Book Review

2004-9/Sept 1, 2004


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Cape Cod 2005 is planned to take place on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 2005 from Sunday evening, October 02 2005, to Thursday, October 06 2005. Cape Cod is the idyllic-yet-affordable playground of the rich and famous peninsula south of Boston.

The event will take place in Hyannis, Massachusetts at the Cape Codder Resort which you can view at: We hope to see you there.

As he has a big job of planning ahead, please contact Art Cornell soon at: and indicate whether you hope to attend.


Brian Kendal of The UK writes:

A few years ago I visited a small second-hand tool shop on the South Coast where at the back, nestling in its wooden box, was a clinometer stamped 'Airspeed'.

I could not think of any use I could put it to so I bought something else.

A few days later I realised what a souvenir I had missed and went back to the shop, but it had been sold. I only hope that I'll be quicker off the mark next time.

Regards to all Shutists

Editor's Comment: For the mystified, a clinometer measures angles above or below the horizon. I use one in my work and would have loved one from Airspeed.


Many continuing thanks to Ultra Fast who support our web page.

Without Ultra Fast we would find it very hard to keep visible as our backup clockwork server based on 1940's Flying Doctor pedal generator technology would have Steph Gallagher exhausted in minutes.

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Andrew Mills of The UK writes regarding the real locations used in The Far Country:

The cemetery (where fictionally lies the body of Charlie Zlinter) has not been located by us but I recall a search party in the 70's which failed to locate it. Since the Mansfield Cemetery holds most of the locals from the Howqua village the cemetery may not exist.

The wire bridge was a flying fox, i.e. there never was a bridge per se but two large cables on which a flying fox was constructed. It has been destroyed by vandals (as has most of Fry's Hut).

I've seen the photos on your website and you are correct - the photo of Billy Slim's is Fred Fry's place.

(Regarding the location of the town) Shute's description was actually correct. He describes the town being on the

other side of the river from Fry's and this is correct. I have a copy of the map on your website in even greater detail. If you look at your map, Fry's is on the East side of the river and the town was on the west side.

Of even greater coincidence, my father bought a block of land on the hill (west side of Martin Street) which is almost exactly the location of Zlinter's place from the book.

The road in to the Howqua was rebuilt in the 1960's and is a major logging and tourist road. It is kept more or less in good condition.

The Hut was semi restored but all the furniture was used for firewood before any action was taken plus all the plates, other kitchen stuff, beds, saddles, etc have disappeared.

Editor's Comment: I am buying a shovel and a large sturdy sack and heading for the west side of Martin Street now.


John Anderson reports that Barry Guess and Mike Fielding of BAe Systems Heritage at British Aerospace (BAe) have done a magnificent job providing him with 95 high quality copies of the photos and other documents he unearthed when researching the Airspeed archives. They also gave him coffee when he really needed it.

In gratitude, if I ever have the money to buy a private jet, I promise I will buy a BAe jet.

It's terrific that companies still have a sense of the importance of supporting historical research in our Dog Eat Dog world. Which reminds me what they say about Hollywood:

In Hollywood it's not Dog Eat Dog. It's Dog Won't Return Other Dog's Phone Calls.

Some of the BAe material should soon start appearing in our Timeline and Photo Album sections and other parts of the website. I sincerely thank BAe for their interest and enthusiasm and wonderful help.

John Anderson and Mike Meehan did a fantastic job of research and now, wild eyed with enthusiasm and accompanied by Andy Burgess with his crowbar, they are planning a further raid on the National Archives in London mid October. I am sure they would welcome anyone wishing to help.


Mike Marsh, our UltraFast sponsor, has advised me that one way to befuddle spam producing address-harvesting software is to write the addresses in the newsletter in a different format.

If, for example, my address is, then address-harvesting software will recognize this and copy it easily but if I write it as johnsmith@aol dot com the naughty software is confused. However, those wishing to write to me would then need to re-interpret my email address back to or it wouldn't work.

I would appreciate some feedback before I introduce this system and utterly confuse everyone.


John Carter of Seattle, The USA writes:

I've noticed that in both On The Beach and Trustee From The Toolroom, Shute displays a pretty detailed knowledge of the Seattle area, where I grew up. I'm sure that this knowledge comes partly via Boeing, where my father worked for 30 years. Do you know if there is any record of Shute having travelled to the Puget Sound area in the mid-to late 50s as seems likely from the publication dates of both novels?

