The ultimate in fuse collecting

I found this for sale on a UK militaria site, its the fuse (or should I say fuze) for a British Blue Steel Air-to-Surface Strategic nuclear missile. I don’t even want to know the price.


I have a question that is not directly related to this topic.

I wonder why the British sometimes write “fuse” with an “s” and sometimes “fuze” with a “z”.
Which spelling is correct now?

As far as I understand, a “fuse” is a safety element in an electrical circuit and written with an “s” in Great Britain. The U.S. English spelling of this electrical item would be “fuze” with a “z”, right?

But what about the mechanism fixed to the tip of shells and projectiles?
How is the correct writing of this item in British English?
I am only positive that the Americans write “fuze” and this writing is also used in British documents most of the time. However, still you can find “fuse” in English documents as well…

Can anybody please bring some light on this …?
This would be interesting for me, because my book on Soviet ammunition will be written in British English. (I used the “fuze” writing so far.)


I would use Fuze. I’ve just had a quick look at a couple of British Military Official Publications and they use “Fuze” and in the 16yrs service in the British Army I did a fuze was always fuze not fuse.

Not being a native english speaker I just can share my observations after having read plenty of technical manuals from three different centuries.

The original word as it was used for a cord filled with blackpowder which was igniting some explosive charge was “fuse”. That word was mainly used in the old days of black powder fuses which were just burning and ignited something - THIS WORD IS STILL CORRECT TODAY. Later when the first explosive artillery shells (hollow cannon balls) were developed they did not have mechanical impact fuzes but black powder fuzes which due to their function and content still were called “fuse” since they were technically the same as a normal black powder fuse (and people likely did not think of a new word to be invented).
Later again after fuzes became more mechanical items then were still designated “fuse” but that changed already in the 19th century to “fuze” (in the UK).
So today the word “fuse” applies to the so called “safety fuse” with a blackpowder core which is used to ignite all sort of detonators and so with explosives.
The word “fuze” is today used for all types of fuzes other than the one mentioned above.
One small exception are today the mechanical “fuse lighters” which are used to ignite lengths of fuses. They might be named “fuse lighter fuzes” to be technically correct but that is not done for some reason (some people may not understand it then anyways since they can not distinguish between fuse and fuze).

Many people, in particular such not knowing anything about ammunition and more seldom and therefore even more surprising military people are using the word “fuse” because they never learned or came across the correct designation and just know the “TV-slang”.
Even many semi-professional publications are still using the wrong terminology. This also includes some “standard” type dictionaries.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Up until relatively modern times, in American English at least, “fuse” was the preferred spelling for any kind of detonating device, whether a continuous train of combustible material (like a firecracker or dynamite fuse) or a mechanical or electrical fuse, like found on torpedoes, bombs, etc. “Fuze” was an acceptable second spelling. This according to my very, very old Webster 3200-page unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. More current dictionaries show the “fuse” spelling as correct for the combustable-cord type of fuse (like a firecracker or dynamite fuse), and “fuze” for a mechnical or electrical fuze.

EOD is correct that in common usage especially among those not in tune with explosive devices, both spellings are used interchangeably.

The exception is that “fuse” in the sense of joining two pieces together (as in “to fuse two pieces of steel together by welding”) is never correctly spelled “fuze” with a “z”, nor is that spelling correct when speaking of an electrical fuse that interrupts or closes a circuit when the current exceeds appropriate amperage.

I don’t think the word police will shoot anyone for using either spelling.

John, you are right on that noone will get shot but shouldn’t we try to promote the correct terminology (in particular as those who should know better) instead of leaning backwards for those being ignorant?
The habits of clueless people should not rule the world. (with many subjects it is the case already)

I seemed to have opened up a whole other can of worms on this. I always thought “fuze” was the American spelling, as s is commonly replaced with z in the USA. Words such as “organised” and “Industrialised” in England become “organized” and “industrialized” in the USA.

Think EOD is correct in his statement that collectors should strive to use the correct nomenclature. It looks like the fuSe and fuZe usage depends on the writer of information such as manuals etc. We all have to understand that in modern novels, movies, TV, the press and even in the military jargon that “BULLET” means cartridge!! Have received just “who are you to tell us” from any of the above when you try to correct them. As there is hardly any editing any more half the local news atricles interchange street, avenue, road, lane for the same place!


My point was that according to Webster, about as authoritative a source as you can get, “fuse” was the preferred spelling and “fuze” was an acceptable alternate spelling. With the exception of the uses indicated, such as “to fuse two pieces of metal together” either spelling is generally correct, although one is preferred for one use and the other for another use these days. That was obviously not always the case judging from my older dictionary… It has nothing to do with being ignorant or uneducated. It has to do with accepting that in different parts of the English-speaking World, different spellings are sometimes used. They are not wrong - they are simply different.

