Emmageeman’s Corner: V21N1

By Robert G. Segel

The Vaux Brewery in Sunderland (in Northumberland, North East England) produced at the turn of the 20th century in 1901 an ale brand featuring the Maxim machine gun on the label. It was produced to honor the exploits and safe return of a member of the brewing family, Major Ernest Vaux, from the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 in South Africa.

Ernest Vaux, grandson of the Brewery’s founder, Cuthbert Vaux, was a Major in the Durham Voluntary Artillery when he volunteered for service with the Imperial Yeomanry (a British volunteer cavalry regiment) during the Second Boer War. He was appointed Machine Gun Commander with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the British Army serving in the Imperial Yeomanry, 15th Company of the 5th Battalion, a part of the Northumberland Hussars, from July 1900 to June 1901 in South Africa. He commanded a Maxim machine gun detachment that operated in the Transvall, Orange River and Cape Colony areas of South Africa (though mostly in the Transvall) and took part in over 80 operations there. Major Vaux was “Mentioned in Dispatches” no less than 7 times for his service in South Africa and was awarded the Queens’ South Africa medal with four clasps. In November, 1901 he was awarded the prestigious DSO (Distinguished Service Order).

Upon his safe return to Sunderland the brewery, in late 1901, created a new brand of ale, Maxim Ale, with a very distinguished looking label featuring the Maxim machine gun in recognition of Ernest Vaux’s exploits. The initial recipe for the ale (said to be created by Ernest Vaux himself) was so strong that pub landlords complained that it put their patrons to sleep so the strength was reduced. But in 1938 the brewery increased the strength and renamed the brand Double Maxim.

Founded in 1837 by Cuthbert Vaux, and run by family members for generation, the Vaux brewery was purchased by Wards Brewing Company in 1972. Nevertheless, after over 150 years of brewing history, it closed, along with Wards, in 1999. In 2000, two former directors of Vaux and the head brew master resurrected the brand and established the Double Maxim Beer Company purchasing the rights to both the beer recipes and brand names.

Alas, the historic and renowned North East England brewery name of Vaux, and the iconic image of the Maxim machine gun on a British ale label, are long gone and now exists in name only.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N1 (January 2017)
and was posted online on November 18, 2016


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