Had it continued longer, it could have been a disaster.
Sailors in all fleets are accustomed to strict conditions, but there are certain things – especially in the Royal Navy – that are simply sacred. Things like tea – the steaming yellow liquid that soothes frayed British nerves and takes the cold out of almost any wet, tired bone on guard.
The flag officer’s mess aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK’s newest aircraft carrier, suffered a shortage of tea during the past week while at sea in the Pacific Ocean.
The moral crisis was averted thanks to the quick-thinking boss of HMCS Winnipeg and with likely assistance from one of his trustees.
The commander of the British airline task force recently paid a 90-minute visit to the Canadian patrol frigate — a routine check-in with one of the Allied escorts. HMCS Winnipeg and HMS Queen Elizabeth both participated in a massive Allied naval exercise at Japan last weekend.
“I went across and thought I would be offered traditional Canadian hospitality no matter what,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse told CBC News this week. “And they put very, very kindly on English tea, afternoon tea.”
Whether he expected anything a little stronger than tea is unclear. 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 jam,” said Moorhouse, who seemed really moved by the gesture.
“I said, ‘Hey, it’s amazing, we just ran out of Earl Gray tea in the flag area of Queen Elizabeth.’ I returned to the ship laden with probably a thousand bags of tea. “
The Winnipeg commander said it was the least they could do to help an Allied unit suffering from the privatization of a long voyage.
“We gave him three boxes and he sent me an email afterwards saying I was a hero going back to a British ship with tea from Canada,” Canadian Commander Doug Layton said with a laugh.
Moorhouse staff may have expected something more exotic, as fleets regularly exchange touches of recognition.
“When you visit a ship, 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.'”