At times, fact can be stranger than fiction and this story is case in point. Following a tea history presentation, an older gentleman approached me with humor in his eyes. He wanted to share a memory of his uncle, Sergeant Powers, a World War II soldier attached to a British Supply Unit in the days and weeks following D-Day. Their orders were to resupply troops along the North Sea Coast toward Rhine and, while they were not a combat unit, they got awfully close to the fighting and often had enemy aircraft overhead. His uncle was a young man at the time, a strapping American GI of 21 who did not have much in common with his British counterparts but still, they worked together to get the job done.
At one moment each day the cultural clash reached its apex — 5pm, teatime to the British, even the British delivering supplies to Allied troops! Yes, the entire convoy of trucks pulled off the road at 5pm. One man would go find water, another would set up the cookstove on rocks, or logs, anything available, as a third man, filled the stove with fuel from a geri can. In about 15 minutes all the Brits were standing around opening up field rations and pulling out packets of tea, sugar, and powdered milk. The cook went around filling tin cups with boiling water as the Americans looked on in frustration.
“We could not believe it and still don’t understand how they could sip tea with planes overhead and gunfire not too far away. It seemed, incomprehensible, frivolous, dangerous! But they could not be rushed. Cigarettes were in our field rations so we smoked them and waited for tea time to pass.” Sergeant Powers said during his attachment to the British unit, they never skipped a tea time.