Tea – an indispensable weapon when British soldiers fought

In addition to guns, British soldiers who went to war in World War II were also provided with tea to increase morale.

Tea is considered indispensable to British life, to the point that many people joke that “England can be without the Queen, but it cannot be without tea”. This drink was also considered one of Britain’s secret weapons during World War II, especially after they gathered large quantities of tea from all over the world.

The hoarding of tea began in 1942, at a time when Britain was facing many difficulties on the battlefield. They were constantly repelled by the Axis and had to withdraw from Europe. In Asia, the British base in Singapore also soon fell.

One of the tea carts for British soldiers on the North African battlefield in 1942. Photo: WATM.

One of the tea carts for British soldiers on the North African battlefield in 1942. Photo: WATM.

The British government must find a way to keep the fighting spirit of the army and the solution is black tea. This led to the unusual decision to purchase all of the black tea available in Europe, placing it on the list of the top five wares purchased. It is estimated that the British government bought more tea than shells and explosives by volume.

Some historians believe that tea was also seen as a symbol of British unity during the war. Soldiers can bring a taste of home to the front lines, while the people of the country have a drink to reassure themselves.

Drinking tea on the front lines was also a way to help British soldiers ensure enough water in their bodies. Drinking water sent to soldiers often had to be in old oil cans, giving it a strange taste when drinking. Black tea will drown out this taste and make the water easier to drink, while providing energy for soldiers thanks to the caffeine content inside.

The value of tea was also clearly demonstrated when the British Air Force dropped 75,000 tea bags on the occupied Dutch area, containing tea from the East Indies with messages encouraging the rise of the Netherlands. Packages sent by the Red Cross to prisoners of war also included packaged tea.

British soldiers devised many ways to make tea on the front lines during World War II, with the “Benghazi stove” being popularly used in campaigns in North Africa. It is made from a 15-liter steel oil can with a punctured lid to collect oxygen, while the base holds sand and gasoline. Soldiers mixed gasoline with sand and lit it on fire. Another can is placed on top of the stove, which acts as a pot or a tea kettle.

The main advantage of the Benghazi stove is that it is very quiet and convenient, allowing soldiers to light a fire and make tea at any time. However, its disadvantage is that hot sand is easy to explode, while gasoline can burn too quickly and be difficult to control.

Drinking tea was originally a British culture, but it became even more popular in the military because it significantly reduced the situation of soldiers drinking alcohol, ensuring they were always awake in all situations. Teapots have been continuously improved and become mandatory equipment on British tanks and armor for the past 70 years.

Duy Son (Follow WATM)

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