Perhaps even more so than the queen, dry humor, and flavorless foods, Brits love their tea. There’s nothing more stereotypically British than tea. That’s why it’s absolutely hilarious to the rest of the military world that British tanks come standard with a device that can make tea.
That’s right. British tanks come equipped with a “boiling vessel” that, as you can imagine, is commonly used to brew up a cup of tea during the tankers’ downtime. But there’s more to this device than you might think. Yes, it’s there so tankers can fit teatime into their war schedule, but the boiling vessel can also used for a plethora of other things.
Not much of kettle, but I guess it gets the job done.
(Think Defense Co.)
In complete fairness to our allies across the pond, the boiling vessel is not a kettle installed exclusively for the sake of tea. It’s more of an electric thermos that’s designed for cooking in general. It’ll heat up anything can be put inside, not just hot water — soups, rations, coffee, you name it. And, so it doesn’t get in the way, it’s small enough to be tucked in the back.
So, if you put in some hot water (and clean any residual stuff out), you can theoretically use it for afternoon tea… if that’s your thing.
It was also said that 37 percent of all tanker casualties during WWII occurred when they were outside of their vehicle. Any little thing to keep them inside, and alive, is a good thing.
(Imperial War Museum)
This little vessel is actually brilliant. All tanks are designed in a way that, should the worst happen, the tankers remain safely in their tanks until they get somewhere better to exit the vehicle. In case of a NBC attack, the tank is completely sealed from the outside world.
Which brings us back to the boiling vessel. There’s no need to exit the “luxurious” interior of the tank to heat up meals for the tankers or risk a potential fire hazard inside.
It might sound like a niche use case, but keep tankers in their tanks during meals was a very serious concern back in WWII. It was said that on June 12th, 1944, just six days after D-Day, a British tank brigade left their respective vehicles for a meeting and for some chow. When the Germans found out the Brits were completely exposed, they struck.
In a matter of 15 minutes, the British lost 14 tanks, nine half-tracks, four gun carriers, and two anti-tank guns at the Battle of Villers-Bocage — because they left their vehicles for just a moment.
But, for obvious reasons, Americans aren’t as in to tea as the Brits…
(“Boston Tea Party,” W.D. Cooper, engraving, 1789)
The thing is, the Brits aren’t the only ones who have boiling vessels inside their tanks. Nearly every first-world nation has them. Abrams and Bradleys now come standard with them. They’re all fundamentally the same thing, just a fancy water heater that keeps troops safely inside their tanks.