money in any other way without the permission of the government.

"The word 'verboten' (forbidden) may become as prevalent here as in Germany itself and our hardly-gained liberties go into the melting pot. Surely the time has not yet come when the Britisher may not spend his own surplus money in his own way!

"Moderate men of Britain, it is high time, if you value your rights as free citizens, to protect against these iniquitous restrictions with one voice. It is no use fighting for liberty with one hand and giving it away with the other."

Needless to say, none of this passionate opposition made a jot of difference to the Prime Minister Mr Lloyd George - a supporter of the temperance movement - and his cronies in Westminster. The restrictions were introduced in 1918 and broadly remained set in stone for another 90 years until November 2005 when limits were eventually scrapped.