Book Review

2004-5/May 1, 2004

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John Stanley's well-researched and detailed book about the real crash of the real bomber featured in Requiem For A Wren has now been released. It would be an ideal gift for anyone interested in Nevil Shute or in World War 2. That would cover just about everyone worth talking to. Why not stock up on Christmas and birthday presents now while stocks last ? The Exbury Junkers, A World War II Mystery by John Stanley ISBN 1-903953-60-X is available for 9.95 British Pounds plus postage. 10 British Pounds roughly converts to 18 US Dollars or 15 Euro or 24 Australian Dollars or 71 Polish Zloty or 13 Jordanian Dinars. The book is available from:
Woodfield Publishing, Woodfield House, Babsham Lane, Bognor Regis, West
Sussex, PO21 5EL, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)1243 821234, Fax: +44 (0)1243 821757, E-mail:,
We await the first review for our bibliography section.

Arden Jensen of Cleveland, Tennessee, The USA writes:
I recently delivered a paper about Nevil Shute's work to the 2004 Tennessee Philological Association Conference. Would you be interested in it for your web site?

Editor's Comment: I replied that essays and articles about Shute and his works make very popular reading on our website. The variety of perspectives on Shute's work constantly amazes me. I am looking forward to Arden's paper.

Shute accepted the official leaking gasbag theory for R-101's crash. There is at least another theory, propounded by E. F. Spanner in The Tragedy of R-101. That theory relies on structural failure in the central new bay (inserted in a hurry to get more lift, because the ship was overweight) as the result of hard-up elevator position through flying at low altitude in gusty weather. I found Spanner's book, when I read it about 1946 (Found on CS Forester's bookshelves; haven't seen a copy since, nor one on Amazon), to be persuasive.
Having considerable interest in the R-101/R-100 controversy, I ordered and assembled the Marquette model of R-100. It is flying at near ceiling height above my dining table; looks quite nice. Had to make a hidden toggle fitting with which to suspend it, removable for mounting on the tower. That mounting is not so good. However, I have a photo of R-100, the only one of R-100 shown in the R-101 memorial book. That photo shows tail fins just like the model's. The engine car mountings have been simplified, but would be difficult to do better on such a small scale. If I had had good information, I might have tried to include a proper ladder and thrust cable detail.

Editor's Comment: The book The Tragedy of R101 by E.F. Spanner was published within months of the Inquiry in August 1931. I also found this reference in a website about the psychic Eileen Garret: 'In a sitting at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research on October 7, 1930, two days after the explosion of the R101, Flight Lieutenant H.C. Irwin, Captain of the airship, suddenly entranced Mrs. Garrett, announced his presence and gave the listeners a highly technical account of how the airship crashed. The narrative was taken down in shorthand and a copy was submitted to the Air Ministry. According to the opinion of experts, a number of observations in the message tallied in every detail with what was afterwards found in the course of the official inquiry. E.F. Spanner, the well-known naval architect and marine engineer, came to exactly the same conclusions in his book, The Tragedy of the R101.' Call me shallow and frivolous but I just love reading about a marine engineer named Spanner. I bet his nick name was Shifty. (for the rest of the world to really appreciate my brilliant joke they must understand that what they call an Adjustable Wrench, Australians call a Shifting Spanner)

of Hull, The UK writes:
I can confirm that Nevil Shute met Amy Johnson. Amy was a friend of my mother and it was through my mother's collection of Shute novels that I became a fan.

of North Carolina, The USA, writes: The last time I looked, Alice on VHS was in plentiful supply on Amazon and it should be easy to convert it to DVD (it's legal as long it's for not for resale) and then sell the VHS on eBay.
Lay-By (Lay Away) is still quite popular in this area, especially around Christmas, as many of the local folk lack sufficient income for credit cards and rarely have enough cash in their pocket at any one time.

Editor's Comment: Most areas have a business that will convert home movies to DVD. They should be able to convert a VHS to DVD. However, I have suspicions about the legality of this process and any business's likely willingness to do such a copy above the table. If the situation was desperate, some extra weeping and pained, desperate looks at the business owner through big, pleading, tear-filled eyes might convince them to make you a copy even if it was not strictly legal. A good example of a desperate situation is the previous reader whose aged mother no longer had a VHS player and really needed to make a DVD copy of her own, legally purchased, VHS tape to maintain her quality of life. So long as the DVD copy was not sold, lent, or rented out the copying might be at least morally justifiable. However I would caution everyone to tread very carefully as copyright is a very serious business and once in a while enforcement agencies decide to make an example of relatively innocent individuals who only wanted everyone to be happy. If someone wants to sue or imprison anyone, I did NOT say you should copy a tape to a DVD. The silliness of this situation is that I am sure we would all happily pay reasonable sums for all the Nevil Shute films on DVD if only they were available.
As this is a constantly re-surfacing issue I would appreciate email from anyone who can definitely say, with authority, what the legal situation is in this case.

