PILOT OFFICER PRUNE
in the Air Force during the Second World War will instantly
recognise Prune as a fictitional, cartoon character (created
by Bill (Raff) Hooper) who appeared in a pamphlet called Tee
Emm (Short for Technical Memorandum). He was the buffoon who
got everything wrong in order for the manual to explain what
was right or correct. Tee Emm was written by the staff of
the magazine Punch (and particularly Anthony Armstrong), who
had been seconded to the Air Ministry for the duration of
the war to make technical manuals readable. Even today these
manuals make entertaining reading.
This is the tale of P.O. Prune,
Now in hospital in Frome
Who, though industrious and keen,
The type who keeps his buttons clean
Earned for himself a bitter fate,
Because he could not concentrate.
Although he always tried his best
To be efficient (like the rest)
He simply hadn’t got the skill
To concentrate on COCKPIT DRILL.
He tried mnemonics, used to sit,
For ages memorising it.
But once inside the aeroplane,
He just forgot it all again
The inter-com, the airscrew pitch,
The warning indicator switch
The flaps, the elevator trim,
Were one and all alike to him.
He happened, then, in course of time
To muddle up this pantomime
Whilst coming in to land one day,
In (what he thought) the usual way
He accidently pulled the catch,
That jettisons the exit hatch
It quite surprised him when he saw
His gunner vanish throught the floor
Then hurtle downwards through the air,
To burst inside the signal square.
Poor P.O. Prune in pensive mood,
Forgot to check his altitude
And at a hundred miles per hour
He cannoned off the water tower
Mowed down an Orderly Parade,
Then hit the deck and ricochetted
Right through the Mess, wherein a bunch
Of Officers were taking lunch.
Imagine then the screams and groans,
The crunching sound of splintered bones
The shattered glass, the ruptured seams,
The tangled mass of twisted beams
The debris scattered everywhere.
It was a terrible affair.
When all was clear they took the dead
And heaped them in the tractor shed
They counted them and found at length
That fully half the ration strength
Were incapacitated, or
Revolting messes on the floor.
From ‘midst the havoc he had wrought
They dug Prune from his Juggernaut
The doctor hastily arrived -
And found, alas, he had survived.
Next day Group Captain Cholmondly-Pym
Severely reprimanded him
A punishment both wise and just
For pilots in the Service must
(Lest they should share P.O. Prune’s fate)
Be capable and CONCENTRATE.