Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Photo TimeLine

1941 - 1950 page 5

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Painting in the Oxford and Cambridge Club
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The long caption written below this painting is
Bedroom No. 8 in the Oxford and Cambridge Club. In this room, in the bad years between July 1940 and September 1944 I wrote three novels: 'Pied Piper', 'Most Secret' and 'Pastoral'. May those who occupy it rest as safely as I did. (signed) Nevil Shute Norway.
The painting shows the room and a typewriter and scenes from the three books. The painting seems to be part of a mural. ( HMC )

September 1944 : Shute commences work on a Stuart Turner No. 800 model petrol engine.
December 20 1944 : Shute leaves the Royal Navy to work for the Ministry of Information.

1945

Spiffy on Herga.
In early 1944 Dorethy Elspeth Jackson, a former Olympic-level diver and now a Boats Crew WREN nicknamed Spiffy (b1920), met Lieutenant Alec Menhinick (1909-1979), former ice cream boy, journalist and champion motorcyclist when he is doing weapons trials at Hamble. Menhinick works enthusiastically under Shute at the DMWD. Spiffy and Alec marry in June 1944.



Spiffy on Herga at Lymington.
(Photo: Courtesy of The Menhinick Family 2006)


On January 16 1945 they bought Herga, a bombed out sailing pilot cutter, and rebuilt her to make their first home. They lived on Herga for 2 years and brought their first child, Robert, aboard, aged only 2 weeks, in September 1945.
In 1945-46 Shute used the real life characters of Alec and Spiffy as a base to create Jean Porter and Donald Wolfe in The Seafarers. The meeting of Jean Porter and Donald Wolfe in The Seafarers mirrors Alec and Spiffy's meeting.
Subsequently Shute extended and developed the Jean Porter character in the unpublished Blind Understanding and later in Requiem for a Wren.
(Photo: Courtesy of The Menhinick Family 2006)

Alec Menhinick in a 1959 magazine article shows an illustration of the Parachute And Cable weapon (PAC), which was a DMWD project designed to entangle and destroy enemy aircraft involving barrage balloons armed with explosives. (Photo: Courtesy of The Menhinick Family 2006)



January 25 1945 : Shute is working on a film script of Pastoral to be directed by Carol Reed. Sadly the project does not go forward.
March 1945 : The "Vinland The Good" screenplay in progress.

Heather and Shirley on the jetty at Pond Head. The covered boat is probably Runagate. ( INSS / DT ) Heather and Shirley on the jetty at Pond Head
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April - May 1945 : Shute is in India and Burma writing war articles. They are not published. He is greatly impressed by the Burmese. Much of his experience becomes "The Chequer Board".
May 07 1945 : Germany surrenders.

Shirley and Heather at Pond Head
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Shirley and Heather at Pond Head with other family members. Shirley (standing) is holding one of a series of cats, all of whom were called Tigger, and Heather holds their two Elkhounds called Chloe and Kurri. (HMC)

June 21 1945 : In a letter Shute reveals that "Pastoral" which he describes as "a trivial little book, written in a hurry" sold 330,000 copies in the 1944 Book Club Edition and in the US it sold 52,000 in shops. It cost 8/6 in the UK and $2.50 in the USA. It was serialised in the Australian Womens Weekly with a circulation 600,000 (in a population of only 10 million RM) and the film rights had been sold to Englands film mogul Alexander Korda.
Summer 1945 : Shute returns to England and reads a book by Walther White of the NAACP about US Military prejudice in England.

Walter White (1893 - 1953) was Executive Secretary of the NAACP. In 1945 Shute reads White's book about US Military prejudice in England. After "The Chequer Board" is published Shute receives very complimentary correspondence from White praising the book. White was of mixed race. He identified strongly as a Negro. ( PAL ) Walter White


Shute working in his Pond Head workshop
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Shute working in his Pond Head workshop in 1945. He is probably working on the Stuart Turner No. 800 model petrol engine. ( HMC )

September 02 1945 : Japan surrenders.
September 1945 : Shute starts writing "The Chequer Board".
1945 : "Most Secret" is finally published.
1945 - 1947 : Shute writes "The Seafarers" It is a 100 page short novel that he then leaves aside. It would later re-emerge as "Requiem For A Wren".

1946
1946 : "Vinland The Good" is published.

Frances and Nevil outside the thatched boathouse at Pond Head. Nevil's model workshop was inside the boathouse. ( HMC ) Frances and Nevil outside the thatched boathouse
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Charlie Wilson at Pond Head
Charlie Wilson at Pond Head. Charlie looked after Pond Head for the Shute family. His daughter Ruth used to deliver the milk. Later Charlie and his family emigrated to Australia with the Shute Family. He looks an extremely capable man and a real Shute character. Behind Charlie is the Austin Princess car that Shute took to Australia in 1950. ( FGC )

February 28 1946 : "The Chequer Board" is completed.

1947
May - June 1947 : Shute and Frances travel by car through the American East Coast, South and Mid-West. Shute fished in the Smokie Mts, saw the Indianapolis 500 and lectured on India at Fisk University which was a Negro College. Shute's commercial airliner has undercarriage failure on landing. This becomes inspiration for "No Highway".
Autumn 1947 : Shute is already planning to fly to Australia. He meets James Riddell through a friend and discusses his plans in a general way.

Nevil and Shirley in the family's dinghy in 1945. They are sailing just off Pond Head's private jetty. The dinghy looks like something straight out of Swallows and Amazons. ( HMC ) Nevil and Shirley in the family's dinghy
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