Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

December Newsletter

2005-12/December 1, 2005


Recently it was noted that elections were overdue for the positions on the Board of The Nevil Shute Foundation.
At the same time Steph Gallagher expressed a wish to stand down from her Board Membership and her position as UK Representative and Website Manager.
As a result, internal elections were held within the Board.
Dan Telfair writes:

The biennial Foundation Board of Directors election was held this November.
Existing Board members who retained their Board membership are Heather Mayfield, President of the Board; Richard Michalak, Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor; Dan Telfair, Secretary/Treasurer; and Jim MacDougald, Member at Large.
Steph Gallagher, former UK Representative and Web Site Manager did not choose to remain on the Board.
Three new Board members were nominated and unanimously elected. They are Grant Arthur (Art) Cornell, Vice President of the Board; John Anderson, UK Representative and Director of Research in the United Kingdom; and David Dawson-Taylor, UK Representative and Manager of the UK Library. Additionally, Neal Standard, a member of the Colorado Chapter of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation, has agreed to serve as backup for the duties of Secretary and Treasurer.

Editor's Comment: I would like to congratulate Art, John and David on their election to the Board.
I am sure all readers will join me in thanking Steph Gallagher for her tireless work as Website Manager, UK Representative and not least for the huge, and perfectly executed, job of organizing the very excellent UK 2003 Conference.
Steph has promised me that she will remain an active Shutist.
I hope she finds herself able to offer her services to the Board again in the future.


John Anderson has recently unearthed two new, detailed, close-up photos of the young 19-year-old Nevil Shute Norway when he was in the 2nd Rowing Eight of Balliol College at Oxford. The two photos appear to be taken a year apart and show a marked change from a youth in one to a young man in the other.
Hopefully these will be on the website soon.


If readers want to have a mini meeting wherever they are please email me and I will attach a list of your countries and your email addresses below the newsletter.
At the bottom of this issue you will already find readers from Australia and Hong Kong.
This will be an opt-in system. No one will be pressured to be sociable.


In general, I have tried to avoid unfounded conjecture about Shute's likes, dislikes and personality in the newsletter. However, as editor, I get to break my rules at will.
As soon as I read about the Airspeed AS39 Fleet Shadower, I never doubted that, had Shute been around for its development and manufacture, he would have found it an interesting project.
After the incessant quest for higher aircraft speeds up to the late 1930s it must have been refreshing to see an aircraft which was designed to go very slow.
Initiated before radar or helicopters were proven effective at sea, the AS39 Fleet Shadower was designed to a 1937 Admiralty specification asking for a slow observation aircraft with a long duration to track enemy fleets especially during the hours of darkness.
Although the specification never mentions it, it sounds like this plane could have potentially been very useful in convoy anti-submarine work too.
Airspeed was among several companies who built test aircraft to this Admiralty specification.
Hessel Tiltman designed the AS39 after Shute's departure from Airspeed and it is suggested he may also have gained extra slow-flying experience from it, which he may then have applied to the Horsa Glider he next designed which was used in the Arnhem Landings.
Finally produced in 1940, the AS39 Fleet Shadower prototype cruised easily at only 38 knots (70 km/hr or 44 mph) for a duration of six hours. It had 4 small engines, a crew of 3 in a comfortable cabin, great visibility for the crew, small dimensions when its wings were folded for shipboard storage and it made little noise at cruising speed.
Interestingly, the AS39 was designed from data obtained from Royal Aircraft Establishment tests on a 'flapped' Airspeed Envoy.
The full story and pictures of this fascinating aircraft and its main competitor can be seen at the AeroArchive from


Mills Dyer of The USA writes: One of the presentations at CapeCod 2005 was about On The Beach.
There is a very interesting article about the Cuban Missile Crisis (which occurred in 1962, only 5 years after On The Beach was published) in the November 2005 issue of Air & Space Smithsonian, pp. 28-35: "A Full Retaliatory Response" by Thomas D. Jones.
The article gives one the eerie feeling of how close we may have come to being 'on the beach,' at least for those of you in Australia. Those of us in the northern hemisphere would have had much less time.
See the Air & Space Smithsonian web site for the initial paragraphs. You will have to buy the magazine or read it in your library for the full article.