There are some highly intelligent people who use this forum, knowledgeable and intelligent, that spell poorly in English even though it is their first language. I, myself, often use archaic phraseology, and occasionally spelling, in English, and am painfully aware of it - the result of being raised in a household with very intelligent parents, but parents born in the 19th Century. Yes, 19th, not 20th. I find it difficult to use modern, simplified spelling, such as “catalog” replacing “catalogue.”

I simply will not judge the fine contributions of people on this forum because they use a spelling that may not be the preferred spelling for that particular word or usage.

And yes, I do agree that there is much ignorance in the world, and that it is often catered too. We see that from every country and every continent, including our own. that is quite a different subject and not one I will address here. EOD is very correct on that point. Just my opinion - each to his own.

John, I am sorry if you got the impression that I may have meant you with “being ignorant or uneducated”.
This is certainly not the case and will never be.

My thought on what is correct or not was actually coming from US and UK military manuals. I for myself (and only myself) accepted them for being the leading authority in this matter. I may have choosen a very simple way to determine that but probably my English is not good enough to get “deeper” than that.

EOD my good friend - I did not take that to mean you were insulting me at all. We only have a disagreement over how important it is on this Forum that everything be spelled right. Phil Butler just caught me with three typo errors in on sentence on another thread, one of which turned the word “white” into a dirty word and it was bleeped out with **** when posted.

I am not offended in any way. I disagreed with Gourdie too, and we are good friends who live only about 140KM apart!

Thanks for your concern though. I think your English is excellent by the way, and their was no misunderstanding on my part. I know exactly what you were talking about, and as I said, in the main of things you are right and I agree with you on that subject, but consider it a separate subject.

We simply have to teach the British how to spell English words (Sorry Falcon, Tony, et al. - just a bad joke from the colony! We are, after all, two countries “divided by a common language.” Hee! Hee!).

140KM apart? Please John, lets hang onto our miles as long as we can, until they too are legislated out, along with the incandescent bulb and analog TV.

Guy, you are not alone. We still have signs in miles in the UK believe it or not (until the EU forces us to go over to km, which I can see coming). They are also trying to legistate out incandescent bulbs and analog TV here. Those energy saving bulbs don’t give a very good light and are ridiculously expensive. My first thought when I heard conventional bulbs were to be banned was “better buy enough to last a while”.

I don’t have a problem with the light that some of the compact florescents give off; i just avoid those that the labeling indicates ‘daylight’. I have them all over the house, but have a problem with those in the ceiling fans - they burn out fairly quickly, and at $4 to $5 each, that can get expensive. I know that special ceiling fan incandescents were developed that could handle the vibration associated with the fans, so I imagine the compact florescents still need some work.

We are liable to get accused of hijacking this discussion, but discussions on this forum do have a tendency to bounce around. It keeps the administrators busy trying to decide if the subject needs to be changed or if a new thread needs to be split out.

I’m surprised no one was interested in the nuclear missile fuse, I posted it thinking people might be.

That fuze is definately of interest, no question about but there are a few points limiting the 100% of the interest of many people:

  • We do not know the correct designation, the designation of the ordnance used with
  • One hardly will get any documents on it
  • In case someone wants to buy it he may get into serious trouble in his home country (do not know how it is in the UK). Imagine the poor customs guy looking at the parcel and the customs declaration saying “nuclear bomb fuze”. Then one better gets made plenty of coffe that tday at 6.00h in the morning when suddenly the main door of your house is blown into pieces and one gets the impression that a Police exhibition is taking place in his house and garden.
  • Further the fuze is a big lump of electronics and does not look like most things we are familiar with (one could also show us a dismanteled micro wave oven with the same effect I think)

As said, definately interesting but hard to follow the interest in practice.
I wonder anyways how that thing made it into private hands.

I am sure its provenance is suspect. That sort of thing isn’t commonly released. To anybody. Interesting, but I wouldn’t want to be in possession or on a list of owners.


That fuze has been available for sale for a long time now. I have seen it years ago. I am surprised no one bought it yet. A few years ago their was the most beautifully designed Nuclear Missile guidance gyroscope for sale on Ebay. I think it sold for $2500? Inert missile / bomb stuff is awesome. I have a few cool parts, non at all related to nukes. Anyhow, thanks for posting it. I find it very interesting.


Jason - I have no idea how much money he wants for it, that could be something to do with the reason nobody has bought it yet. I am surprised you didn’t see this sooner, I thought it looked like your sort of thing.

Totally right Falcon, TOTALY UP MY ALLEY!!! Really appreciate you posting this thread. I find all ammo interesting, but really like the big stuff best!