Thanks for the Howden (R100 Airship construction site - now a golf course) maps, photographs etc just downloaded today. What I will do is to print these out and provide copies for those (Reunion attendees) who want them. R-2004 will run from Saturday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime. I've planned an outing for Saturday afternoon to the Air Museum at Elvington. The Hotel we're using is only a couple of miles away.
Ken Deacon from Howden is coming to give us a slide show about the airship station on Sunday morning.
I am in the middle of writing up my talk on 'Nevil Shute and the DMWD' based on Pawle's The Secret War, Julian Smiths biography and my own researches at the National Archives. We will have photos of many of the devices.
Whilst at the UK National Archives I had a quick look at the documents they have on Denis Burney's gliding torpedo, which NSN assisted with in 1939-early 1940. There are 9 thick files of correspondence, minutes and papers from the Admiralty and Air Ministry relating to Burney's Toraplane and Doravane inventions. The Toraplane was the gliding torpedo designed to be dropped from an aircraft, glide at low level and shed its wings on entering the water. The Doravane was a gliding bomb. The Admiralty were keen on the Toraplane and there are minutes of meetings in late 1939 at Portsmouth, Chaired by Admiral Sir William James with Air Marshall Joubert, Professor G.P.Thomson, Sir Denis Burney and Mr.Norway (always referred to as Sir Denis Burney's assistant). This was the Toraplane Development Committee discussing the trials that were taking place and developments in hand. Burney must have done a good selling job to warrant the formation of such a high powered committee (G.P. Thomson was an eminent physicist of the time, son of J.J.Thomson, discoverer of the electron).
Doing all this and a full time job is hard work! I'd love to be able to retire and do the research full time - if only!

Editor's Comment: Readers of Landfall will see the Toraplane and Doravane work reflected in that novel. Landfall, published in 1940, must have been written while the work was being done or immediately afterward. UK R-2004 will be held on May 15th and 16th at the Gateway to York Hotel in YORK. It's not too late to sign up.

of Corona del Mar, California, The USA writes:
Now that I've found your Foundation's web site, I've ordered The Seafarers and Smith's biography. I've read all of Shute's other books except On the Beach; I didn't want to cope with our real threat of annihilation.
I am cheered by the existence of the Foundation.
I expect Nevil Shute will remain my sensory input for Australia. The richness of his descriptions makes me feel I know much about being there. With our lives increasingly controlled by Big Bucks and Big Media, I wonder if a combination of In the Wet's multiple votes and the internet would return political power to the many good and noble and interesting people.

Editor's Comment: I would still recommend On The Beach. While it has a grim theme, it is still so optimistic about people in general and is really about living what life you have to the fullest while retaining absolute regard for others.
It is more a plan for life than death. Though On The Beach is not a comedy, I can see a lot in common with Bill Murray's excellent early 1990s comedy Groundhog Day. Both are intelligent, well observed and have a Carpe Diem theme.
In today's world we have to be wary of the 7 votes because TV Evangelists would probably get 6 votes having graduated from their own universities and being ministers of their own religions.
My simpler plan would give readers of Shute 7 votes and everybody else would get none.

David Dawson-Taylor writes:
Kate and I were privileged to be asked to represent the Nevil Shute Foundation at the launching of John Stanley's new book, The Exbury Junkers, which detailed the event around which Nevil Shute's novel 'Requiem for a Wren' was based.
About 100 people were assembled in the Five Arrows gallery, a small building within the grounds near to Exbury House itself. An impressive number of guests were included and we were introduced to John Stanley by Nicholas de Rothschild, who some of you will remember conducted us round Exbury during the visit there by the delegates to UK2003.
John Stanley gave a very interesting talk to introduce himself and how he got involved in the subject. He told us about the detailed research that he carried out over some eight years using a great variety of sources, and some of the frustrations he met along the way. He has unearthed some very interesting facts, dispelled some misconceptions and explained how Nevil Shute slightly changed some of the facts to make his novel more interesting. John met a large number of eyewitnesses to the event and recorded their stories; many of these people were present at the book launch. It would be worth reading the text of his talk, which is also attached.
Whilst we were all eating the buffet lunch so thoughtfully provided, John kindly signed many copies of his book, which were on sale.
After lunch, we had a very interesting talk by Val Biro, the designer of the original book cover for 'Requiem for a Wren'. Val explained how the publishers had asked that his original design should include more aircraft and more action, and they didn't like his 'pink sunset'. He showed us the original painting of this design, from which he cut the figure of Janet which he then pasted onto his second version. He also altered the composition slightly to show a dog ('Dev') alongside Janet, rather than the figure of a soldier ('Bill'). He is a very interesting man, still active in writing and illustrating children's books. As he lives not far from us, I will try to get to see him again.
Afterwards, John Stanley took us out to the field just south of Exbury House near to where the Junkers crashed; unfortunately we were unable to get close to the actual crash site. Here John gave a very descriptive account of the occasion, the text of which is enclosed. Phyllis Hellier (nee Stephens), the WAAF ambulance driver from Calshot who collected the dead airmen, and whose photograph is on page 28 of the book, was also with us that day.
All in all, a very interesting day.