Nevil Shute's daughter, Heather Mayfield, writes:

One of the prime reasons that my Dad decided to live in Australia is that, having made the decision to leave the UK, and being the patriot that he was, he wanted to remain within the British Commonwealth.
Canada was too cold, South Africa too unsettled, which left Australia, where he lived very happily for the last 10 years or so of his life.


Mike Blamey of The UK writes:

As I will be retired then, I look forward to being the first to sign up to attend the 2007 meeting in Alice Springs.


Philip Davey is self-publishing his fascinating book on the making of the film of On The Beach in Melbourne, Australia in 1959.
Philip writes:

When Hollywood Came To Melbourne highlights Stanley Kramer's determination to stimulate the 'conscience of the world' with a message that portrays the absolute horror and futility of nuclear war; a message that remains as powerful today as it was in 1959.'

In the foreword Karen Sharpe Kramer writes:

The author brings to life the journey of this extraordinary film and is an authentic re-creation and representation of my husband's work and legacy.'

Philip Davey relates Shute's initially pleasant, but rapidly disintegrating, relationship with Stanley Kramer.
The book cost will be Aud$39.95 (about US$30-, Euro25-, GBP17-).
Overseas Airmail Postage will be:
UK / Europe: Aud$22- for one copy (about Euro14-, GBP9-) or Aud$40.50 for 2 copies (about Euro25-, GBP17-)
USA: Aud18- for one copy (about US$13.30) or Aud$34- for 2 copies (about US$25-)
Contact Philip for details


Mike Blamey of The UK writes:

With my textile engineer/technologist hat on I like to remind my electronic and computing colleagues in academia that Jacquard (the inventor of the patterning mechanism for textiles) was certainly the first computer programmer and probably the first person to use binary mathematics in that in the Jacquard programme a yarn in the warp of a loom is either 'raised' and incorporated into the pattern (1), or left where it is and hidden (0).
With reference to human (pre binary mathematical ones!) computers and the descriptions of how these used vast numbers of individuals to do simple 'sums' I am reminded of the story told to me and about 100 other First Year Engineering students at St Andrews in 1960 who, much to our annoyance had to 'do' a substantial mathematics module.
Our lecturer had graduated in Maths in 1943 from Edinburgh University and had been immediately 'drafted' to the Bristol Aeroplane Co to work on the Brabazon.
The Brabazon was the coupled twin Bristol Centaurus engines driving a single prop (repeated four times!) plane supposedly to win the 'battle-of-the-commercial-Atlantic after the war.

Editor's Interruption:
Read all about the fascinating Bristol Brabazon at

Mike Continues:

My lecturer was part of a team charged with calculating (yes, with slide rules!) the natural frequency of the structure of the aircraft particularly to ensure that such was NOT at or near a likely landing speed. It was believed a 'heavy' landing might have caused the airframe to resonate and 'shake itself to pieces'.
In the calculation the structure is considered to be composed of a series of point masses (representing the engines, fuel tanks, etc) separated by a series of 'torsion' members of estimated stiffness/rigidity. Engineers will recognise the unlikely analogy...but there was little alternative and they had to do something!
This type of calculation involves 'tensor' mathematics, and is 'solved' via creating a 'matrix' of values: which can be converted into a 'determinant'.
The solution of these (even as simple as a 4 by 4 (four columns / four rows) is very time consuming by hand methods and in the case of the Brabazon they had a 20 by 20 (twenty columns / twenty rows). They seriously considered getting 400 school children and putting them in a hanger.
Each would be given a number (the co-efficient of that part of the matrix). Then the first row of 20 children would be told to add their number to that of the second row. Having done this they went home!
You now have a 19 by 20.
All the children were to be told to turn right on the spot where they stood.
Now you have a 20 by 19. Now the first row were to add their number to that of the row behind...and go home.
Now you have a 19 by 19.
Everyone turns right,once again: and the new front row (with the larger numbers) now adds their number to that of the row behind, and goes home.
Repeat (about 200 times) until you have a four by four!
Then solve this by hand!
Now, as we were only simple Engineering students, and this was a Maths lecturer with a twinkle in his eye, perhaps we were the subject of an enormous hoax: but it wasn't April fools day!
I like the concept of the human computer.
In the early Victorian days of weather forecasting I believe that it was proposed that 'readings' (presumably, temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction) would be given to individual arithmetic 'clerks' - in an enormous building with a series of galleries around its edge (the Albert Hall was suggested!).
These 'clerks' would do their individual calculation(s) and then collate them, and pass them down to a fewer number of clerks on the next level down...who would do their 'sum' and pass their collated results down....and so on: down to the Chief mathematician who sat (presumaby on a guilded throne) in the middle of the bottom level and who did the final calculation and made the prediction of weather!
Another fishy story? actually I believe it is correct


