Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Photo TimeLine

1941 - 1950 page 7

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Shute at the Piggery at Pond Head
( INSS )
Shute at the Piggery at Pond Head after the war.

February 1948

Shute completes the Stuart Turner No. 800 model petrol engine having spent 550 hours on it and made several of his own modifications to the design. He kept a log of all the hours he spent on model work.

The first Lyons Teashop opened in 1894 at 213 Piccadilly in London and became the largest chain of restaurants in Europe. Shute's adult life co-incided with Lyons' heyday. Actually naming Lyons would have appealed to Shute because they were understood by his audience, were popular, and because they were an efficient and profitable business offering good food and service at reasonable prices. He mentioned them in several novels and they appear most prominently in his 2 average-working-man novels "The Chequer Board" (1947) and "Trustee From the Toolroom" (1960). ( DLPB ) Lyons Teashop

Cherry cake
Click for larger image
Cherry cake first appears in Ruined City (1938) and then reappears in "The Chequer Board" (1947) and "Trustee From the Toolroom" (1960). The Great Cherry Cake Debate rages because it is not quite clear if the repeated appearance of cherry cake is because it defined, in Shute's mind, a typical working class delicacy or just because it may have been Shute's favourite cake. ( DLPB )

March 08 1948 : Shute attempts another novel called "Blind Understanding" which is another early variation of "Requiem For A Wren" but still can't finish it.
March 1948 : Shute writes to James Riddell asking him to accompany him on his flight to Australia. He says he has already bought a Percival Proctor V with long range tanks.
Summer1948 : Shute spends a lot of time preparing for the flight including a radio course at Hamble. Tom Cutter does the same course in "Round The Bend".

In June 1947 Shute buys a new Percival Proctor V with airframe number Ae131 and registration letters G-AKIW. Known thereafter as "Item Willie", its range is 845 miles (1,352km) at 130mph (208kmph). Shute has long range tanks, an air thermometer, a larger compass and VHF radio fitted. At 12.45 on September 22 1948 Shute and James Riddell leave Eastleigh Aerodrome for Australia. Frances packs them a nice lunch. This photo shows Shute on an aerodrome in Northern Australia. ( HMC ) Shute with Item Willie
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James Riddell
Military Intelligence Officer, ski instructor and author of popular children's books, James Riddell flew with Shute to Australia and back. He wrote "Flight of Fancy" about the trip. ( AWW )
On the left is skiing champion James Riddell (1909-2000) in Switzerland in 1955 with Colonel Henry (Bunny) Nugent-Head and Squadron Leader John Saunderson DSO & DFC.
Riddell, who taught 20,000 Allied troops snow survival skills in WW2, also wrote travel books and invented the split book for children, Riddell died on 2 February 2000 aged 90. (Photo Courtesy of John Saunderson) ( AWW )
James Riddell, Colonel Nugent-Head & Sqdn Ldr Saunderson

September 22 1948

At 12.45 Shute departs for Australia in Item Willie in the company of James Riddell who later writes "Flight of Fancy" about the trip. Shute has only 230 hours of solo flying experience spread over about 25 years when they take off for the journey. He has never before flown longer than 2 hours at a stretch but he has spent the previous year meticulously planning the trip.

Photo of IW somewhere in Oz

This uncaptioned photo could be any part of Shute and Riddell's flights to or from Australia. As the photo comes from Portsmouth Library I like to think it is their departure from the UK but an English Shutist suggests that the sloppy looking foreground man must be an Australian as English people are always good looking and well dressed. It is probably Shute who is visible in the cockpit. Portsmouth Library / Norman Pasley

U. Prajnananda formerly Major Fletcher of The Royal Engineers in Burma. He is now a Buddhist priest. Shute later creates a counterpart of him called U. Set Than or "Mr Rainbow" in "Round the Bend". ( FOF ) Shute meets U. Prajnananda in Burma

Shute meets U. Prajnananda in Burma Trocadero Hotel in Bangkok in 1950.

Shute stayed here in 1948. Once the only fully air conditioned building in Bangkok and a prestige hotel, it still exists but with reduced status and is now called The New Trocadero Hotel. (Photo: Bruce Clark)

Hans and Pam Snellman
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Hans and Pam Snellman in 2001. In 1948 they were living in Bali and assisted Shute and James Riddell when they passed through. Shute later arranged to send Pam books and Riddell thanked them handsomely in "Flight of Fancy". When Hans and Pam later moved to Australia they continued their friendship with the Shute family. (Photo: RM 2001)

November 26 1948

Shute and Riddell arrive in Darwin and travels across North East Australia.

December 14 1948

Not liking the outback, James Riddell travels from Cairns to Sydney while Shute tours the outback in Item Willie.