Editor's Comment: I was interested to see that on Val Biro's first version of the cover showed that the original title was Elegy For A Wren. I wonder if the last minute change was from Shute or his publishers. Shute said his only arguments with his publishers came over title changes. Doubtless, David has refrained from mentioning the famous Exbury afternoon tea scones with jam and cream so we won't get too jealous.

Stephen C Farrand of Freeport, Maine, The USA writes:
Rereading No Highway while suffering from a spring cold, I Googled Nevil Shute and happened on your excellent web site. I'd like to make you aware of a Russian translation of Pied Piper and On the Beach, translated by Nora Gal' and published by Khudozhestvennaya literatura in Moscow in 1991 in paperback. It's part of a series called 'The Foreign Novel of the 20th Century'.
Nora Gal was a major translator of 20th century French and English fiction. The Russian title for Pied Piper is ???????? (Krysolov), literally 'rat catcher' in English. Oddly enough, the whole translation is available online at On the Beach is ?? ?????? (Na beregu). I've read only the former, which I enjoyed immensely. I'd describe my Russian as good, not excellent, as a foreigner; and the only thing that rang a little false were several of Ms.Gal's translations of Shute's wry meiosis.
I should credit Gal with bringing me to understand one moment I missed in English, benighted Yank that I am. When Howard is talking to the English children's mother, he says something like, 'just tell me what they say when they, er, need to retire.' I assumed he meant to bed. Ms. Gal's Russian (also euphemistic) set me straight.

Editor's Comment: If, like me, you didn't know what meiosis meant, it means understatement.
This is the 2nd letter in a month from someone who was home with a cold, read Nevil Shute, looked him up on the internet, found our website and wrote us a letter. As the Southern Hemisphere winter approaches I am expecting a surge in membership provided we are struck by a rash of head colds.

Enquiries have been received regarding 2 possible website projects. The first is an update to the ENGINEERING section of the website to include a page dedicated to MODEL ENGINEERING. The second is an expansion to the BIBLIOGRAPHY section, to include full publication details of various editions of Nevil Shute Novels. If you are interested in contributing to either of these pages, or would like to get involved in helping to create them, please contact the website manger directly at Thank you.

of Southampton, The UK writes:
Yesterday I went to the reception at Exbury Gardens to mark the publication of John Stanley's book 'The Exbury Junkers - A World War II Mystery'. Nicholas de Rothschild, John Stanley and Val Biro all spoke at the event. Nicholas de Rothschild spoke of the experience of Leading Seaman Reg 'Tug' Wilson, whose close shave as he cycled along the road between Lepe and Exbury is recorded on page 17 of the book. Tug recounts how he 'had to bike like hell to get out of the way' of the burning engines of the crashed bomber that came through the hedge 'like two huge balls of twisted metal'. I don't know if your organization have any influence over the publication of further editions of Nevil Shute's books, but if you have, I think it would be a good idea for a further edition of 'Requiem for a Wren' to be released. It is at present out of print and cannot be obtained. Even through Amazon books only second hand copies are available. I am sure it would sell well through the usual outlets and especially through the gift shop at Exbury. There is huge interest here in the UK on the 60th anniversary of D-Day and it is a shame that the book is no longer available. Wouldn't it be nice to have a special edition with Val Biro's cover design ?

Editor's Comment: I wish we did have some influence. Maybe some nice publisher gets this newsletter and will take Jenny's hint.

Val Biro was born in Hungary on October 6th 1921. He moved to England in 1939 and became a graphic designer. Val created the excellent English and Australian first edition dustjackets for 5 of Shute's books: Round The Bend, The Far Country, In The Wet, Requiem For A Wren and Beyond The Black Stump. Val also designed dustjackets for CS Forester's Hornblower books and many other authors.
Fans of Val Biro's artwork and children's books should see Val's website at:

The Translations section of the website has been updated to include details of Nevil Shute books in Russian. Some additional translations in German have also been added. Many thanks to the dedicated Shutists who have provided information for this. If you would like to add anything, please mail the website manager directly at

Would someone like to do a review for the website of Miles Smeeton's sailing book Once is Enough. Any volunteers ?

