Operation Big Brew Up

Operation Big Brew Up

7 June 2016

Operation Big Brew Up

Put the kettle on! Get the biscuits out! SSAFA’s Big Brew Up is here from the 3-9 October. Take a look at our list of amazing military-themed tea facts that you can wow your friends with at your own Big Brew Up.


There are few things more British than a good cup of tea. The culture of tea drinking permeates British society – and none more so than our Armed Forces. In the lead up to our Big Brew Up tea party we have been looking into the history of tea and the British military. So pour yourself a cuppa, and check out our top tea facts.

1. In World War One tea was included in ration packs.

Tea was a vital part of soldier’s rations. It was a familiar comfort and concealed the taste of the water which was often transported to the frontline in petrol tins. In 1914 the 320,000 men and 12,000 officers of the Army Service Corps were catering for 5 million British troops – their ration included 5/8 oz of tea.

2. Churchill had his priorities right when it came to tea.

In 1940 Sir Winston Churchill famously said that ‘tea was more important than bullets’. This may have been right and was a thought shared by most of the British Government - in fact, tea was the second most shipped quantity after bullets. The British Army moved more tea than even artillery shells, bombs and explosives, and that’s by weight! Consider how comparatively little a crate of tea weighs and you can see that was a significant logistical challenge. There were even jobs in the civil service to maintain the tea supply to civilians, just in case they would riot.

3. There’s always time for a brew up.

During the D-day landings in world War Two; American and Canadian observers were amazed by the British soldier’s love for regular tea breaks. On the first day of the Normandy invasion, some British soldiers put the kettle on as soon as they had waded ashore. An American liaison officer reported: ‘There was a feeling among many of the men that, having landed, they had achieved their objective, and there was time for a cigarette – and even a brew-up – instead of getting on with the task of knocking out the enemy defences and pushing inland.’

It’s not just World War Two soldiers who were crazy for tea though, Vanguard Class Submarines will use over 43,000 tea bags in one 3 month patrol!

5. God save our tea.

During the Second World War, the government took drastic action to safeguard this essential morale-booster. Just two days after war broke out, it took control of all tea stocks, and ordered that the vast reserves then stored in London must be dispersed to warehouses outside the capital in case of bombing.

6. World War Two rationing hit the teapot hard.

When during 1940 enemy blockades prevented ships from getting through, the Ministry of Food introduced a ration of 2oz of tea per person per week for those over the age of five. This was not a lot, enough for two or three cups a day of rather weak tea. But there was extra tea for those in the armed forces, and on the domestic front for those in vital jobs such as firemen and steel workers.

7. Britain bought all the tea in the world

In a 1942 raid, they targeted and utterly flattened Mincing Lane in London (where the tea auctions took place), throwing the tea supply into jeopardy. While the tea wasn’t physically there, the records of where the tea was and who owned it sent the supply lines into chaos. Therefore, in a state of total war and with money only available for the single most important war efforts, the British government decided the only way to keep the army fighting was to drastically increase the supply and secure the country’s tea drinking future. So, the British government bought the entire world’s tea crop!

8. The British Army perfected the art of brewing up in a tank.

In the Second World War, 37% of tank casualties were attributed to to soldiers leaving the cover of their vehicle to brew up of an improvise petrol cooker known as the Benghazi burner. So since 1945, every type of major armoured vehicle has been fitted with a boiling vessel which allows the crew to heat water for their cuppa from the safety of the vehicle.

Learn more about combining your love for tea with supporting your favourite charity here:  https://www.ssafa.org.uk/big-brew-up