December 1948. Shute and Reg McAuliffe. The "No Smoking Aircraft Refuelling" sign behind them indicates this must be the VIP Lounge at an outback landing strip.
It's a shame we have no information on the aboriginals in the photos. (Photo: Courtesy of The Clarke Family 2007)

December 16 1948

Shute, in the company of Insurance salesman Reg McAuliffe, visits Burketown which, along with the other towns in the area, inspires the fictional town of Willstown in A Town Like Alice. Burke and Wills were explorers as famous in Australia as Lewis and Clarke or Stanley and Livingston and so the real town name of Burketown is reflected by Shute's fictional town name of Willstown. Shute visited Burketown in 1948 and found it a desolate place with a population of 59 and no real hope of progress. This photo shows bustling Burketown's busy downtown area at rush hour in 1933. Shute suggests it was less hectic in 1948. The Commonwealth Hotel is on the right with the Police Station, Post Office and Queensland National Bank in the background. (Reproduced with the kind permission of The John Oxley Library. Photo #45630, X62/8226)

Photo of Burketown, 1933

December 16 1948

December 16 1948 (?) at Augustus Downs Station (?)
Based on The Flight Log I think this is Augustus Downs.
The man I assume is Policeman Fred Dawnbush (?) stands in the cockpit.
L to R. Mrs Nissen (?) with the brilliant smile, Shute, Mr Nissen (?), Reg McAuliffe. I really like this photo. The woman looks like the salt of the earth and has a fabulous smile. This is a real moment in their lives captured forever.
Note that the airstrip is bare with no grass whereas the previous photo has long grass.
Therefore I suspect that, because of the presence of the person I think is Fred Dawnbush, the photo was taken at another location. Therefore I am guessing this is Augustus Downs. The manager of Augustus Downs was Mr Nissen. The Flight Log also infers he has a wife.
(Photo: Courtesy of The Clarke Family 2007

December 17 1948

Shute meets Jimmie "Ringer" Edwards at Glenmore Station in Queensland. Later Edwards inspires Joe Harman in "A Town Like Alice".

The rugged and handsome Jimmie "Ringer" Edwards (1913-2000) during World War 2 in a photo entitled "Me and a handful of beer money". Shute met Jimmie in Northern Australia on December 17 1948 at Glenmore Station about 15 miles from Normanton and based much of the character of Joe Harman in "A Town Like Alice" on him. Jimmie was effectively crucified by the Japanese for 63 hours as punishment but survived. The other two prisoners with him died. On another occasion he was sentenced to death but released when his last meal request of beer and chicken was unobtainable. All this made its way into "Alice".

( BJBC )
Jimmie 'Ringer' Edwards

Catching alligators

December 18 1948
The Flight Log and a label on the photo show that this is Glenore Station, 15 miles from Normanton. Jimmie Edwards managed Glenore Station.
By his hat we know that Shute is at the centre. To Shute's left is Jimmie Edwards and a naked Tom Newman, who was a policeman who came on the trip by car from Normanton is to the right.
On this day Shute, Jimmie Edwards and Tom Newman dragged the river for alligators with a long net.
Jimmie Edwards, walking in the river, actually trod on an alligator but the alligator, a less aggressive fresh water crocodile, was merely frightened and got away.
(Photo: Courtesy of The Clarke Family 2007)

( BJBC )

December 19 1948. The Flight Log shows that this is Dunbar Homestead about 180m NE of Normanton.
When Shute and company arrive in the morning, all the male inhabitants of the station are still drunk from the night before.
Shute wrote that they had "slept where they fell the night before, and had been waked by the sound of the aircraft. They had smashed all their glasses, so they plied us with drinks in tea cups."
However Shute is very impressed with the management of the property and so gives them full marks for their work when they are sober.
You can see a fair facsimile of Joe Harman's house in the background with its tin roof and wide verandahs. Shute said it was a good house with a garden and many flowering trees.
I suspect that the rumpled blinds in the background were only disturbed in the previous night's drunken revels.
It is reasonable to assume that this is the first of several hard drinking groups that Shute encountered that eventually became the Regans in Beyond the Black Stump.
From Shute's description, it is possible that the man on Shute's right is Tunny who was an excellent saddle maker and who had not left the station for 10 years because of his bad behaviour in town. Tunny is a likely inspiration for character of The Judge in Beyond The Black Stump who likewise never left the station.
Dr Marcus Clarke's daughter Bev recalls: I remember Dad telling a story about arriving at one homestead about 9am and everyone there was already drinking or drunk. He said they first offered Nevil an ashtray to drink from.
(Photo: Courtesy of The Clarke Family 2007)

( BJBC )
Dunbar Homestead

Fred Dawbush and Marcus Clarke

December 15 1948 (?)
Policeman Fred Dawnbush (?) and Dr Marcus Clarke.
The Flight Log shows that on December 15 1948 Shute intentionally ground looped to stop when doing a high-speed unintended downwind landing at Normanton because, on approach, the white windsocks were invisible from the air against the light earth.
Assuming it is Shute under the wing, he might well be checking the undercarriage here after that event.
Accompanying him on the flight next day was Policeman Fred Dawnbush so, assuming Dawnbush might have also met him on his arrival in Normanton on December 15th, then that is probably Fred Dawnbush. Marcus Clarke was a 35-year-old doctor based in Cairns. In 1948 Shute volunteered to fly Dr Marcus Clarke on his rounds of the outback stations in the Gulf Country.
It was on these flights that Shute saw the towns that inspired Willstown in A Town Like Alice, and where he met Jimmie Ringer Edwards who was the prototype for Joe Harman.
Recently an autographed copy of The Legacy came up for sale on . It has a personal inscription from Nevil Shute to Marcus Clarke "With gratitude for help in getting out this book". (Photo: Courtesy of The Clarke Family 2007)

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