Mike Naugle writes:
Hi--I'm new to this site, but I'm an enthusiastic Shute reader who uses Shute's novels in my college English classes. Does your organization offer any sort of on-line group where members can receive other's letters automatically as well as post letters to the web site? If so, I'd appreciate knowing more about it. If there's some obvious indication of this on my computer's screen, I apologize. I have to use sound-adaptive technology instead of the screen, and that software doesn't read me everything that's on the screen. Thanks,

Editor's Comment: I directed Mike to our Discussion Pages, which seemed the closest answer to his request. I have also asked Mike if he uses our library of audio books which are available whenever we can drag them back from the long distance truckers who listen while driving their road trains through the vast expanses of Australia's Northern Territory.

You can read more about 'The Exbury Junkers' book launch in the BIBLIOGRAPHY section of the website where you will find the transcripts of two speeches given by John Stanley, details of guests invited to attend the event, a photo of the original book cover painted by Val Biro for 'Elegy on a Wren' (its first title, later 'Requiem for a Wren', published by Heinemann), some photographs of the event, a link to the publishers website and a link to Val Biro's website who designed covers for several of Nevil Shute's novels.

This is in reply to Nathaniel Wilson's e mail in the March Newsletter concerning the volume of hydrogen required for an Airship. I'm taking an engineer's simplified approach which would be as follows:-
The airship has a mass of 40 tonnes = 40,000 kg. At standard temp and pressure of 1 atmosphere and 20 Celsius the density of air is 1.29 kg/ cubic metre and that of hydrogen is 0.09 kg/cubic metre. So for every cubic metre of hydrogen that displaces air there is a lift of 1.2 kg. So to give a lift of 40,000 kg you would need 40,000/1.2 = 33,333 cubic metres of hydrogen (call this V1). To correct for temperature and pressure V2 = P1xV1xT2/(P2xT1).
P1 is 1 atmosphere (~100kPa) and P2= the pressure at 3000m = 72kPa. T2 is the temperature at 3000m = 281K and T1 = 273+20 = 293K. So the hydrogen volume at 3000m would be 33,333x100x281/(72x293) = 44,400 cubic metres. Note:- I've neglected the weight of the hydrogen and this volume would only allow the airship to float at ground level - you would need more than this in reality. Also note that the hydrogen expands as the air pressure decreases with altitude thus this was one of the restrictions on flying airships - they flew at about 1000 to 1500 feet (300 to 450 metres) even so gas had to be vented off as it expanded. 3000m or nearly 10,000 feet would be unrealistic for an airship.
Finally, just for interest, the R100 had a hydrogen volume of 5 million cubic feet or 140,000 cubic metres. Taking a lift of 1.2kg per cubic metre of hydrogen the gross lift for R100 would be about 170 metric tonnes. In Slide Rule Shute gives a gross lift for R100 of 156 tons so we're in the right ball park.

Editor's Comment: Amazingly, John's answer coincides exactly with the calculations I have just worked out here in crayon on the back of my Donald Duck comic.

who lives near Exbury in The UK is negotiating with AP Watt, Shute's highly esteemed and extremely diligent literary agents, for the necessary copyright permission to write and produce a play based on Requiem For A Wren. Jenny writes:
I would adhere to the story as written by Nevil Shute and draw on the first-hand recollections of people who served in the armed forces and estate management at Exbury in order to give background to the narrative and keep it as true to life as possible.
The people at Exbury Gardens are very excited at the prospect of running the play as a number of outdoor performances and would like to run it yearly if it proves successful. They would like the first performances to coincide with the 60th anniversary of VE Day (May 8th 2005). Exbury Gardens feel a strong identity with the novel 'Requiem for a Wren' and I think they should be the first venue for performances. Indoor theatre performances at the Nuffield Theatre Southampton are therefore likely to follow later in 2005.

Editor's Comment: I am sure that Jenny would welcome any sincere offers of help, as staging a play is a massive and complex task. It would be very good karma to help her and would earn you some valuable Shute-Points.

Jack Calaway has discovered a terrific 26 page essay on Shute and A Town Like Alice. It can be found at:

I have ready On The Beach several times. I have recently have taken several courses on T.S. Eliot. I know the title On The Beach comes from one of Eliot's poems. However I am having difficulty finding out which one.

Editor's Comment: On The Beach comes from T.S. Eliot's 1925 poem 'The Hollow Men'.
Shute first used the expression On The Beach in his second published novel So Disdained (1928) when he describes the fate of the widow of Keumer, a dead German aviator.
You can get yourself rather depressed by reading the poem at:

In my other job I work as a television commercial cinematographer. Shooting an ad on apprenticeships recently I found myself in an aeroplane engine repair workshop. I asked the owner if he had read Round The Bend. Not only had he read it, he even had a copy in the workshop as well as several other Shute novels. I didn't ask if they had a Ground Engineer, interested in religions, who they suspected was a prophet of God.

That completes this month's newsletter.

All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
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Nevil Shute Norway