Science and Society

Lament on the perfect fuse

Late last year, I was lucky enough to get to go to IRL to go frolick in their archives.  For people like me, who like old paper and the smell of knowledge made incarnate, places like that are easy to get lost in…


UPDATE: This picture of a fuse is completely wrong.  Hat tip to one of me readers, who pointed out that it would, actually, have looked more like this

I also got to go visit the apple tree, growing in IRL’s grounds, which was grown from a graft of Newton’s apple tree.  Very cool.  And I got to touch it. * wiggles fingers *

(Also, did you know that a fragment from that most famous of apple trees has been to space?  The thought makes me smile…)

Anyway, at the end of the trip, I was given some old documents and photos.  Which I clutched gleefully all the way back to the office, intent on sharing with the world, and which have consequently sat on my desk for the past 6 months.

As it was inevitable they would.  Sigh.

While I’m finding out whether I’m allowed to scan and post them in their entirety, I’d thought I’d share a somewhat amusing poem, penned by an unknown author, dedicated to the subject of a certain fuse.  And what I’m starting to realise may be an ancient adversarial (sortof, at least) relationship between the Antipodean countries not including South Africa.  Heh.

Lament on the Perfect Fuse
(author unknown)

From the Ford Annexe, Wellington, 1943

There was chaos in the factory
For the word had got around
That a perfect fuse without a fault
By someone had been found.

They tested it with calipers
And gauges of the best
With shadowgraphs of costly make
But still it stood the test.

The safety cap was really safe
The shutter shuttered good
And every littlw orking part
Worked just the way it should.

Directors, Experts, Engineers
All stood around and gazed
A miracle has been performed
They really were amazed.

A thing like that they all agreed
Might cause a recolution
And he who made it must be found
Was their firm resolution.

The manager expressed the view: -
“A criminal mishap
Which overlooked, might easy cause
The death of some poor Jap.”

Machinists, Fitters, Labourers
Were each in turn accused
But all denied one ounce of guilt
And any blame refused.

The Storeman next came on the mat
But proved beyond all doubt
That every time he issued tools
He gave the wrong ones out.

And next the draughtsman cleared his name,
And said his life he’d stake
No drawing ever left his pen
With less than one mistake.

Determined still to fix the guilt
They tried the Office staff
Who all declared their innocence
And proved it with a graph.

“This graph is true in every line”
They said “And we’re not skiting
It proves production’s down to nil
Since we started expediting.”

The D.P.L. then made this claim
And no one disbelieved
“With the kind of tools that we turn out
It couldn’t be achieved.”

The guagues then were sorted up
And tools were brought along
But not one piece in all the lot
Was less than ten thou. wrong.

So when they did eliminate
Each chance to fix the blame
They prayed “Oh, Lord, please punish him
Who sullied out good name.”

Directors, Foremen, Managers,
Then wrote with one accord
Petitions to the Government
Exonerating Ford.

With firm resolve they threw it out -
Their one sad dismal failure
When the dustman found that it was stamped


For anyone interested, here’s the page itself.  I also found interesting the rhyme at the top of the page.  Certainly a clever pun, and a sentiment that, frankly, still applies to most endeavours, warlike or not, today…

[Click on picture to enlarge, as usual]


Note: I realise I scanned it skew.  I am still, I am sure, going to be able to sleep tonight…

  • Peter Griffin

    When are you going to post all those cool artsy photos they gave you at IRL?

    • Aimee Whitcroft

      Soon :)

  • seachanged

    From the date on the poem, and the reference to “safety cap” and “shutter”, and “the death of some poor Jap,” it’s clear that this is a fuze for a bomb or an explosive shell.

    More like this than that illustration.

  • Aimee Whitcroft

    Fair enough :) I just picked a random picture… Thanks for the heads up, though!