Editor's Comment: I replied to John with the following entries from our website's Timeline.

1954 February 09: Shute corresponds with Hansel Engineering in Vancouver for details of a housewife's bus routes and favoured shops in Vancouver. A&P supermarket wins over Safeway. Shute worked with Sydney Hansel and Sir Dennistoun Burney in 1939 on the Gliding Torpedo. Sydney Hansel also worked in the DMWD.

1954 February 09: Shute corresponds with someone in Seattle for details about suburbs, bus routes, car routes etc.

1954 Pre-September: Shute travels for 6 weeks in the West Australian Oilfields in a custom built Ford Automatic Station Wagon. He collects material that would be used in 'Beyond The Black Stump' and 'Incident at Eucla'.

1954 September: Shute travels in the American Rockies by packhorse with Dr Gilstrap to Swamp Lake (7840 feet) in Oregon's Wallowa Mountains. Material collected appears in 'Beyond The Black Stump'.

1954 December 20: 'Beyond The Black Stump', originally titled 'The Kindest Goanna', in progress.

Shute seems to have travelled to England almost every year or so in the 1950s and it seems he went via the West Coast of The USA a couple of times.

It would seem almost inevitable that he visited Boeing particularly as he mentions such a visit in Trustee From The Toolroom but we have no specific record of his visit. I wish we did. As he was quite famous, it's possible there is a photo of him in Boeing's or NASA's archives. Do we have a reader who would like to try to track them down ?

To see some photos from his US visit to Swamp Lake with Dr Gilstrap on the website go to:


Carlo Castoro writes:

A friend just returned from Sweden and while there came across a book which was the memoirs of a retired KLM pilot. In it he mentions vacationing in Bali and apparently Nevil Shute went there too, flying in on his own plane. Is this old news or shall I try to find out more?

Editor's Comment: Although we are well aware that Shute visited Bali, new details of that visit are always welcome and I encouraged Carlo to find out more.

We do know that in Bali Shute visited the house of Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres. Shute wrote a description of it in Round the Bend:

'We went once or twice to a place on the other side of the strip called Sanoer, where a Belgian artist was married to a very fine Balinese woman. I think that was the most beautiful house I have ever been in, the walls covered with paintings of the Balinese and their way of life, and full of Balinese young men and women so that it was difficult to say from memory which of the scenes remembered from that house were real ones and which were painted.'

You can still visit this house which is now a museum dedicated to Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres.

You can see some not-particularly-great but interesting photos of the house / museum at:

I also referred Carlo to our pictorial history of Shute's trip to Australia. See the Photo Album starting at:


Regarding Alec Menhinick and his wife Spiffy who we suspect may be the real models for the main characters in The Seafarers, John Anderson writes:

I think that Shute would have known Alec Menhinick pretty well. Menhinick was part of Shute's team working on Target Gliders and Swallow.

Barbara Niven a friend of the Shute family in Australia writes:

I would say the Norways knew the Menhinicks quite well. I recall meeting Alec at Langwarrin (can't remember exactly when) and a conversation about his amazing survival in the North Sea during the war.

Nevil Shute's Daughter, Heather, writes:

Yes, I do remember Alec and Spiffy Menhinick, although not very well. If I remember correctly, she was his driver. I believe her real name was Elizabeth. He worked with my Dad at DMWD during the war, and they got to be pretty good personal friends. Alec was a few years younger than Dad. They had about 4 children.

Alec did come down to Australia scouting around to see if there would be anything for him, but he returned to England, and his family did not emigrate. I do remember that he and Spiffy were keen sailors, and it might have partly been because, at the time, (in Australia) you couldn't go out for an afternoon sailing, and spend the night in a little harbour just a few miles away from where you had started. The distances were too large for that.

Editor's Comment: We are still looking for photos of Alec and Spiffy.


Mike Meehan of The UK is polishing a fascinating article about why he believes that The Ceres aircraft described in In The Wet was based on the never-built Avro Atlantic which was on the drawing boards when Shute wrote the book. In fact Mike has revealed that he worked on some of those very drawings on those very drawing boards when he was an apprentice at Avro in the early 1950s.

Maybe, unknown to Mike, Shute peeped over his shoulder.

I am looking forward very much to seeing Mike's finished article on the newly upgraded website.


Research on Alec Menhinick led me to information on model aircraft called Jetex, which led to information on the model target plane that Shute was involved with at the DMWD. This is the target plane that the fictional Janet Prentice shoots down in Requiem For a Wren.

