I thought of this today - unfortunately I wrote the game setting, the automata part of Forgotten Futures IX, in 2003 and it's a bit late to retro-fit it, especially since the name of an automaton there contradicts it. Maybe someone else can use it for a steampunk book or something, if someone hasn't got there first:
Historically the budget for the first British military steam automata was slipped past the Treasury as purchase of "improved mobile tea urns for field use." When the cost passed £2000 questions were asked in Parliament, and a committee of MPs visited the factory to investigate. The prototype automaton was hastily fitted with a hot water spigot and a punched disk of instructions for making tea. The MPs were delighted and actually suggested that it might be a good idea to teach them to fire guns too, for emergencies.
This incident led to two traditions:
- All British military automata are built to make tea, if only by having a small electrically-heated pot built in somewhere.
- British soldiers (and those of many other nations) refer to automata as "urns," "samovars," or the equivalent. Popular automata are often nicknamed "Ernie" in Britain.
Unfortunately the main military automaton in my game was specifically called "Automaton Atkins," Tommy to his squad, so it really doesn't fit in terribly well. But if someone else wants to use this please feel free - some credit would be nice though!
Also posted at http://ffutures.dreamwidth.org/2057783.html, where there are comments. Please comment here or there using OpenID.