Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

October Newsletter

2005-10/October 1, 2005


As you read this Cape Cod 2005 is starting.
The first conference in 1999 was to honour Shute's 100th birthday so in some way this is a function for Shute's 106th birthday.
I like to think that, like the Queen, his birthday can be deemed to float a bit throughout the year.
Those who can't attend could have a drink in Shute's honour. I will toast Shute with my afternoon tea and a slice of cherry cake if I can find one.


We were sorry to learn this month that fellow Nevil Shute fan Michel Hutin has died.


This month I received a kind email from Linda Shaughnessy at AP Watt in London who manages Shute's copyright. Linda wrote that 'copyright laws have changed in both the US and the UK, extending copyright by another 20 years. In the US, anything first published before the end of 1922 will be in the public domain, but anything published on or after 1.1.23 is now in copyright for 95 years from first publication. In the UK (and the rest of Europe), copyright now lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years so the works will be protected until the end of 2030.'
However Linda has very kindly granted me permission to share the Shute written chapter in the book 'The World the Air and the Future' with our readers on condition it is not published.
I felt rather silly about this as only a year ago I had Linda explain this very point in the newsletter and then I promptly forgot all the details.


Gail Field of The UK writes:

I hadn't realised that No Highway and Pied Piper were films so before I even finished reading your newsletter, I had gone onto Ebay and bid on No Highway DVD from the US and now am the proud winner. Talk about timing as the auction only had an hour left.
Personally, I tend to save some of my Nevil Shute's for plane flights as I know I will have a good read when I can, as I travel solo for visits to the UK from Brisbane with my daughter who is currently only 20 months old and (sleeps) most of the flight!


Ken England of Australia writes:

As many Australians are aware the Joe Harman character is a recognisable Australian type and no more a caricature than any novel character. There are probably American, Canadian, Argentinian and other national versions as well, anywhere beef cattle are raised on the open range. They might appear lazy or laconic - well it's not a good idea to rush cattle and trying to work like a thrashing machine in tropical heat just leads to exhaustion or heatstroke. They have a thousand yard stare - it's a long way from anywhere to anywhere else in the Northern Territory or Western Queensland. They are not necessarily terribly smart and don't hold doctorates but the only thing they ever wanted to do was 'go on the land'. Like Sam in the 'Lord of the Rings' they will see through a brick wall given time. Actually Sam is a hobbit version. Steve Irwin - I used to know 14 years olds like that but most of them grew out of it. Actually 'Crocodile Dundee' is a version of the Joe Harman character but much more of a caricature than Joe Harman ever was. In the early 1970s I knew two scientist brothers called Bof(f?)inger. Both geologists, and both too young to have been 'boffins' in the 1940s. The older was rather 'boffin' like and I often wondered whether father or uncle had been a 1930 - 40s 'boffin'.


Joy Hogg writes:

I buy any paperback Shute books I can find, and then circulate them among friends to introduce them to his fine stories. So far, the two, which hook people the easiest, are A Town Like Alice and Trustee From the Toolroom. Although I am not at the stage of life where I can attend a Gathering (with several children in college) I do enjoy the newsletter and Shute is my favorite author.
I would be interested in what other authors our Shute fans enjoy.
Joy Hogg
Cadillac, Michigan


Recently Tony Woodward of Canada wrote again regarding films he felt certain he had seen on late night TV of Requiem for a Wren, Ruined City and Pastoral.
There are no records of any such films.
Tony feels certain someone has stolen these plots and used them. Has anyone else seen similar movies using Shute plots?
To trace these we really need a name of the film or the star.
Pastoral got as far as script stage in 1945. Shute was writing the script but it didn't happen.
Ruined City was going to be made in 1939 but wasn't.
I haven't heard of Requiem even being attempted.


