Witley, May 9, 1917

Wednesday         Tonight we went to Hambledon [nearly four miles southeast] for a Whist drive in aid of R. X. [Red Cross] we could only stop for the first half as our time was limited I made a poor score the worst yet The rest of the day was as usual

And the usual, according to the War Diary, is a week of brigade and battery parades, with special attention to “laying & fuze-setting.” (1)

Fuze-setting exemplifies what Kipling called the “never-ending mystery of [the gunner’s] art.” The fuze is the device which detonates the shell either after a period of time (T or time fuze) or on impact (P or percussion fuze). The eighteen-pounder’s shrapnel shells fuze Plate 26had T&P fuzes, that could be detonated at some point in their trajectory (Time) or on impact or “graze” (Percussion). For the cutting of wire and the killing of soldiers, shrapnel shells have to burst in the air and project their bullets forward in a lethal cone. If the time mechanism fails to work, the percussion action ensures that the shell will not be entirely wasted if it explodes only on ploughing into the ground.

Fuze-setting seems to cover both the physical adjustment of the length of the time fuze and the process of determining what that length should be. Gunner No. 5 sets the actual length of time, using a fuze key, which looks like an Allen wrench; Gunner No. 6 tells him what the length should be, having determined it using a Fuze indicator. (2) The indicator is a kind of slide rule that enables No. 6 to give the “correct fuze setting for effective burst at any range, when once the instrument has been adjusted for one range.” (3)Indicator Fuze American book.JPG A significant element of the Indicator is its corrector scale – the correction being given to the gunners by their officers. Here is where the science of gunnery really comes into play, but perhaps we’ll save those details for another day.

Archie tells us that the weather is beautiful today, but also notes that he is finding it hard to get up at 5 am: “Eyes seemed glued together.” (4)

(1)War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 4 May 1917):2 . Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) Notes on Field Artillery Training compiled by the officers of the 34th Battery, CFA, CEF. 1916. 136-137.
(3) Field Artillery Training. 1914. 162.
(4) Wills, Archie. Diary. 4: 54.  May 9, 1917. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.

The image of the fuze is Plate XXVI in Handbook of the 18-pr QF Gun. Land Service. (1915) facing page 36. The diagram of a fuze indicator comes from Donald A MacAlister’s Field Gunnery, American edition (1917). 105.


Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”



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