Book Review


March: Shute joins up with Hessel Tiltman, (Now Sir) Alan Cobham and Lord Grimthorpe to be Joint Managing Director of Airspeed. Shute invents the Airspeed name in his room at the St Leonards club in York though his authorship is later disputed. The alternate story was that Shute decided the name should start with an A and Miriam Tiltman came up with Airspeed.

1931 March 07: Nevil Shute Norway and Frances Mary Heaton marry at Bromley in Kent. Nevil is 32 and Frances is 28. They honeymoon in Switzerland. Shute takes along the stress calculations for the Tern Glider.

1931 March 13: Airspeed is officially registered.

1931 March: The Lockheed Orion appears with the first retractable landing gear on a commercial aeroplane. On seeing a picture on page 990 of The Aeroplane magazine of May 27 1931 Shute and Tiltman are convinced that their new designs must have this feature.

1931 Airspeed rent 6,000 sq ft - 1/2 of the York bus garage in Piccadilly, York for a factory.

1931 Early Summer: Shute completes "Lonely Road" and stops writing to concentrate on Airspeed.

1931 1931 Mid: A few months before the first flight of the Tern glider in August 1931 Shute obtains his gliding "A" certificate at Sherburn-in-Elmet aerodrome in preparation for doing the first test flight of the Tern.

1931 July: Sir Alan Cobham orders two Ferries for his National Aviation Day air show. National Aviation Day later featured in "Round The Bend".

1931 1931 August: Shute flies the Tern glider on its maiden flight at Sherbern-in-Elmet aerodrome. Towed into the air by Airspeed's Buick, the Tern flew well and was very stable.

1931 Magersuppe, aged 20, a young German glider pilot, flies The Tern and sets the British Gliding record at Ingleby Greenhow in the Cleveland Hills. Haak his assistant is 18. Later they are deported back to Germany. Shute suspects Magersuppe later assisted with The Blitz.

1931 Shute accepts an open 4 Seater Bentley as a deposit on the 2nd Airspeed Ferry. Shute drives it to London for sale. He likes it and the car appears significantly in "Lonely Road" and years later in Trustee "From The Toolroom".

1931 November 16: R100 is sold for scrap. By February 1932 The frame of R100 has been crushed by a steamroller. This must have been a bitter time for Shute.

1932 "Lonely Road" published.

1932 Early March: The Airspeed Ferry is test flown by Harry Worrall.

1932 May 31: Shute and Frances's daughter Heather Felicity is born.

1932 June 25: Shute's mother, Mary Louisa Norway (born 1860 or 1861) dies aged 71.

1932 July: Negotiations proceed for Airspeed's move to Portsmouth.

1933 - 39 ? Shute writes "In the Uttermost Parts of The Sea" about an aircraft carrier sea rescue. It is sent to Wm Morrow & Co 386 Fouth Ave New York NY. It is set in 1932.

1933 March: Airspeed moves to Portsmouth after 2 years in York.

1933 Early April: Henry Cutting, an office boy at Airspeed, recollects in 2003 that a man working on Cobhams refuelling experiments was in a fight outside Mother Shiptons Pub. The other man in the fight died. Cobhams partner was allowed free before his trial but died when his Airspeed Courier, GABXN, crashed in Portsmouth Harbour on April 15 1933. In late 1945 Shute used the plot point of a fatal pub fight in The Chequer Board.

1933 - 38 In 2003 Henry Cutting recollected that in the Airspeed factory a fuel tank was mistakenly tested with petrol instead of paraffin resulting in a large explosion and fire. Airspeed worker Andie Drummond died and co-worker George Lister was injured. Shute appeared, coolly stepping through the now burning sacking that was used as a saw-dust barrier and quickly took charge of the scene.

1933 The Shute Family move to Craneswater Park in Southsea which may have been rental accomodation. Frances sets up in a medical practice in Southsea.

1933 The Shute Family move to a house called "Landfall" in a village called Bishops Waltham between Fareham and Winchester in Hampshire. (found by DDT) Bishops Waltham dates pre 720AD.

