CHOCOLATEER

by The Chocolate Dictionary

A chocolateer is a soldier who proffers chocolates for peace, a chocolate soldier if you will. One of the best known examples is that Swiss mercenary, Captain Bluntschli, in Bernard Shaw’s play Arms and the Man, most memorable for carrying chocolates in his cartridge pouch instead of ammunition. There’s speculation that Bluntschli’s distinctly unmilitary performance inspired Queen Victoria, in 1900, to dispatch 100,000 tins of chocolate to her troops fighting the Boer War.

Boer War chocolate tin, a gift from Queen Victoria. (image from: collections.tepapa.govt.nz)

Since then, chocolateers have been present in almost every major conflict. In 1914 they appeared during the unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front, when British, French and German troops exchanged gifts of chocolate in the fond hope that hostilities would not be resumed the following day. In August 1944, while the Allies swept across northern France following the invasion, American soldiers handed out chocolate to the newly liberated citizens of Paris – chocolate which, according to one grateful female recipient, was so good its taste was never forgotten. Chocolate soon became the Americans’ secret weapon. Wherever they were in Europe, whenever GIs interacted with civilians, chocolate would be handed out in a gesture of peace and reconciliation.

In their book A History of Chocolate in York (2012), authors Paul Christal and Joe Dickinson mention the official acknowledgement of British troops being issued with chocolate not only for its nutritional benefits, but also for it use as: “civilizing gifts and peace offerings to liberated populations, and as romantic gestures to local girls and women”.

Two years after the end of World War Two, during a part of the Berlin Airlift known as Operation Little Vittles, Americans had “chocolate flyers” – pilots who parachuted bars of chocolate to beleaguered German children below. A magnanimous action that resulted in the chocolate flyers becoming the best goodwill ambassadors the US Air Force ever had.

American aircraft dropping parcels of chocolate to the children of Berlin during Operation Little Vittels, 1947. (image from: thereifixedit.com)

Strange to think then that in 2003, nearly sixty years later, the US government should come to dismiss the countries proposing a separate military command to NATO as mere “chocolate makers”. Was the US military afraid that France, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg were creating a new precedent for European peace – an army of chocolate soldiers? If so, then why did it develop its own beige, brown and tan camouflage for desert warfare known as “chocolate-chip camouflage”?

There’s another kind of chocolate soldier, one whose battles are not military ones but those of poverty and deprivation. In France there is a group of charity workers who help to rescue prostitutes from the streets with the aid of prayer and chocolate. They greet each woman, offer her a bar of chocolate, and tell her that God thinks she is special. The charity workers are known by the brand of chocolate they hand out – Lindt, Villars, Côte d’Or, Poulain, etc. – as much as by their own names. Perhaps the idea for this came from the 2003 Italian TV advert for Ferrero Rocher in which Juliette Binoche, star of the film Chocolat, was seen handing out chocolates to people on the streets of Paris?

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