– BTU: 7,500 (Kerosene/Diesel)
– Weight: 169 oz (10.5 lbs)
If ever there came a day when I had to get rid of most of my stoves, the British Army Cooker No.12 would be among the very last I would be willing to part with. It’s built like a tank, and in fact, was specifically designed to go into the British Scorpion light tank, and designed to take a massive amount of abuse. It is very heavy, but there are few portable stoves on the market designed to stand up to a rugged environment quite like the British Army Cooker No.12.
SIDE BAR: A quick word about the British Scorpion light tank. It’s as much a light and fast recon vehicle as it is a tank, and there is an entire family of these tanks serving different functions. It started products in 1973 and held the Guinness record for being the fastest tank at the time. The original design specification was for a light, fast, tank that could be air-dropped as part of rapid deployment ground forces around the world. By the end of its production in 1994, there were more than 3,000 of these tanks serving in the British military primarily, but also in military units of other countries.
Among stove enthusiasts, the stove itself, designed to run on the same diesel fuel as the Scorpion tank, has proven so popular that even today, the stove commands a high price on the used market.
The No.12 is a rather large stove, so you won’t be taking it backpacking, but as a car camping stove, it is reliable and consistent, with simmering capability and the strength to hold very large pots. This stove can be setup at a location, and used day in day out with little concern of failure.
Here’s a comparison of the No.12 alongside the Hiker+, 8R, and SVEA 123R:
And here are a few shots of the stoves opened up:
The stove has several interesting features:
The No.12’s hood can be completely opened, allowing for large diameter pots and pans to rest on the open surface.
For windshield protection (and for use with smaller pots and pans), the hood can be set at a 90 degree angle, but does require the use of either the left or right side shields to lock the hood at that angle.
The two side wind shields are built into the hood like fold in doors on hinges:
The bottom outer corners of each side windshield has a hole and locking mechanism than connects to the lower chassis.
When lifting the hood to lock the windshield, it’s worth noting that the shield goes on the inside of the chassis.
Typically, I use an 8 inch cast iron skillet with this stove, which doesn’t exactly fit, so most of the time, I only lock the right side shield into place. This is because the left shield has the mechanism to lock shield to the hood.
Also in the hood is a tool for basic maintenance. The tool is held in place via two brackets. One side of the tool is to remove the throttle, and the other side goes into the throttle tube after removing the main throttle, to remove the inner pin. Most of the other parts of the stove and tank can be maintained by a leatherman.
Most of the stove components can be easily removed. The top grate can be removed without any tools, and you’ll find yourself removing this grate often as there are tools kept below the grate on either side of the stove as well.
To remove the grate, simply lift the rear up towards the front of the stove, and two ends of the grate will slide out of two holes at the front of the chassis.
The throttle sits on the right side of the stove under the grate. Like the Hiker+, 8R, and many lunchbox style you pass it through a hole in the chassis and lock onto the stove head’s throttle. Turn counterclockwise to open the throttle, and vice versa to close.
The left side holds the filtered fuel funnel to refill the main tank. There is a metal mesh filter to keep out debris and particulates. While there is nothing fancy about a funnel with a mesh filter, it’s worth noting that the filter is much less fragile than others I have purchased independently or as part of a kit. Everywhere I look on this stove, it’s clear that it was designed with rough users in mind.
The pump mechanism is also built tough, and is further built to secure a fairly high level of pressure. One part of the of the pump diameter is sliced off, and combined with a bar along one side creates a very simple but effective locking mechanism to keep the pump system locked in place. In more ways than one, this simple mechanism is fool proof.
The main stove head and tank is removable, again, similarly to most lunch box stoves like the 8R and Hiker+. The stove and tank unit is heavy, and the tank is clearly very thick-walled.
The stove head is a roarer type, but it is a relatively quiet considering. There is a separate Primus quiet stove head that you can purchase which fits perfectly, but the standard stove head works very well and is stable. I’ve put maybe a total of 100 hours on this stove without any problems or degradation in performance, so clearly, here too, the component was built to last.