Roger M Pratt of Sydney, Australia writes:

I have always believed that Nevil Shute is buried in Adelaide but on a visit to Adelaide yesterday the South Australian Tourist and Information Bureau had no knowledge.

Editor's Comment: Shute was cremated in Victoria and his ashes were spread on The Solent, an area of sea near The Isle of Wight in the UK.
So, sadly for us, there is no particular grave or memorial to visit anywhere.


Tom Leitch writes:

I just learned of a new service from Google. They have e-books on line that are not copyrighted that you can search, read and print pages from. I did a search for Nevil Shute and found 509 hits, everything from engineering subjects, writer commentary, travel books and more. Thought folks might be interested in browsing the list and possibly finding information and mentioning of NS in such a range of places.


Mary I. Jeffers writes:

I would have liked to join you at Cape Cod but since I am 81 years old I no longer travel alone. I was with you in spirit, however.
I have been reading Nevil Shute since the early fifties and I now have a complete collection of his books, including Slide Rule.
I read the whole works about every five years and I always see something new. He has always been my favorite author and every time I read one of his books this impression is reinforced.
I particularly enjoyed Why I Prefer To Live In Australia by Nevil Shute, in this months newsletter.


The BBC Radio series Great Lives features Nevil Shute this December 02.
Heather Mayfield, Nevil Shute's daughter, was interviewed for this program.
The programme will air on December 02 at British time. Anyone interested in listening to it can go to then to Radio 4 Great Lives.
If they miss that, then it is available to listen to again at:
The broadcast is only available on the web for 7 days after the original broadcast so remember to listen before the 9th December!
STOP PRESS: I have just heard that Shute's program may be put off because of the recent death of extraordinary English football (soccer) star of the 1960s, George Best.
If the Nevil Shute programme is postponed, try again a week later.


John Anderson of The UK writes:

Following the precedent set at York last year, Mike Meehan and I are in the early stages of planning a UK reunion for Shute fans in 2006.
We are currently thinking of 'A Shute weekend in Oxford' visiting the places and locations which figured so much in his life and novels.
Among the places we plan to visit are: Balliol College, the Radcliffe Camera, (Stephen Morris), the Dragon School, the Trout Inn at Godstow (Pied Piper) and possibly also Dashwood Hll in the Chilterns. There will be a reunion dinner, but because there is potentially so much to see, we do not plan to have formal presentations.
Certainly part of the weekend may be in the form of a walking tour taking in the places mentioned above and others.
As before the reunion will not be exclusively for UK Shutists some may wish to combine the reunion with a longer stay in the Oxford area.
At the moment we are thinking in terms of a mid May weekend next year, but dates and costs have yet to be confirmed.
We would like to gauge the level of interest in this event.
If you know you would like to attend can you please let either Mike or me know by e mail. Further details will follow via the Newsletter or directly by e mail if you let us have your e mail address.
email Mike Meehan
email John Anderson


John Anderson writes:

Early next year I'm planning to make another visit to the Vickers archives at Cambridge
with the Airship Guarantee Company microfilms. We didn't do it justice in our July visit.
Andy Burgess will be following up the item at Bristol University regarding a document of an interview between NSN and Sir Alfred Pugsley on the background to metal fatigue in No Highway.


