Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

March Newsletter

2006-03/March, 2006


Ben Reeves of Yorkshire, the UK is researching his grandfather who worked on R100 and writes:

I have had a good look through your photo archive and was interested to find the reminiscences of Henry Cutting. I was wondering if he was still alive and if so whether he might have known my Great Grandfather. He was killed in an accident in 1934 whilst inspecting an aircraft, which I assume was possibly at Airspeed because he died in Portsmouth.
As my Great Grandfather died young very little was passed on apart from a small collection of R100 related papers. There are a few photographic post-cards of the airship, none of which are unique I think, and a letter of recommendation from Booth after the Airship Programmme was closed down. The only photograph that may be of interest is of the crew of the airship. This is similar to the picture in Barry Countryman's R100 in Canada, only the crew are not in their uniforms, but are wearing white woollen jumpers. I haven't seen a copy of this anywhere else. Unfortunately it is ripped, but I am working on repairing it.
My Grandfather used to tell me that his dad was involved in a 'flying circus' and that they used to climb out onto the wings of the aircraft during the shows. I assume this must have been Sir Alan Cobham's National Aviation Day, whom he may have worked for after the R100, and before working for Airspeed, but I have no real proof of this.
If you know of any records that may exist I would be very interested to know. I often wonder where such company records go. I suspect they may have been destroyed, but there's always a chance that they are deposited and archived somewhere.
I will send copies of the photographs and documents I have when I have been organised enough to scan them and if they're of interest you may use them.
My family would be pleased that they may be seen by others.

Editor's Comment: I have passed Henry Cutting's contacts on to Ben.
I am looking forward to seeing Ben's photo as Shute may or may not be in the crew photo.
I have also asked Ben if his Grandfather was killed in a gas tank explosion at Airspeed which was an event that Henry Cutting recalled and is mentioned in the website Photo Album.


Linda Shaugnessy of Shute's Literary Agents AP Watt writes:

Just to let you know that no E-books are available yet, though I certainly anticipate they will be at some future date.


J.B. Robert of The USA writes:

My wife and I read perhaps 50-60 E-Books every year.
I think it is the ideal method for reading in bed after "lights out" or reading in a darkened automobile (passengers only!).
My wife uses a Sharp Zaurus and I use a larger Siemens SIMpad.
There are literally dozens of sites which have downloadable E-Books, many of which are "free" but I can't vouch for their legality.

Editor's Comment: I had never seriously considered E-Books before but if they have a reader the size of a paperback that would fit in a pocket and is pleasant to read I might give it a go.
I find paper and print easier on the eyes than a screen at the moment but who knows what technology is out there today or coming out tomorrow.


Eunice and Ron Shanahan of Queensland, Australia write:

I think terminally ill people do not panic.
I am currently visiting one such person in the Hospice, and she is quite prepared to die, and knows it can come at any time but I don't know about perfectly fit and able people.
However as you say the submariners of WWII and the airmen of WWI MUST have known their chances of living very long were slim, and yet they still got on with it.


Another reader has written in and as I am on a deadline and haven't time to check if I can publish her name and letter I will just quote it anonymously. She writes:

As an 8-year ovarian cancer survivor (have been in treatment nearly all that time) I was wondering if some might consider me a Pollyanna type or perhaps one caught in denial.
I take my treatments, get sick for a few days, then go on with my life.
I love all that I do and can't imagine spending what time I have left wringing my hands and dreading the end.
I deliver meals-on-wheels to shut-ins, serve as a volunteer chaplain at the airport, teach a seniors Sunday school class at church, play cards, walk as often as possible and travel when I get a break from chemo.
Maybe this is why Nevil Shute's characters and stories appeal to me -- lift me up and help me carry on. I don't know. But having thought it over, I guess I just want to really live until I die. Wouldn't trade with anybody. And I do believe there is more to come, so either way, I win.


Roger Harris of Canada writes:

I agree that the last line in An Old Captivity was not an allusion to the fourth stanza of "The Fallen".
While I suppose anything is possible, it seems highly unlikely that Shute would just toss in such a reference, completely out of context.
The fourth stanza of "The Fallen" has been faithfully recited at every Remembrance Day (Nov. 11th) and Battle of the Atlantic Sunday (first Sunday in May) ceremony that I have attended.
However, I think it's fair to say that, in Canada, it is not "the most remembered and significant piece of poetry in our culture".
The latter honour would go to "In Flanders Fields", which is always recited in full (usually by a child);
To read the poem click here.

