|Three shallow open graves containing uniformed bodies. Behind them the burial party are are looking on drinking tea.(Art.IWM ART LD 3035)Ardizzone, Edward Jeffrey Irving|
'Is it Monday or Tuesday today Dump?'
'I thought it was Thursday,' I answered, 'but I'll look in the log in the Command Post.'
When I returned I said, ' We're well out. It's Saturday'
'Yes. But Saturday of this week or last?' (Fennell, p. 128, as cited from L.E. Tutt "Gentleman Soldier" p. 168.)While in some theatres of war, foraging or downright pillaging could provide a number of the supplies needed for an army, the desert provided nothing but sand. Demand for water was especially massive. In the days before Operation Crusader, Eighth Army was supplied with 600 tons of water daily from a 147 mile long army-built pipeline. Daily rations were two gallons a day, but there were times when these sunk to two pints per soldier. (Fennell, p. 131-32)
The quality of what little water was provided was poor, further emphasizing the need to flavour it with a "brew-up" of "char", or tea. Tutt noted that it was, "foul stuff to drink in its natural form [and it was] much more satisfying to have as a brew." (Tutt, p. 201, from Fennell, p. 134) Historian John Ellis noted that the use of gas and oil cans to carry the highly chlorinated water was a major factor in its awful taste. Even that water uncontaminated by gas could absorb the interior coating of the containers made of paraffin wax or bitumen and benzine. (Fennell, p. 134 as cited from Ellis, The Sharp End, p. 285.)
|Grant tank crews sit down to a brew near their vehicles,|
Libya, 8 June 1942. Photo Sgt Chetwyn © IWM (E 13016)
Fennell claims that improved morale was critical to the fighting performance of the Eighth Army at the Battle of El Alamein, noting that tea was one of many factors which could play a role in forming personal bonds between the men. Ultimately Fennell argues that the primary group bond between soldiers has been overestimated in the literature and that numerous factors such as: confidence in weapons technology; supply of provisions such as water; the harsh desert environment itself; and better man-management practices in part associated with the coming of Bernard Montgomery, all contributed to Eighth Army's improved morale in the fall of 1942.