The British and drinking tea are two things that go hand-in-hand. Everyone knows that the British love a good cuppa, but most do not realize the extent of this.
A good example of how important a cup of tea is to the British is the fact that the British government bought all the tea during WWII.
This phenomenal purchase started in 1942, which was a tough year for the British. They had been defeated by the Axis powers on the continent and had been obliged to withdraw their troops from Europe.
Their fortress of Singapore had fallen, and the country was close to being bankrupt.
The government had to find a way to keep up troop morale, and the answer was black tea. This resulted in the very unusual decision of buying all the black tea available in Europe.
So much tea was bought that it has been listed in the top five purchases of the war. It estimated that, based on weight alone, the British government bought more tea than it did artillery shells and explosives.
There are some historians who believe that the vast amounts of tea were Britain’s secret weapon. Tea was seen as a very visible symbol of unity for the nation at war. It was something that everyone could appreciate.
The troops could have something from home with them on the front while people still in the country could have something to calm themselves.
Tea on the front also ensured that the troops drank enough water to stay hydrated. The water that was sent to the troops was in old oil cans which left a strange aftertaste. The addition of tea masked this while energizing the men due to the caffeine content.
The value of tea to the British was clearly illustrated when the Royal Air Force dropped 75,000 tea bombs into the occupied Netherlands. The bombs each had bags of tea from the Dutch East Indies and a message from the British about the Netherlands rising again.
However, the importance of tea for the troops was not something new to the British government or armed forces. There are reports that, in 1815, tea had been liberally distributed among British troops before the Battle of Waterloo.
The purchase of tea during WWII was simply making this military tradition official.
Article courtesy of War History Online