1933 May: "The Airship Venture" article is published in Blackwoods Magazine. It covers R100 and R101. Shute later re-uses it to form a large portion of "Slide Rule".

1933 In a conversation with Arnold G. Wilson at the Yorkshire Aero Club, Shute suggests designing an aeroplane in which the pilot sits above and behind the machine. The theory was that this would make landing easier because of the pilot's improved perspective. Tiltman designs the AS 31. It was never built. Shute later uses the idea of the pilot's view of the machine from above and behind in "In The Wet".

1933 September: The first Courier is delivered to dealers. The last Courier, GACVF, flew in 1947.

1933 December 12: Shute is elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (FRAeS) for his work on retractable undercarriage. This experience is reflected in No Highway.

1934 World Economic Depression lessens.

1934 - ? Shute's short story "Air Circus" is published in Blackwoods Magazine.

1934 Middle: Shute starts the Airspeed Aeronautical College.

1934 July: The Twin Engined Airspeed Envoy is completed and shown at the SBAC display.

1934 Autumn: The DC2 appears in Europe signalling a quantum leap in aircraft design.

1935 March 6: Shute and Frances's daughter Shirley Anne is born. Artist friend Flora Twort is made her Godmother.

1935 Spring: Shute spends 3 weeks in Athens trying unsuccessfully to sell aeroplanes. This becomes inspiration for "Ruined City".

1936 Shute visits Ealing Studios and watches "Lonely Road" (also released as "Scotland Yard Commands") being shot.

1936 The Courier becomes the first aeroplane ever to receive television signals in flight when it is used for TV transmission testing.

1936 The film of "Lonely Road" is released under the titles "Lonely Road" and "Scotland Yard Commands". Made by Basil Dean at Ealing Studios it was directed by James Flood and starred Clive Brook and Victoria Hopper.

1936 Shute begins writing "Ruined City".

1936 The Shute family move to 14 Helena Rd Southsea where they live till late 1939.

1936 March: Airspeed now employs 600 people.

1936 Travelling in a train with Airspeed's publicist, Concord Morton, Shute discusses a cutting from The Times about the crash of the new, all metal, Boeing 247 airliner. The aircraft's tail had fallen off. In 1948 Shute publishes "No Highway" in which tail-plane metal fatigue causes the crash of a new airliner.

1936 May: Airspeed designs the Queen Bee and Queen Wasp Target planes.

1936 July 17: Spanish Civil War starts. All the unsold Airspeed aeroplanes are quickly sold. The war finally ends on April 01 1939.

1936 Joseph Smith (27) and Arthur Gargett (22), employees of Airspeed, steal G-ACVA, a new Courier worth 3,400- Pounds, to make their fortune in the Spanish Civil War. They crash on take-off. Gargett Dies and Smith receives 4 months in prison. Young Airspeed employee Tom Cutting innocently assists them and in 2003 still remembers the crash vividly. Shute gave evidence at the trial.

1936 October 04: Airspeed 1934 Ltd files for a patent titled "Improvements in or relating to Indicating or Recording Instruments for use on Aircraft". It is for an instrument to measure air density to get the best possible performance out of an aircraft.

1936 October: The Air Ministry orders the first 136 Envoy Trainers. These are later known as Airspeed Oxfords.

1937 January 27: Frances flies to Calcutta in an Envoy being sent to China in Envoy III G-AERT piloted by Flt.Lt. Colman. Colman who was Airspeeds Test Pilot.

1937 March: The King's Flight Envoy is ordered. Shute starts to lose interest in Airspeed.

1938 - 41 (Approximately) March 02: Shute writes an undated letter to his daughter Heather and another to Anne (Shirley's 2nd name was Anne) from The Randolph Hotel in Oxford. Shute is on a fishing trip and meeting people. In Shirley's letter he includes a drawing of a fish he was trying to catch.