Charles Daleside of The USA writes:

At our company, there was a 'Calculations Department', which I eventually joined.
This was considered an elite part of the engineering department, directly accountable to the Chief Engineer. We did stress and strain calculations, hydro-mechanical performance studies, shock and vibration mitigation design, and safety studies. It was all documented formally, in detail, for future reference.
Our highest satisfaction would come from the testing department, when they'd report: 'It worked just like you said it would!' If not, back to the drawing board, with lessons learned. In some cases the process was inverted: 'It failed just like you said it would!' The state of the art was very limited compared to today's simulation and analysis software but it got us to the moon and back.
[I did nothing for the space program. It's a figure of speech.]
This must have been the sort of engineering that Nevil Shute did in the 1920s and 30s. The descriptions in 'No Highway' are very familiar to me. However, it is not the same as the work done by 'Girl Calculators'. They were adjunct to the calculation process, but did not do the creative design synthesis. The human 'Calculators' speeded up the process of 'finite element' analysis, or 'differential equation' solving. I did the same work using a digital computer to speed up the calculations. They could have been done organically, but it would have been very tedious. We didn't have Girl Calculators as such, but before the 60's ended we were starting to see professional engineers of the feminine gender. [And 'Girls' were thereafter referred to as 'Women']
The term 'Boffin' is not used in the US. But I've naturally assumed, encountering it in English publications, that it is a contraction of 'Back OFFice INhabitants'.


Jeannie Campbell of Australia, who received the 2005 scholarship in September writes:

I am writing to thank the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation for awarding me the 2005 Excellence in Aviation Scholarship.
The scholarship allowed me to bring forward my plans to undertake a Flight Instructor Rating, which I completed in August this year with the Royal Victorian Aero Club. After completing this training I was immediately employed by the club as an Instructor.
I very much appreciate the assistance the foundation has provided.

Ben Lawrence an earlier winner of the scholarship writes:

I thought that I would send you all another update on my career progress. As you were aware, I was accepted into the 2005 Qantas cadetship program earlier this year. The cadetship is a program whereby cadets, after going through the Qantas pilot selection process, are chosen to complete an intensive training program of either six months or a year in duration, depending on previous experience, followed by two years of industry experience as an F/O on either a turbo prop for a regional airline around Australia, or an A320 for Jetstar Asia, depending on availablity when they graduate. After the two years placement is completed, cadets then move into Qantas as S/Os.
Over the last six months, I've completed my ME CIR, all of my ATPLs and a two week multi crew course in a 737 simulator, and graduated. It all 'flew' by quicker than I could blink, and I had a fantastic time. I also had opportunities to fly in a private jet around Australia and in a Metro 23 around South Australia, as well as meet some amazing people from all around the world.
Now I am thrilled to say that have I recieved a call from Qantas and I have been offered a job as an F/O for Airnorth on an Embraer Brasilia starting next week (28th September)!! I will eventually be based in Adelaide, after a couple of months ground school and line flying training in Darwin. I am really looking forward to the experience and am sure it will be some of the most amazing flying that I will ever do.
Thank you for your continuing encouragement and support, and I will keep you updated on my future progress!


G Timson wrote asking if Congreve clocks were available for purchase. A Google search reveals many are for sale.


n Glenn Harrington has written asking if Shute wrote the following movie or a related short story. I don't recognise it as a known Shute work but does anyone recognise this film and story and can they tell us what it was called?
Glenn writes:

The plot, set in WW2, concerns a commando raid on a German airbase in occupied France to acquire a new model Me109 fighter and fly it back to Britain for study. A pilot is sent along with the group to to fly the plane out.
I remember some scenes from the movie...the commando group has a pet cat that parachutes into occupied France with them, later to be killed along with most of the commandos.
After a series of adventures, the pilot is successful in taking off and has some air combat, shooting down a number of enemy planes before escaping to Britain.
The plane has a 'view screen' that enables targets to be seen through clouds, which is why the British want to acquire it. The special effects were early 1940's, with model planes suspended by wires, etc.
I believe NS wrote a short story about a similar situation, about two brothers that go on a raid to capture a fighter plane from occupied France--one escapes, one is captured.
Any information will be appreciated.
By the way, I am an aerospace engineer at Boeing in Long Beach, California.
The book Round The Bend was an especial influence. My favorite is Trustee From The Tool Room.