The Jetex page is fascinating for Shute fans, historians and model enthusiasts alike. Please go to:

On the page can be found photos of one of the target planes which is in The Tangmere (UK) Museum and the following quote:

'According the Bert Judge, who was there: 'The Admiralty Department under which we worked was the Development of Miscellaneous Weapons Department (DMWD) (sic) and worked under the direction of Commander Norway (Neville Shute the author) who was assisted by Alec Menhinick (a 'mechanic' in the magazine 'Motor Cycling') and by Wren Francis.' ... ' According to Bert Judge, our preferred authority: 'The actual design of the orange target models was done by Sydney Hansel, .... He was appointed by Commander Norway.'

Apparently Bert Judge was still alive until recently and Shute researchers are trying to chase him down as you read this. We understand that Shute was ably assisted at the DMWD by a Wren and possibly this was Wren Francis. Anyone with a copy of The Secret War who has more details about Wren Francis is invited to contribute.

John Anderson writes:

Sydney Hansel was an Airspeed designer who worked with Burney and Shute on gliding torpeoes in 1939-40 and again worked with Shute for the DMWD. Mr Hansel is mentioned in the DMWD Technical History on Gliders and did the detail design of the Swallow. (smoke laying pilotless aircraft)


Several developments have been happening with the website over the last few weeks.

The first is the creation of a new 'SCHOLARSHIP' page

Here you will find details about the exciting work that is funded by our foundations Scholarship scheme and

who our chosen candidates are.

Other updates will be announced in future editions of this newsletter.

Alternatively, check out the site at

If you have any comments on, or suggested additions to the site, please drop a line to our website manager at:


We all have our favorite Nevil Shute title and many of you have been voting for yours on the website.

Currently the top three titles are very close:

A Town Like Alice = 186 votes

Trustee from The Toolroom = 177 votes

Round The Bend = 162 votes

However, you have the power to change all of this. If you have not voted for your favorite top three, you are invited to do so now by clicking on:


Deborah Hendrick of, I assume by her address, Texas in The USA writes:

One of Nevil Shute's books is about a man who received the award of another vote from the Queen. The premise

was that individuals could 'earn' additional votes with certain qualifications, but being awarded a vote from the Queen was the rarest honor of all. I can't remember the name of the book. Help please!

Editor's Comment: The book was In The Wet. Shute was a monarchist who had not a lot of faith in the usual form of democracy, which at that time in England was creating an excessive and unwieldy form of heavily bureaucratic Socialism to arise with taxes of up to 95%. In Slide Rule Shute reveals that he once appealed directly to the monarch about a case of bungling bureaucracy and achieved an instant satisfactory resolution of the problem. This event was reflected in both The Far Country and In The Wet. Shute's political ideas and 7-vote system are based on a meritocracy rather than an automatic right to influence society in the form of one man, one vote. The big problem with Shute's rather attractive system is that everyone wants to tailor the requirements for the 7 votes to their own 7 best attributes.


Neville Feist of The UK writes:

Many years ago I read a book about a Ministry of Defense (then War Department) agency which was unofficially called The Department of Bodgers and Wheezers which thought up ideas for the Hobart Funnies used for the Normandy landings. I believe that Nevil Shute Norway was a leading light in this department, which came up with The Great Panjandrum, Hajile (Elijah reversed), Pluto.

Do you have any information on this department ? I don't think that Nevill Shute wrote the book I am after.

Editor's Comment: The book is called The Secret War by Gerald Pawle. It was published in 1956. The DMWD (Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development or The Wheezers and Dodgers) was part of The Admiralty and as such primarily researched weapons for the Navy.

Like a fool I have only just realised that Wheezers and Dodgers meant those who were too old or infirm to go into the armed forces, the Wheezers, and those who were dodging the draft, the Dodgers.

I am not sure but, being connected with the Army, Hobart's Funnies may not all have been designed by the DMWD but they are in the same practical problem-solving league as Shute's DMWD work.

Hobart's Funnies were primarily special vehicles designed for Major General Sir Percy Hobart's British 79th Armoured Division's attack on D-Day. They included: tanks that could swim ashore, devices to help tanks get through very soft ground, mine field destroying flail tanks, armoured bulldozers to rescue bogged tanks, ditch filling devices and mobile tank-mounted bridges spanning gaps up to 30 feet. The Funnies also included Crocodile flame throwing tanks.

