Enjoying a hot cup of tea is a staple in British culture that even a war couldn’t change. A squadron of British officers decided to have an unplanned briefing in a house while the crews of the tanks began brewing tea since they hadn’t encountered any enemy forces for a few miles. Although they thought this was a perfect time to take a break, what they didn’t know was German commander Michael Wittman, a highly decorated veteran of the Battle of Kursk was watching everything they were doing and saw an opportunity to attack. Wittman wasted no time and immediately got into his tank without assembling his troops but ordered them not to retreat and to hold their ground. Wittman began his solo raid although he was exhausted from a previous five-day drive and was low on both supplies and reinforcements.
In only 15 minutes, Wittman managed to destroy 14 British tanks. One of these tanks included a Sherman Firefly which was the only tank that posed a threat to him. Although the Firefly crew reversed into a side-street and perfectly positioned itself to take on Wittman’s Tiger they didn’t realize that the Firefly’s gunner’s seat was empty. They’d left the critical crew member behind during the ruckus. Wittman continued to attack and added three parked tanks to his streak. The British government now had to brain-storm ideas to fix their unique problem, how to keep British troops safe during tea time. Driving a tank meant being confined to the inside of a tank, which was a smelly and claustrophobic experience. Unfortunately, the comforts of hot food and drinks required open flames to make, which weren’t compatible with the interiors of armored vehicles.
A study found that 37 percent of all armored regiment casualties from March 1945 until a few months after WWII were crew members outside their vehicles, probably because they were having a tea break. The solution to this problem was the boiler vessel or bivvie which was a cuboid kettle powered by the tank’s electrics. It was first fitted to the postwar Centurion tank but then became an essential necessity for all of the British Army’s main fighting vehicles from that day on.
Post by Arvin Ramdas