Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Photo TimeLine

1921 - 1930 page 2

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Hummingbird Propeller
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At the 1999 Nevil Shute Centennial, the fingers of The International Nevil Shute's Society's El Supremo, Dan Telfair, poke intelligently at the Hummingbird Propeller that Shute designed in 1923. (Photo: DT 1999)

September 23 1923 : Shute mentions in a letter that he has a broken arm.
June - September 1923 : Shute receives at least 3 rejections of "Stephen Morris" at 29 Stag Lane. He shelves the book. It is published posthumously in 1961.
Late 1923 : Shute meets artist Flora Twort (1893-1985) at No. 1 The Square Petersfield which is a bookshop and the centre of an art colony run by Harry Roberts. Twort, then aged 30, and 2 other young women are working there. Shute attempts an unfinished history or fictional history called "No. 1 The Square Petersfield".

No. 1 The Square Petersfield was a famous bookshop and art centre run by Dr Harry Roberts. Flora Twort, then aged 30, was also there. (Photo: JA 2009) No. 1 The Square Petersfield
The plaque outside No 1 The Square (Photo: JA 2009)
The Flora Twort Gallery was owned until last year by Hampshire County Council. However, they have now handed it over to the Petersfield Museum Trust (Photo: PT 2009)

Flora Twort
Flora Twort. (1893-1985) In 1925 Shute unsuccessfully proposes to Flora. They remain very good friends and Flora is later made Godmother to Shute's daughter Shirley. This painting is now owned by the Hampshire County Council Museums Service. ( HCCMS / DDT )

Early 1924 : Shute writes "Pilotage" in 14 weeks.
Shute gets his engineers licence
June - August 1924 : Shute receives at least 6 rejections of "Pilotage" at 29 Stag Lane Edgeware Middlesex. He shelves the book. It is published posthumously in 1961.
Autumn 1924 : Seeing no prospects of promotion, Shute leaves de Havillands.
Autumn 1924 : Shute joins the Vickers R100 team. They are building the "Capitalist" airship in competition with the government run Cardington team building the R101. Shute is employed as Chief Calculator. He is the head of a team that constitutes a human computer calculating the engineering stresses in R100.

(Later Sir) Neville Barnes Wallis (1887-1979) was the Chief Designer of R100, the Wellington Bomber, the Dambusters Bouncing Bomb and the Swing Wing concept. One of the huge bombs he designed in WW2 destroyed the submarine pens mentioned in Most Secret. ( BW ) Neville Barnes Wallis
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After August 1924 : Shute moves to 43 Hatherly Rd Sidcup Kent where he lives while design on R100 continues for a year in Craysford in Kent, "a depressing industrial suburb". Shute rides horses daily at dawn on Chiselhurst Common.

43 Hatherly Rd, Sidcup, Kent
In 1924 Shute lived at 43 Hatherly Rd, Sidcup, Kent while doing early design work on R100. As the whole street appears to have been re-developed in the 1970s it is highly unlikely Shute ever played with his computer or watched TV or sorted his CD collection in this house. (Photo: RM 2003)

For his R100 work Shute would very likely have used a Fuller's Spiral Slide Rule like the one drawn here. The Fuller's Spiral Slide Rule made calculations possible to 4 and 5 places. It consisted of a hollow cylinder about 6 inches long that could be moved up or down or around an inner 12 inch long cylinder. The logarithmic scale wound spirally around the outer cylinder was over 40 feet long. ( RM ) Fuller's Spiral Slide Rule
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September 1924 to 1939 : Somewhere in this period Shute writes "Before The Mail". It is an unfinished, documentary style, narrative about someone who went on a dangerous flight. It seems like a pre-cursor to Pilotage but the chronology is hard to fix. The story often mentions Sidcup
1924 - 1926 : Shute writes Marazan over 18 months with 3 complete re-writes.

John Buchan
The main identifiable, and only acknowledged, influence on Shute's early writing was John Buchan (1875-1940). Anyone reading Buchan's "The 39 Steps" and then Shute's "Marazan" will be struck by the strong similarities. ( PB / RM )

September 26 1925 : Shute proposes to Flora Twort but is rejected.
September 28 1925 : Shute writes Flora a letter explaining his earlier engagement and detailing his attitude to marriage. His signature "Shute" suggests he had revealed his writings to her. They remain life-long friends.
September 30 1925 : Shute writes Flora a second letter responding to hers. Flora has revealed she may be unable to have children and has also had a failed love affair that she is not yet over. Shute reveals that he has hurt his knee and is convalescing.

Spring 1926 : Shute moves to Howden with the R100 team. He walks 3 miles to the airfield each day

Shute wrote So Disdained while living in a rented room in this house at 78 Hailgate in Howden during the construction of R100. On moving to Howden in the Spring of 1926 he initially stayed at a pub. Shute's landlord, Bob Lake, owned a haulage firm. (Photo: KD ) 78 Hailgate in Howden
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