Wednesday 5th August 1914; Oxford, England
The wide, rectangular superstructure of the Butler Mill loomed ahead of Wilson as he ambled down the wide country lane on the outskirts of Oxford. Wood pigeons cooed to each other in the trees to his right and a hare darted across his path, leaping into one of the thick hedges which bordered the track.
These sights and sounds of nature conjured romantic images in Wilson’s mind. His gaze lifted and took in the high, tapering chimney which rose to three times the mill’s height. He remember the first time he had seen the soot-blackened walls of the building with the great smokestack rising above it and marvelled at the incredible feats which his fellow men could accomplish.
After five months of hard graft dragging sacks of wood pulp and freshly washed rags across the factory floor, Wilson found his pace slowing each day on his way to work as he caught sight of the ominous building. The boredom had slowly numbed his senses, which was a dangerous state to live in.
After about two months at the mill, Wilson had seen one of the machine operators lose a hand to the presser. This was a giant contraption which crushed the pulp between two heavy, flat metal weights. The operator had spent almost every day for five years of his life working at that machine, to the extent where it felt uncomfortable for Wilson to see the one without the other.
All it had taken was one small mistake in the calibration, off by a fraction of an inch, for the jaws of the iron giant to close on the operator’s wrist. It was an easy to mistake to notice but, after looking at the same piece of equipment for so long, the man had drifted into a routine. He boasted that he could work in his sleep. Wilson thought that it was easier to spot an error when a man had his eyes open and his mind on the task at hand.