The first cooker adopted by the British Army after demonstrations of the prototypes by Alex Soyer to the British Army in Crimea. They have been used continually until the 1980's when the vast majority of the British Army stock was lost in the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor during the Falklands War.
Capable of boiling 12 gallons of liquid using any available solid fuel they are simple and efficient. The original specification was that two, together with wood for fuel could be carried by a mule.
The Soyer was adopted as standard by the Civil Defence organisation during WW2 and examples staffed by the Woman’s Voluntary Service were used to provide emergency food in the bombed areas during the Blitz. After WW2 large numbers were put into storage in the event of a nuclear attack.
A slight variation to the soyer was the Ludgate boiler which could be identified by slightly longer feet and a different firebox arrangement.
Introduced in 1939 the Cooker No.1 or Hydro burner as it was known became standard equipment for the next 40 years until health and safety ruled them unsafe for use.
Consisting of a 2 gallon petrol tank pressurised by a foot or built in hand pump, it fired a jet of flame along a trench covered by metal plates. These interlocking plates had holes to accommodate camp kettles (left of photo below, or the stainless centres of hay boxes as being used above (Hay box outer extreme right)). A portable oven could be used for baking (see below).
Cooker in use with the BEF in France 1939/40
This is a single burner cooker in a folding case, powered by pressurised petrol from a small tank at the front. It has its own windbreak as part of the case. Maintenance tools are attached to the side of the windbreak and a funnel supplied for filling.
This cooker was introduced during the Second World War and mainly issued to crews of armoured vehicles. It is issued with a stainless steel cooking vessel whose lid can be used as a frying pan. The cooker and pan are held together with a leather strap and are normally found fastened to the outside of a fighting vehicle as they were part of the CSE (Complete Schedule of Equipment) issued to a vehicle.
They remained in use until the 1980's when due the change from petrol powered vehicles they were replaced.
Care has to be exercised when using these cookers as the leather gaskets dry out if not used and petrol can leak from the pressure pump and ignite.
Folded cooker and pans strapped to the wing of a Ferret armoured car.
Cooker and pans ready for use.
This is a two-burner version introduced during World War Two. This version could be used by a Section or Platoon of soldiers. It could also be used with a standard oven for baking.
It folds away to the size of a small suitcase.
Cooker opened, lid can be used as a work surface (this example is dated 1945)
This small portable oven is designed to be used with the No.1 and No.3 Petrol cookers. It has two shelves and sits directly above the No.3 cooker, or on the plates of the No 1. There are two opening vents on the top to control airflow which also can be used to heat pans.
The Cooker Number 4 is a portable oven (according the Civil Defence manual all parts could be lifted by two WVS ladies) with a cast iron range on the side. The fire is set up in the end of the range and the heat drawn along the range and around the oven. The earliest photo showing one in use is at a camp in 1914 and was still in the 1956 manual as well as the 1960's Civil Defence manual. Our example came from these stocks, although we understand that examples were still held as late as 2005 (RAF mobile catering stores)
Photo above contributed by T Gibson of Durham: In 1958, the 16th Independent Para Brigade, 3 Para, the Royal Artillery, the Cameronians and 208 Squadron RAF were dispatched to Jordon to prevent a coup to depose King Hussain. This is the field kitchen set up to feed soldiers until a more permanent set up was established in the Jordanian desert. It shows soyers being powered by No. 1 petrol burners.
This is a stainless steel one gallon food container, with screw lid. It measures approximately 7 1/2" x 7 1/2" x 4 3/4", and the lid diameter is 4". It is has various marks on the side, including the maker, 'TRF' inside a trefoil (3 leaf clover marking) and the date of 1944, together with the WD Broad Arrow. Identical to 1952 types and ideal for display or reencatment. It is in good condition and has only seen minor use.