Ólafur Ragnars who works in the Civil Aviation Administration in Iceland writes:

I have been an admirer of Mr. Shute's books for decades and have been able to buy most of his books here in Iceland in paperback.
I believe I have read all of them, over and over again with intervals and I always find a lot to speculate about, whether it is history, human behaviour, foreign countries, religion, aviation etc., actually it is amazing the vast knowledge Mr. Shute possessed as a human being. Presently I am reading Around The Bend and as a pilot myself I am interested in the aviation in the books and some months back I found on your website an excellent description of the aircraft found in Mr. Shute's books, most of these being manufactured before my involvement in that field.
I miss this article, maybe you are updating it, will it be on your website again? Can you point out other websites on the subject?

Editor's Comment:
Sadly for all of us, for various complex reasons, the Aviation web page is off the website and unlikely to be restored soon. We all miss it.


Russ Brooks writes:

I have a question about the pictures at the 'For Better or For Worse' comic strip website at:.
The planes are all of WW2 vintage I believe and I think one, The Avro Anson, is the type flown in Landfall to scan the channel. I don't have a copy of Landfall at the moment so I can't check to see if my memory is faulty or not.

Editor's Comment: Russ is correct. Go to the link and click the pictures to hopefully find the Avro Anson (annoyingly, sometimes the pictures change each time you log on) and see the plane flown by Jerry Chambers in Landfall. If you ever go to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra you can stand in the cockpit of an Avro Anson.
You can see another photo of an Avro Anson at:


John Cooper has written praising a review of a book about Churchill's writing of his WW2 Histories. John notes that in post-war socialist Britain Churchill faced a 97.5% Tax on his book royalties. We assume Shute faced the same destructive tax regime. Churchill solved this problem with a cunning tax avoidance scheme.
Shute solved it with a cunning emigration scheme.
The fascinating review of this book on Churchill, one of my favourite authors, can be read at:
The book, by Max Boot, is called: In Command of History: How Churchill Revised World War II.


Charles D. of The USA writes:

While looking for something else, I found this 'life story' of a professor involved in aircraft production during WWII. He appears to have been a significant person in the thick of things.
But I think there may be some disagreement about his recollections. The P51, for instance. The B-29, for another. His memory might have been colored by the Howard Hughes Senate hearings.
From at about page 44:
I was aware of the large number of projects that were initiated and didn't get anywhere at all. Quite a number of new planes were planned, for instance fighters, bombers, transports, and so on, and not one of them spilled any enemy blood. Quite a good many equipment items were also developed, and they didn't get anywhere. You might say, 'What did get somewhere?' What did get somewhere was the improvement of the existing planes, and I would say perhaps only with one exception, the Black Widow, a fighter from Northrup, we ended the war using planes that were in existence at the beginning of the war but which had been improved tremendously. In other words, the great development was in the improvement of the Lockheed P-38, the North American P-5l, and the Republic P-47. And of course the B-l7, the B-24, these were all improved tremendously. The irony of it is - if 'irony' is the right word - that the best aeronautical engineering brains in the country were applied to these new ideas that never panned out. And it was the second-rate engineers who were used on the improvement of existing planes, which did so well. Oh, at the end of the war our planes were doing just beautifully. Incidentally, anticipating the bombing survey work, the same was true in Germany, although they did develop the jet planes during the war. They had started on them before, but essentially the Germans deserve more credit for developing new equipment during the war. Of course, they were under the gun more than we were.

