British tank crews in World War II died for tea. Literally. Like, they would get out of their tanks to make tea. Nothing could keep the tea-loving Brits away from their hot beverage of choice, even the perils of the most terrifying conflict in human history.

A study following the war found that a significant percentage of armored vehicle casualties involved troops that were outside of their vehicles. Sure, tanks were hardly impenetrable, but, logically, a soldier would be safer within a tank than completely exposed in the open. Tea wasn’t the only cause for concern here. There are plenty of reasons why crews in cramped, hot, and overall uncomfortable vehicles would want to get out. However, the grand British tradition of brewing tea was a cause for concern.

The most famous example of a tea-related crisis in combat is the Battle of Villers-Bocage. The story goes that on the morning of June 13, 1944, just six days after D-Day, British tanks came to a stop so that crews could get out and make their tea. A German tank commander noticed the unattended tanks and launched a surprise assault that resulted in the loss of 14 British tanks as well as other armored vehicles. 

Now, there is some debate on what truly happened in this battle, as it was used as a propaganda tool by both sides. It does represent a problem the British faced, though. After the war, with the knowledge on how dangerous it was for troops to emerge from their tanks, the most British solution possible was implemented: a water-heating device inside the tank so that tea could always be made. 

Known as the boiling vessel (or BV to make it sound like official military equipment), this has been standard issue on British armored vehicles since the production of the Centurion tank in the 1950s. 

Tallmale188/Wiki Commons

The boiling vessel is what truly keeps British tanks rolling

The BV boils water and keeps it hot, and it is anything but a novelty. Having access to heated water for tea at any time is important for the morale of tank crews, who may spend long periods stuck in cramped vehicles. It isn’t just for tea either, as it allows troops to do basic cooking as well. 

The boiling vessels trend has even expanded to the United States as well. Some American armored vehicles now feature water heaters like the BV, as the utility of the device is good for more than just an entire country’s insatiable need for tea. 

There is no data specifically about “how many lives have been saved by making tea inside the tank,” but it seems reasonable to assume that keeping crews in their tanks is probably a good thing. Plus, now British tank crews never have to worry about skipping tea time. It’s a true win-win situation all around.

Top Image: Morio/Wiki Commons

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