If it had continued any longer, it could have been a calamity.
Sailors in all navies are used to austere conditions, but there are certain things, especially in the Royal Navy, that are simply sacrosanct. Things like tea, that steaming amber liquid that soothes frayed British nerves and takes the chill out of just about any wet, tired bone on watch.
The flag officer disaster aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK’s newest aircraft carrier, suffered from a tea shortage while at sea in the Pacific for the past week.
The morale crisis was averted thanks to HMCS Winnipeg’s quick-thinking commander and with the likely help of one of his butlers.
The British Carrier Task Force commander recently paid a 90-minute visit to the Canadian patrol frigate, a routine check with one of the Allied escorts. HMCS Winnipeg and HMS Queen Elizabeth participated in a huge Allied naval exercise off Japan last weekend.
“I walked by thinking that they would offer me traditional Canadian hospitality, whatever it is,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse told CBC News this week. “And very, very kindly they had English tea, afternoon tea.”
It is unclear if I was expecting something a little stronger than tea. The Canadian Navy has banned the consumption of alcohol while warships are at sea.
“So I had a cup of Earl Gray and English scones with cream and jelly,” said Moorhouse, who seemed genuinely touched by the gesture.
“I said, ‘Hey that’s great, we just ran out of Earl Gray tea in the flag area on Queen Elizabeth.’ I came back to the ship loaded with probably a thousand tea bags. “
The Winnipeg commander said it was the least they could do to help an Allied unit suffering the hardships of a long sea voyage.
“We gave him three boxes and then he emailed me and said I was a hero returning to a British ship with tea from Canada,” said Canadian Commander Doug Layton with a smile.
The Moorhouse staff may have expected something more exotic, as navies have a habit of trading trinkets of appreciation on a regular basis.
“Whenever you visit a ship, the sailors will say, ‘Hey sir, what did you get? What did they give you? Was it maple syrup or something?'” Moorhouse said. “And I said, ‘No, I have Earl Gray tea bags.’