Charles D. adds:

A very judgmental thing to say, I'm sure. But it evokes the frustration of being an engineer, killing yourself on a hot project that gets cancelled after you've burned yourself out. Meanwhile, the guys doing the mostly routine stuff are getting paid almost as much and don't lose much sleep over it. You think you've dedicated yourself to doing something significant, but when it's all said and done, it was minimal. So in the big picture, what did it accomplish? Kept smart people from getting in the way, and perhaps, prepared well-trained leaders for civilian work after the war??? I'm not sure I know. I get kind of grouchy when they claim a shortage of engineers. It seems to me so many are wasted. Maybe it's not about engineering at all.
It's about management research.

Editor's Comment: This relates directly to Shute's observations of his frustrations that most of his weapons development work in the war didn't get anywhere.


Somewhere in Shute, probably in Slide Rule, he talks about the sort of adventurous and wealthy people who might invest in a start-up company like Airspeed. He says these are the sort of people who might also do the Cresta Run. I always thought the Cresta Run was some kind of expensive cross country motor race but I have now discovered it is an English-managed toboggan slide in St Moritz, Switzerland.
You lie face forward on a small thin toboggan with your face only a few inches from the ground and race down the ¾ mile (1.25km) track at an average speed of over 53mph (88km/hr) with a finishing speed close to 80mph (133km/hr).
If you were willing to do this, Shute felt you might also invest in Airspeed.
To watch an online video of what he meant, see this rivetting one shot from a helmet camera. At the very beginning you see the tiny sled and then off you go.
They have cut out the bit at the end where, shaken to a jelly and scared out of your wits, someone rushes over to sell you shares in a new start-up aeroplane company just as you come to a stop.
Go to
You may have to cut and paste this link into your browser. For some reason it doesn't always work if you just click it but it is well worth the trouble.


CDMN has written that those still interested in more Vikings in America information can listen to an excellent American Public Radio programme at:
There is also a great BBC website on Vikings.


Art Cornell writes that at the Cape Cod Conference one enthusiast said:

Why do we all continue to read Nevil Shute and most of us over and over again?
A driving force is a shared belief in the moral principles that shine through the pages of his books.
A shared belief in the decency and goodness of people generally.
A dedication to the value of work as shown through his pages.
But most of all, the love of his characters.


John Anderson writes:

The Photo Album of the Cape Cod Gathering has at last been finalised and will be printed shortly. All those who attended the Gathering will be sent a copy and spare copies will be provided for the various Shute Lending Libraries.


Dear Friends
For those of you who joined us at Cape Cod 2005, we are soliciting feedback on your enjoyment of the event. To this end, you will have received (via-e-mail) a feedback survey. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to complete it and let us know what you think. Your opinions are valuable to us and will help in shaping events for the future. If you have not received a copy of the survey, please do contact me directly and I will send you a copy. All feedback returned before the end of the year will be included in the analysis.
Many thanks, Steph Gallagher


Dear Friends,
This is a special request to those of you who, for one reason or another were unable to attend the NSN conference 'Cape Cod 2005'.
We are interested in obtaining some feedback on why other people didn't attend. It's just to help us plan events in the future that will enable as many people to attend as possible.
If you would like to contribute to this, I'd be most grateful if you would answer two questions below.

  1. What was your MAIN reason for not attending Cape Cod 2005?
    1. The conference was too expensive
    2. I was unable to attend due to health/business
    3. The location was not easy/practical for me to get to
    4. The conference was at the wrong time of the year for me
    5. I did not want to travel to the USA due to problems in the Middle East (or any other political reason)
    6. Other (please specify)
  2. Do you think you will attend the next conference if it is in Australia?

Please send all feedback to Steph Gallagher All feedback returned before the end of the year will be included in the analysis.
Many thanks, Steph Gallagher


Write in if you want your name listed and would like to get together with other Shutists in your vicinity.

Australia, Sydney
Jim Wells lives in Lindfield
Richard Michalak lives in Paddington
Hong Kong
Julian Stargardt


As the next issue won't appear till early January, I wish you all Happy Holidays.
Summer is here in Sydney but we have had a lot of much-needed rain in the last week.
Wherever you are have a great Summer or Winter or Wet Season or Dry Season and enjoy life as much as you can.
All the best from AUTFOD
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Historian and Newsletter Editor
Please write to: