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29th Jun, 2022

Bertha's ready to serve up some treats

Worcester Editorial 25th Mar, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

A CATERING outlet with a difference is due to open at a National Trust parkland and house near Worcester in time for a busy Mothering Sunday.

An original Second World War ‘tea car’ has been acquired by Croome which has been restored and converted to serve visitors drinks and snacks at their wartime Visitor Centre.

“We’re all very excited about our new addition to the catering team,” Jayne Bosley, Croome’s catering manager, said.

“The van is an authentic 1941 tea car which was used by the YMCA to serve wartime troops their tea.

“We’re running it for the first time on Saturday 29 March so we’re keeping our fingers crossed our visitors enjoy this new experience at Croome.”

The van, affectionately called Bertha from the name written on its side, will be an atmospheric addition to the 1940s style restaurant housed in Croome’s Visitor Centre.

The buildings have been restored from derelict Second World War buildings, which were once part of RAF Defford, a secret wartime airbase which partly used the 18th century parkland at Croome.

Photographs survive of a similar vehicle feeding the service men and women at the airbase.

The tea car toured the airfield where ground crews were working, bringing welcome relief to the team. Outdoor catering cars have a proud history of serving the military and civilians during the conflict and were much appreciated by troops particularly near battlefields, RAF personnel on airfields and by civilian survivors in bomb-damaged streets.

Such vehicles were provided and staffed by organisations such as NAAFI (Navy, Army and Airforce Institution), YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) and parish church groups.

There were over 4000 ‘tea cars’, as the YMCA called them, with many serving the RAF alongside catering cars from other organisations.

The quest for a the van began over a year ago when Croome’s supporter group, the Defford Airfield Heritage Group, were scouring the country for a suitable vehicle for Croome’s catering team.

They luckily found someone that could help right their doorstep – Ali Adlkish, based at Avonside Motors in Evesham, who imports classic and vintage cars.

Ali was briefed and the search was on eventually leading him all the way to the Netherlands where he first set eyes on Bertha.

After the van’s 500 mile journey, a full mechanical health check and fitted out, Bertha the Tea Car will be serving Croome’s visitors on busy weekends and bank holidays.

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