The cup below the stove can hold a soaking pad, but I removed it from mine as it wasn’t really necessary. I simply pour some denatured alcohol over the stove head, some of which drops down to the priming cup and light it. It primes very quickly.
SETUP: PRIMING AND FULL FLAME
The British Army Cooker No.12 works just like any liquid fuel stove.
To turn it on, you need to prime the stove head heating element underneath the stove head. You can prime the stove using white gas, regular tinder, a soaked pad, or denatured alcohol. Of these options, I prefer de-natured alcohol as it burns clean, hot, and leaves no stains or residue. Note that diesel and kerosene do not make very good primers. In hot weather, it should work okay, but both kerosene and diesel suffer from very high flash points compared to other fuels, making them comparatively difficult to light in colder weather, and also prone to leaving sticky residue. Of course, it’s also worth noting that the high flash point is why kerosene and diesel are popular fuels as they are fairly safe to store long term. It’s also at least part of the reason kerosene especially has been the recommended fuel in remote arctic areas, high in the mountains, and on ships for decades.
Once you start hearing some sizzling, you can throttle open the stove. If there’s yellow flame, just lower the flame so it’s not out of control. The heating element underneath will continue to heat up, and you should get blue jet flame momentarily.
One advantage of this particular stove head is a wider diameter flame, which heats pots and pans a little more evenly. You can definitely simmer with this stove, but it is not quite as fine tuned as, say, the dual throttle stoves like the Primus Omnifuel, Omnilite, Optimus Polaris Optifuel, or MSR Dragonfly.
Here’s a couple of shots of the chassis without the stove tank:
But it does simmer well enough for low heat cooking, like veggies or stews.
And I can’t say this enough, this stove will just work and work. It requires so little maintenance that I’m surprised after so many cooking sessions and so many total hours, I still don’t have to change the pump leather suction tip, or the o-ring for the cap. All my other liquid fuel stoves have required some degree of maintenance, but the British Army Cooker No.12 just keeps on trucking.
Like I said in the beginning, if I had to get rid of most of my stoves, the No.12 would be one of the few I would never let go.
12 thoughts on “British Army Cooker No.12 Review (Diesel/Kero only)”
That is one cool stove, not only do I want one now but I bet I have a hard time finding one of these…
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Thanks for the comment.
There are a fair number on ebay, but the price seems to be going up year after year.
Actually, you’re right. I saw a bunch last year, but a search right now shows none on ebay at the moment.
Hi We have one but not sure whether it runs on petrol or diesel/kero
As it was originally designed specifically for the Scorpion tank, this was designed to work on the same fuel, diesel, so yes, it runs on kero/diesel. Does not run on petrol.
Thanks for a fine review – i have one of these and I just stare at it like a beautiful woman – I may take it camping in the summer, when charcoal fires are banned here in TX.
One Question – You said “There is a separate Primus quiet stove head that you can purchase ”
Can you please send a link on how to obtain this primus quiet stove head?
thank you so much for taking the time to review this fine stove!
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Hi Aaron, Thanks for the comment.
Here is the link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Optimus-Primus-SVEA-stove-British-Army-No-12-Cooker-Silent-Burner-/171909981352?hash=item2806a224a8:g:odYAAOxyiOxR3u8z
As a past collector of military stoves, this is the last one I held on to. Great base camp stove and gets plenty of attention here in the USA. Have the aftermarket silent burner too. I am looking for a replacement clip that holds the funnel … that is the only broke part on mine. Might be called a perry clip, but a can not source the size used in this stove.
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That might be a diy capable part. I don’t work with metal, but i think there might be a way to bend a flexible metal clip to shape
Actually the Scorpion tank used a petrol engine, not Diesel. The engine was Jaguar straight six as used in all jaguar cars from ca 1950 to 1988. I have no comment if this has a bearing on whether or not this stove therefore also runs on petrol (high lead).
Good info, i was misinformed