IT’S been 250 years since he died after drinking cold beer and this week residents and visitors rallied in Winchester to pay homage to the fallen soldier.

Servicemen, tourist guides and members of Alcoholics Anonymous gathered at the tombstone in Cathedral Close for a short ceremony on Monday.

Thomas Thetcher died on the same date in 1764, aged 26, after contracting a fever from cheap beer thought to contain parasites from dirty water.

His tombstone caught the attention of Alcoholics Anonymous founder, Bill Wilson, who referenced it on the first page of the group’s handbook, which was written in 1939 and formed the basis of the entire organisation.

They now hold an annual convention in Winchester Cathedral and Guildhall, which sees people travel from across the globe in celebration of that link.

One of their members lay a wreath, and said: “It is delightful that we were invited here, because members from all over the world visit this tombstone. We have a convention every year, and it is a moving experience when that nave is full of recovering alcoholics.”

The gravestone has been replaced three times by the Royal Hampshire Regiment to preserve it, once in 1781, again in 1802, and lastly in 1966.

Colin Cook, of Winchester Tourist Guides, led the tribute, and Jim Spencer, a serving soldier based at Worthy Down, Andover Road, placed a wreath by the tombstone. He said: “As the highest ranked soldier, I was asked to come and lay the wreath, which was very humbling.”

After the ceremony a toast was made.