Editor's Comment: Damn those cat-murdering Nazis. I'm glad they lost.


I was rereading Winston Churchill's history of WW2 and he touched on an episode mentioned by Shute in, I think, Most Secret.
Churchill says that in August 1940 about 40 corpses of German soldiers were washed up between The Isle of Wight and Cornwall.
The British surmised that it was probably a case of German Invasion exercises that had gone wrong. They may have been sunk by bad weather or by bombing.
Soon a rumour started that it was the result of a failed invasion attempt that was foiled by setting fire to the sea with oil.
The British let these rumours go as they were helpful to morale both in Britain and in the conquered countries.
A shop in German occupied Brussels was later reported to exhibit swimming trunks in its window with the caption 'For Channel Swimming'.


Russel Brooks has written directing our attention to a modern day airship program and writes:

I just saw a pointer to this on Slashdot. Maybe Nevil Shute Norway's early work will assist new airships.
Go to this website.


Jenny Knowles has written that permission can be obtained to perform her play based on Requiem For A Wren. Anyone interested should contact Jenny.
Jenny also has a video of 'Requiem for a Wren on Exbury Veterans Day' for sale.
DVD and PAL VHS, both formats cost £15.00 per copy plus postage.
NTSC VHS copies will cost £17.50 plus postage.
Please contact Jenny to place your order and check the postage cost.


Richard Wynn of The UK writes:

I was surprised and encouraged on my first visit to this website that there are so many who, like myself, enjoy the Nevil Shute books. Ever since I was a youngster in the fifties I have devoured his stories, and re-read them many times over, especially The Far Country. My personal love for boats and planes agrees with his, and Shute's inimitable and compelling narrative is matchless, especially compared with modern authors. I find there is nothing, absolutely nothing quite so satisfying in my leisure hours, as to curl up with an old Shute book.
As a clergyman, I have to be guarded in what I say in this respect! But Shute's absence of expletives and blasphemies is always a tonic.

Editor's Comment: I couldn't agree more Richard. It's not that I don't understand that real people swear, but I do feel that art should be more creative and more interesting than real life. If books consisted only of everyday language I would stop reading.
As someone famous once said: Drama is life with all the boring bits cut out.


Brian Wardle of The UK writes:

I am trying to confirm that the first use of the word 'chundered' in any serious book was in 'Beyond The Black Stump', and that the word 'chunda' appeared in A Town Like Alice (first published as The Legacy in The USA)

Editor's Comment: A Town Like Alice was published in 1950, well before Beyond The Black Stump in 1956. I see them as the same word.
I found an Australian National University website which says:

Our first citation for chunder in the probable sense 'vomit' comes as late as 1950: 'The way these bloody Nips go on. Makes you chunda' (Nevil Shute, A Town like Alice).


It's perfect weather here in Sydney.
Below is a fascinating letter that is a bit far off the topic to be technically included in the newsletter but for which I am breaking my own strict rules on newsletter inclusion because it just makes great reading. It just shows there is no shortage of real life stories in the world. All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
Please write to:


