Tea. Soldiers for the use of. Milk, two sugars.

"More accidentally-arrived at special blends resulted from the beverage being carried in the same containers as other battlefield grub…contributors remember their brew coming from a ‘Norgie’ which was last used for range stew".

In the 1950s, the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization* was attempting to standardise everything military between the armed forces of the several countries who were signatories to the treaty. There was clearly a need to gain agreement on materiel resources and protocols for both peacetime and the battlefield. If you're really into that, look up the Standard Agreements known as STANAG¹. These were of course negotiated and set up place by the higher powers, but for those on the front lines, so to speak, there was also a need to standardise. These standards were more to do with the comforts of minutae that is oft overlooked by the top brass. One of these was of course, the cuppa.

The Brits were of course at the forefront of planning home comforts in battlefield conditions re tea. In World War One trenches, troops would regularly make a brew, but in the relatively static nature of their position, having a kettle and a teapot was fairly easy. After the Second World War though, things changed. Field equipment had to be portable, and the billy can was de rigueur carried, whether issued or jerry-rigged from something else. With the ability to boil water, a cup and an issue of tea, all that was remained was to handle the tea leaves. These would be left in the cup or strained through a sock. Milk and two sugars were pretty standard, hence the birth of the unofficial NATO cuppa. At this point I feel it necessary to point out that the NATO Standard is not related in any way to the poncey ISO Standard Cup of Tea.

Two things need to be discussed here. Firstly, a little background. At the beginning of WWII the British government had recognised that Tommies and civilians alike would rely on tea for comfort and morale, so they bought all the tea they could. This by itself should demonstrate the crucial importance that tea held in the British mind. Of course the NATO-era troops would also be supplied with tea, so the NATO 24 hour combat Operational Ration Pack for the UK included "Tea x 2, creamer x 4, sugar x 4, instant coffee x 2". That's two brews per person per day, each milky and sweet, NATO Standard.

Secondly, there's a story circulating that the Challenger Tank was designed with facilities for making tea. This story is both true and false. A quick Snopes style of fact checking shows that while the tank did indeed come with a water boiler² it wasn't designed for the sole purpose of making tea. It turns out that hot water has a lot of non-cuppa uses, and those (washing, heating meals etc.) were uppermost in the minds of the designers. Previously troops had made fires or used the hot exhaust pipe to boil water. Because these required leaving the vehicle, it exposed the tank crew to possible hostile fire, and the internal water boiler became a thing. According to one source³,

It’s been such a staple of service life that action had to be taken to make tea breaks safer. In the Second World War, 37% of tank casualties were attributable to soldiers leaving the cover of their vehicle to brew up on an improvised petrol cooker, known as the Benghazi burner.

There are many variants of this field brew, sometimes dependent on personal taste, sometimes from accident (See the quote about "Norgies")³. But like builder's tea, this is part of the British folklore and landscape. God Save The King! A friend of mine who served with 3 Para told many tales of brews in such situations as swampy holes in the Falklands War to sand dunes in Desert Storm. Tea was that important, he reckoned. Of course the British weren't the only tea drinkers in NATO. Norwegians were also partial, the Poles too. Those soldiers from nations outside the sainted isles were prone to coffee, and presumably had some facility provided to wet their whistles. But that's a story for another day.

* I'm horrified that it's spelled with a z.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standardization_agreement
² https://tankhistoria.com/nations/british-tanks/tea/
³ https://www.forces.net/services/tri-service/fancy-brew-nato-or-whoopi

Iron node 10

$ xclip -o | wc -w

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