1938 Shute's very thoughtful portrait is drawn by Hayling Island artist Flora Twort.

1938 "Ruined City" is published. It sells 20,000 copies in the first 6 months of its US release.

1938 Shute writes "What Happened To The Corbetts" / "Ordeal".

1938 April 15: Tiltman decides to resign from Airspeed after arguments with Shute but Shute decides to leave instead. Airspeed now employs 1,035 people. Shute is given a payout large enough to keep the Shute Family for 5 years.

1938 Summer: Shute and Frances holiday in St Cloude in the Jura Mts in France. The trip later inspires The "Pied Piper".

1938 - 41 (Approximately) July 21: Shute writes Heather a letter from Oxfaord where he is fishing again. Shute includes a poem called "Buck Bunny: the Story of a Rabbit" in answer to Heather's poem. Letter to Heather referring to his fishing and a poem Heather wrote.

1938 The Film Rights to Ruined City bought for 35,000 American Dollars. This is enough to keep the Shutes for 5 more years.

1938 Late: Shute begins writing "An Old Captivity".

1938 Between October and December: Shute's father Arthur Hamilton Norway (born in 1859) dies aged 79 at Portsmouth District Hospital.

1938 December: Soon after Shute's departure the first Oxford Trainer is delivered. The final total built is 8,751 of which 4,961 are built by Airspeed.

1939 April: "What Happened To The Corbetts" / "Ordeal" is published.

1939 Spring: Shute does a month-long book tour of the US promoting "What Happened To The Corbetts" / "Ordeal". He makes a speech criticizing American Isolationism in New York and visits Cape Cod to research "An Old Captivity". After drinking Berbeda Commodores on top of Mint Juleps Shute has either a heart attack or a bad attack of wind in Grand Central Station New York.

1939 May: Shute joins Sir Dennistoun Burney and Sydney Hansel on an Admiralty Gliding Torpedo Project.

1939 Summer: Shute works on "An Old Captivity" and sails his yacht Runagate.

1939 September 03: World War Two begins. Shute is sailing his new yacht Runagate with his wife Frances and is caught in fog off the coast of France when war is declared.

1939 Autumn: The Shute family move to The Old Mill in Langston, owned by Flora Twort, probably to get out of the immediate Portsmouth area which was a major military target.

1939 Summer to Autumn: At least 3 trials of the Toraplane and the Doravane are carried out off the coast of the Isle of Wight with the co-operation and support of the Admiralty. The Toraplane was a gliding torpedo 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 project seems to have had the support of the Winston Churchill who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. These tests are very soon reflected in Landfall.

1939 October 30: Shute attends the 1st of 4 meetings over 6 weeks under the Chairmanship of Admiral Sir William James regarding the plans for the Toraplane and the Doravane that were being designed by Sir Denistoun Burney. In the minutes Shute is described as Sir Denistoun Burney's assistant.

1939 December 04: Nevil Shute Norway, Sir Dennistoun Burney, Rolf Edmund Spencer, Arthur Henry Cooper and Henry Edward Gauss file for a patent titled "Improvements in or relating to Observing or Sighting Devices". It is a design that relates to bomb sights.

1939 - 40 Shute attempts to write "The Lame Ducks Fly" but stops after typing one chapter.

1939 Late: The Shute family move to Langstone Place in Langstone Harbour.

1940 "An Old Captivity" published.

1940 Middle: The Shute family leaves Langstone Place. Shute sends his wife Frances, Heather (7) and Shirley (5) to Canada but, unable to draw on Shute's funds there, they go to Bermuda. This is a War Plan he outlined in "What Happened To The Corbetts" / "Ordeal" in 1938.

1940 Shute attempts to join the Navy as an RNVR "Elderly Yachtsman" to command a trawler or mine sweeper but is immediately drafted into the Admiralty Department of Miscellaneous Weapon Development. (DMWD).

1940 "Landfall" is published.

1940 - 45 For some of the war Shute is stationed at Exbury House working on ship launched rockets.

Nevil Shute Norway