You can read about Shute's wartime DMWD work in the website's Timeline and The Photo Album and in detail in John Andersons essay on Shute at the DMWD. The Photo Album and Timeline will soon be upgraded to include more photos and chronological details. Amongst the updates are that Shute is now also credited with the development of the famous rocket grapnel used on the cliffs at Omaha Beach and was involved with rocket-assisted take-offs of aircraft from floating airfields.

As Neville Feist points out, after WW2 the British Government, in an early example of political correctness, changed the wonderfully brief and to the point War Department's name to The Ministry of Defense.


The 'Bibliography' and 'Characters' pages have been combined to provide one valuable source of all information relating to Nevil Shutes, books, titled 'NOVELS AND CHARACTERS'. You can find it at For this page, information has also been pulled in from other sections of the site, so please don't get worried if you are unable to immediately find exactly what you are looking for, some pieces of information have also been temporarily removed, but will be allocated a new home soon.


I was recently in Canberra, the city where I was born and grew up, and visited The Australian War Memorial again after many years. The Australian War Memorial is not only a place where dignitaries lay wreathes; it is an extensive museum covering Australia's involvement in the wars of the last 100 years. They have many original WW1 and WW2 aircraft including 'G for George' which is an Avro Lancaster Bomber (Pastoral). As a baby I sat in the pilot's seat of this Lancaster - you may touch the hem of my cloak. Amongst other planes they have a Spitfire, an ME 109, an ME 262 German Jet and the smaller German Rocket Plane as well as a V1 German Buzz Bomb or Doodlebug. I furtively touched the ME262 when no-one was looking. You can also stand in a cut away cockpit of an Avro Anson (Landfall) and touch the controls. Before they rearranged their exhibit I saw the remarkably small Sopwith Camel (The Rainbow and The Rose and Snoopy) but I could not locate it during this very rushed visit. It may now be in storage. If you come to Australia and can afford the time, do have a look.

Dan Telfair was just in Seattle to board an Alaskan cruise and highly recommends the Boeing Tour (Shades of Keith Stewart) and the Seattle Museum of Flight.


Michael Blamey of The UK and a distant relative of a famous and controversial Australian Field Marshal Blamey writes:

My interest in Shute has very early 'roots' - but I am very keen to establish their authenticity.

My own father, a 'practicing' Engineer (who whilst working for Weygood Otis Lifts designed and installed the lifts in the Queen Mary and other civilian and Navy vessels in the 30's) was 'drafted' into the Navy as a 'civilian attached' in September 1939. [My parents were married on August 26th 1939 and their honeymoon ended on September 3rd - a day not unrecorded in history!] He was 'posted' to Portsmouth and worked on a range of submarine and related areas of engineering.

I was born in Portsmouth on November 8th 1940. My mother, who died a few years ago, used to tell me about father being in some way 'linked' with Shute: in that Shute too was attached to the Navy at the appropriate time. She recalls Shute coming to our house (in Portsea?) one of the estates overlooking Portsmouth for supper one evening (I was present albeit not awake being only 6 months old!) and asking to see me: and lifting me up from my cot to kiss. Whereupon mother believes I have not stopped talking or writing about engineering topics ever since! I have no reason to doubt what mother believed happened: but would welcome some authenticity/confirmation of the possibility.

Are there any 'diary' records amongst the archives of Shute's wartime Admiralty service: dates when he was definitely in Portsmouth, and so on.

Sadly, father caught serious lung diseases (the navy Disease TB) testing the various items he had designed for submarine improvement: and equally sadly, there were few if any hospital places for civilians at that time: so he was not treated properly. He attempted to treat himself - apparently, so mother recalls, via Shute gaining access to a refuge in Wales (run by another author Leo Walmsley- who wrote sea and air stories in the 20's and 30's and presumably a friend or associate of Shute) for those bombed-out from London: father was not allowed into the house because he was infected: and lived in a 'shed' attached: and sadly died in late 1943.

I would love to be able to give this story the credibility it deserves.

Best wishes to all Shute fans:

Editor's Comment: I referred Mike to the Timeline in the Biography section of the website. This will soon be updated with a lot of John Anderson and Mike Meehan's fabulous research.

Younger readers may not know how devastating, widespread and feared the lung disease Tuberculosis (TB) was.

Michael Blamey then wrote again:

I was delighted to note, from the time-line the various points where father and Shute may or may not have been close.

My father was clearly a very good Engineer: indeed so good that some of his ideas ended -up being 'patented' by others! But that is another story.

