Encyclopedia - Tommy Cooker

A repro Tommy Cooker A 'Tommy Cooker' - often mentioned in memoirs of British soldiers who served during the First World War - was simply a small, portable stove powered by solidified alcohol.

The stove, which folded up into a neat package, was intended to be smokeless, an important factor in ensuring that its owner staved off the attentions of the many - and deadly - German snipers constantly searching the enemy lines for signs of human activity.

Smokeless it may have been - but alas, it was also notably weak.  Even as a means of boiling a kettle the Tommy Cooker, while better than nothing at all, was considered a poor substitute for a real fire.  Necessity being the mother of invention - and many British soldiers felt unable to go without their daily brew of tea - some soldiers struck upon the notion of immersing gun-cleaning cloth in whale oil as a fuel, lighting the whole in a tin.  Others used primus stoves.

Nevertheless in spite of its generally poor reputation "Tommy's Cooker" (so named after the British 'Tommy' soldier) remained in widespread use among British trenches.

A respirator was a gas mask in which air was inhaled through a metal box of chemicals.

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