(I have lost the email address of the author)
I was fascinated to read (having clicked on the recommended web link) about the departure of the Queen from Holland on May 10th 1940. I remember well as a small child being told about an uncle's part in their escape. Details subsequently confirmed as I grew up and heard such from him directly. Some history. My link is tenuous, but I believe accurate!
My maternal grandmother's maiden name was 'Thorbecke' . A name of some significance in what is now (*) Holland, but at the time he was the equivalent of Prime Minister [1860-80 when he was a contemporary of Gladstone and Disreili] called the 'Estates General'. He was a Liberal, and responsible for reforms which ensured the franchising of the whole population. Grandmother described the senior Thorbecke coming to their home (in N Western Germany somewhere) and speaking to her as a child.
Grandmother (as a 12 year old) came to the UK in 1900: she spoke no English at all when she arrived and described being bullied at School because of this! Her father had worked for the Credit Lyonaise Bank: apparently 'having' to leave because of some financial irregularities for which, whilst not involved, he took the blame!
She married in 1910 -to a rising Scientist/Chemist -Reginald Stewart Laing (I have her marriage certificate) - who was one of the pioneers of adhesives: used to manufacture the earliest plywood: of particular significance in that early aircraft were primarily wood (ply!) and fabric!
Sadly, he was killed in a road accident in August 1914 [returning home early one morning after a night experimenting in plywood!, a passing lorry driver offered him a 'hitch' up a long hill (apparently a common practice at the time). He lost control and fell under the wheels to his death.
Nana remembers two 'heavies' from what was probably the equivalent of Special Branch coming to her apartment (by this time she had two young children) to search for any notes, documents, data he might have 'left' - such was the importance of his efforts at that time.
Amazingly, though quite common at that time, her children were 'taken away' from her (as she had no home in which to bring them up!) and brought up by her former husband's sister. [See elsewhere details of an amazing later reunion!]
My grandmother was nothing if not resourceful: and within a few months had formed a liaison with my grandfather (I gather clergy were not involved until much later!)
He was serving in the Army -and as far as I can calculate they produced their three daughters -my mother was the last- as a result of his annual 'leaves' from fighting in France during WW1. The middle daughter, was Nina, my aunt.
Her 'beau' was a chap called Norman Saville -who like most of the rest of the youth of the nation volunteered in 1939. He had been in the 'Reserve' in the 30's, trained as a Beaufighter pilot: and was 'on active service' by May 1940.
Because (it has always been family folklore!) of this tenuous (*) Dutch 'connection' -see above!- he was selected as one of those to escort the plane carrying the Dutch Royal family to safety -collected on May 10th 1940!
They were attacked by ME 109s on the way back: for which the Beaufighter was no match at all. He remembers the 'bang' as his plane was hit and his observer/gunner was killed. He remembers nothing more about events until he woke up in a field, with a German soldier trying to remove his watch: believing him to be dead! He had obviously somehow bailed-out and landed, literally in the path of the invading German forces. He remembers being taken to a mobile field hospital.
His good fortune was that as the invasion was such a one-sided affair the German surgeons had very few casualties to operate on: Norman's leg was very badly broken -and in 'normal' circumstances would have been amputated - but as the surgeons had lots of time it was 'set' and he retained its use, albeit he limped for the rest of his life.
Amazing that a need to rescue a Royal would create and influence a whole chapter of other lives!
The reunion?
My grandmother lived until she was well into her 80's. One Sunday evening, she was watching a TV programme -the Golden Shot - [an early audience participation programme where contestants had to direct the cross wires of a 'sight' to shoot an apple -with a character -Bernie the Bolt! (I know its grim, but that's television in the 70's!) who put the 'arrow' into the unit.
As the credits rolled, she noticed the name of the cameraman -Paul Stewart Laing.
Such a combination of somewhat unusual names was quite a co-incidence: and being the resourceful soul she was she called the TV company, asked to speak to Paul, and told him she was almost certainly his grandmother - which she was!
It was over 60 years since contact between the 'parts' of the family had occurred.
I am sure that an author of Shute's calibre could have created several wonderful books out of this material. I wish I had the skill to do so. Just for the record: Uncle (they were married in April 1945 on his return from PoW camp) Norman was as he so aptly put it a 'Guest of the Reich' for 5 years.
He actually celebrated his 21st birthday in Stalag Luft III. Because of his 'leg' he was not able to consider escaping, but he played a part in assisting others. He was also a member of the camp band - playing the saxophone [This band subsequently became the Squadronaires Dance Band, popular in the 40's and 50's.]
Other members were Sam Costa, and Peter Butterworth, also prisoners shot-down: who became comedians I remember laughing at whilst listening to my crystal 'set' at school!