As I said before He designed and was responsible for the installation of the lifts in the Queen Mary. (This is authenticated by his older brother, who believe it or not is still alive and living in Tunbridge Wells)

He and mother were just starting 'courting' then: and high on the list of unlikely excuses for not being able to take her out would have been -I have to go to Glasgow to put the lifts in the 'Queen' - even if it was quite true!

In May 1937 father was to have been the commissioning Engineer on her maiden Voyage. He did not speak with a 'posh' accent, and a few days before the voyage he was called into the front office and told -'We are sending Jones, who has the social airs and graces considered suitable for the aristocratic passengers'. [father had even bought a dinner-suit!]

Father resigned on the spot - telling his boss that when they wanted/needed him back, which they would, they would have to send a Rolls Royce to collect him.

Apparently the maiden voyage was a disaster: lifts are difficult enough to get running in a building, let alone one which is pitching and rolling! There were Dowager Duchesses and Noble Lords stuck in them for hours.

On the vessel's return, Waygood Otis called father and told him he could return. He said simply - you know what the rules are: and a day or so later, a Rolls arrived at his home and took him to work!

He would definitely have been one of Shute's 'ordinary people doing extraordinary things'.

Shute's novels (which I know and love dearly) often do have as their theme the concept of the decent honest singleton trump! - Which I suspect he was at heart - finding the world often not to his liking: but taking his comfort from his technology. I know how he feels.

The (teaching) module I offer here at Exeter (where I have a part-time contract) is entitled Engineer(ing) in Society: which is really a catch-all to allow me to offer students whatever I like. The theme of the module is professional responsibility: risk assessment, Health & safety etc: the need for young Engineers to recognise the pivotal role that engineering has in almost everything that 'moves' or is stationary: and that consequently, when extremes (pressure, temperature, stress, strain, stored energy, motion) are involved in the 'company' of human beings accidents are likely and extremely dangerous and damaging. This coming year I am inviting them to study Shute's novels as part of their wider reading. I would like to direct their attention to the Shute Web pages.


David Dawson-Taylor of Hampshire in The UK writes:

In Most Secret, Sub Lieutenant Michael Rhodes is directed to view a demonstration of, among other things, flame throwers at Honiton. He is driven there by a shy WREN in a "little khaki-coloured van with a canvas top".

At a local show of old vehicles today, I saw what must have been the very same type of van except it has now been painted Royal Navy blue.

Editor's Comment: David sent me a great photo of the truck which will appear in the website photo album soon. It is a small 1940's English version of a US Pickup truck or Australian Utility vehicle with a metal roofed car body front and a canvas roof over the back tray area. The vehicle David photographed was labelled an 'Admiralty Courier' which makes the fit perfect.

David's email then rang a small bell in my head, which I just heard above all those voices, so I looked up the end of Pastoral where Peter and Gervase are sprung taking a military vehicle for a picnic. Again it is the 'small Austin truck with the canvas canopy over the rear body'. It is clearly the same vehicle and once again it is the site of a budding romance. Later, when Shute was in Australia he remarked positively on the Australian Ute, which again was a car body at the front with a tray at the back. These are featured, from my memory, in A Town Like Alice and The Far Country. He clearly liked these practical work vehicles.


This is the 12th newsletter since I took over as newsletter editor.

I have begun each month thinking that we have just about said all there can be said about Shute but then the letters come in, research reveals more fascinating insights to his life and novels, interesting questions are asked and by the end of the month I am flooded with copy.

Thanks to everybody who reads or contributes. It's been a fun year.

In Sydney we have leapt straight from Winter to Summer and though it is still officially Winter we are having sunny blue-sky days of 25 degrees centigrade (80f). This may mean we will all be burned up by bushfires this Summer but I am enjoying it while I can anyway. By the way, my spell checker insists that Summer and Winter are spelt without capitals but I find this demeaning to The Seasons and completely unacceptable.

If you are planning a trip to Australia please let me know and I will give you some advice. I will also like to take you to lunch at my favourite Sydney beachside cafe but could all 600 of you try not to arrive in the same week ?

I hope you are all well and remembering that when you want Internet Services you should first contact our friends at UltraFast. The Internet is truly global and you can easily be in America or England and use a great Australian company for your Internet services. Our website's excellent quality and reliability is a perfect ad for their services.

That completes this month's newsletter.
All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
Please write to:

Nevil Shute Norway