Fact Check

All British Tanks Are Equipped with Water Boilers for Tea?

British soldiers were seen as most vulnerable at teatime, when they were out of their tanks.

Published March 12, 2024

"Tea Drinking Jeep Driver" by is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse. (gmilldrum/flickr)
"Tea Drinking Jeep Driver" by is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse. (Image courtesy of gmilldrum/flickr)
Social media posts accurately claim that British tanks are equipped with "tea-making facilities."
What's True

Since 1945, British tanks have been equipped with "boiling vessels" whose heated water can be used to make tea.

What's False

British soldiers use the boiling vessels to heat up food rations, not solely to make tea.

For years, viral social media posts have claimed that since 1945, British soldiers have been able to make tea inside the tanks they operate. In November 2022, a Reddit post that received 43,000 upvotes included a picture of two British service members pouring tea inside a tank decked out with Union Jack flags:

On TikTok, a video making the same claim has been viewed more than 195,000 times since it was posted in April 2023. The claim was also made to viral effect in 20122021 and almost yearly in between.

In short, the claim that British tanks contain a dedicated tea-making apparatus isn't fully true or false, so we rate this a "Mixture."

Teatime Safety

British soldiers are most vulnerable at teatime: This is what German commanders understood during World War II. "Tommies," as British soldiers call themselves, would not spend a day without drinking hot tea. To brew it, they would get out of the armored tanks they operated and heat up water in makeshift oil-based heaters known as "Benghazi burners." Those tea breaks meant the tanks were unmanned, and the distracted troops were easy targets, Tank Historia reported. 

A week after D-Day, on June 13, 1944, the advance guard of the British 22nd Armoured Brigade stopped in a French village named Villers-Bocage in Normandy. The troops exited their tanks to make tea and were ambushed by a German armored unit. The Brits lost 14 tanks in only 15 minutes, according to Beaches of Normandy Tours.

This and other incidents led the British army to outfit, as soon as 1945, new Centurion tanks with "boiling vessels," special water boilers that allowed for shorter and safer tea and food breaks without compromising on comfort and morale for British soldiers, automotive website Jalopnik reported.

This turned out to be a strategic decision: A study by the British Army published in 1946 showed 37% of casualties in armored units between March 1945 and the end of the war occurred when soldiers were outside the vehicles. In-tank teatime just made sense.

'Boiling Vessels'

These "boiling vessels" or "BV Morale Boosters," as they are known to British troops, are now an integral part of British tanks. They are not, however, classic tea kettles. According to their manufacturer, Electrothermal Engineering, they are "water and ration heaters designed for the demands of mechanised forces." Known as RAK15 and RAK30, they have been renamed and are marketed as "cooking vessels":

To use them, soldiers fill the main compartment with water to heat it up. "MREs" — meals, ready-to-eat — go in the insert to be heated. The catalog entry goes on to specify:

The water used to heat the MREs remains pure and can then be used for making hot beverages.

A small spigot on the side of the unit dispenses the water, as a British Army officer demonstrated in an Instagram video:  

Not Just Britain, Not Just Tanks

While the British Army was the first to solve this problem, the idea caught on. Electrothermal Engineering said it is now outfitting armored vehicles for the U.S. Army, starting with an order for 10,000 RAK15/30 units:

We now have more than 20,000 combat-tested units in the field all over the world, which have been installed into support and frontline vehicles such as the Abrams M1A1, Bradley's LAV, M109 Paladin and many more.

Electrothermal Engineering also said that vehicles other than tanks are equipped with its cooking vessels:

In addition, all the British Army MAN trucks in the support vehicle fleet are equipped with our RAK15/30 units. They have proved especially beneficial in the recent war in Afghanistan, as having the RAK units installed in the cab ensures that vehicles stay on the move and are consequently less vulnerable to attacks from insurgent groups.


'Boiling Vessel'. Wikipedia, 5 Apr. 2023. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Boiling_vessel&oldid=1148358378.

Boiling Vessel | Military Systems and Technology. https://www.militarysystems-tech.com/taxonomy/term/351. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

'British Tanks Have Had Tea-Making Equipment Installed Since WWII'. Jalopnik, 25 Apr. 2019, https://jalopnik.com/british-tanks-have-had-tea-making-equipment-installed-s-1834305853.

Did You Know How Tea Influenced Armored Warfare? https://www.beachesofnormandy.com/didyouknow/Did_you_know_how_tea_influenced_armored_warfare/?id=fdb2269edf. Accessed 6 Mar. 2024.

'Do British Tanks Have Dedicated Tea-Making Facilities?' Tank Historia, 6 Dec. 2022, https://tankhistoria.com/nations/british-tanks/tea/.

'Electrothermal'. Army Technology, https://www.army-technology.com/contractors/field/electrothermal/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2024.

Fratus, Matt. 'Combat Tea Party: Why Tea Kettles Are Installed in British Army Tanks'. Coffee or Die Magazine, 1651698781000, https://coffeeordie.com/british-tea-tanks.

RAK Water & Ration Heater Brochure - Electrothermal - Page - PDF Catalogs | Technical Documentation | Brochure. https://pdf.directindustry.com/pdf/electrothermal/rak-water-ration-heater-brochure/71504-688265-_2.html. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

A Survey of Casualties amongst Armoured Units in N.W. Europe by Capt H.B. Wright RAMC... Jan. 1946. The National Archives, Kew, WO 205/1165.

Tea Onboard Tanks - The Best British Invention In Tank Design. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yir4wex-CYA. Accessed 7 Mar. 2024.

WW2 Wochenschau D-Day Villers-Bocage Tank Battle 1944. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBLrtDpRUDc. Accessed 7 Mar. 2024.

Anna Rascouët-Paz is based in Brooklyn, fluent in numerous languages and specializes in science and economic topics.

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