Editor's Comment: In Flanders Field is equally prominent in Australia. For The Fallen is, I believe, particularly well known for its specific attachment to The ANZAC Day Ceremonies we have in Australia and New Zealand on April 25th. Shute was involved with many post WW1 military burial parties and I often wonder if those poems were used at military burials immediately after WW1 or did the tradition only grow with time ?


Mike Blamey of The UK writes:

Almost my last act as an undergraduate at ST Andrews was to attend a lecture by Lord Brabazon in May 1964, at which I do recall he talked about the difference between the decision making 'times' of an aircraft pilot and that of an airship pilot!
At landing, the first must make split second decisions...the airship pilot has minutes, even a quarter-of-an-hour sometimes to decide on what to do in any particular circumstance.
I recall that Barbazon was introduced as the man who held both the UK's drivers AND pilots licence No 1.

Editor's Comment: I wonder if he also got Speeding Ticket No.1?
This reminds me of a Believe it or Not story I read that in 1902 there were only two cars in the whole US state of Nebraska. And they crashed into each other.


John Anderson writes:

The "Shute Weekend in Oxford" is on the 13th-14th May.
We will be visiting the Dragon School with a guided tour by the keeper of their archives followed by lunch and a walk into Oxford to Balliol College, the Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera.
The reunion dinner will be at the Cherwell Boathouse restaurant overlooking the river.
On Sunday we will finish with lunch at the Trout Inn by the river Thames (as mentioned in Pied Piper). The weekend will be an excellent opportunity to visit those places that Shute held in great affection, and where he spent many of his formative years.
Already we have 18 people coming, including some who have never been to a Nevil Shute event before.
This is not exclusively for UK enthusiasts - we will have Shutists from the Netherlands, the USA and Australia in the group.
Places are limited but if you would like to join us, or want more information, please contact John Anderson on
It promises to be an interesting weekend!

Editor's Comment: John will also be providing information on side trips you can make on the way there or back. I have suggested all should drive up old Dashwood Hill at 20 mph. This is something Shute wrote about in both Stephen Morris and Pilotage. Clearly his car was incapable of more than 20mph at that time and he rather enjoyed the fact.


Derek Hill of Australia has written that as the file is too big to email, those who have not heard the BBC Great Lives programme on Shute can find it here on his website.

The instructions are:
Point your browser to and follow the instructions to download (remember to right-click, otherwise you'll start streaming it in Windows Media Player). The file is an mp3 so it will play in Windows Media Player or in iTunes, or you can put it on a CD (or on your iPod). If you have any problems, let Derek know.

From your webmeister: If you have a Mac, you can download with Safari. Same rule applies: Right-click (control-click), select 'Download Linked File', wait for the file to download, then play it with iTunes. It's a 37MB file, so if you have a dialup connection be prepared for a wait.

Derek continues: If you enjoy the programme, you may be interested in listening to other BBC Radio 4 programmes - surely the best radio entertainment in the world today (without advertisements). You can find it at


Charles Dalton has written that we can read a speech given in Canada by Major Scott, the captain of R100, by clicking here.
In the speech he speaks of building airships half as big again as R100. I suggest you have a decent meal with some friends and a good few drinks and get one of your friends to read the speech while you smoke a cigar and sip a brandy with your eyes closed and Voila! You will be in Canada in 1930.


Andy Banta of The USA writes:

I recently purchased a copy of Pastoral with an inscription from the author (in pencil) to Muhammad Ali; the date is June 1945.
This is the time when Shute was in India and Burma.
I would like to identify the original owner of the book.
Obviously it wasn't the Muhammad Ali also known as Cassius Clay but I find there are at least three other possibilities: Chaudhry, Boorga or Jinnah Muhammad Ali.
All three are connected with establishing the nation of Pakistan.
Can anyone help me determine which person is the most likely candidate?

Editor's Comment: It's easy to see possible links between this contact and Shutes interest in Eastern religions which was soon reflected in The Chequer Board and Round the Bend.
The Shute Timeline that was constructed from whatever sources have been available suggests that Shute was in India and Burma in April and May 1945 but was in back in England in "Summer" of 1945.
Naturally he could easily still have been in India in the beginning of June or any of the possible recipients could equally easily have been in England at that time.
I love a puzzle.


John Anderson has written that he is further researching the Snapper incident which is believed to be the basis for Landfall. John writes:

There are a number of websites that mention the accidental bombing of HMS Snapper by an Anson. Most mention the "4 broken light bulbs". Some also give the date as December 1939. I suspect that many of these sites probably copy information from each other, so did it really happen?

The only way to find out is to look at Snapper's log books and also the reports from 206 Squadron which was operating Ansons for Coastal Command at that time.
Both the sub's log books and 206 squadron reports are in the N.A. (The British National Archives)
If it never happened then how did this story arise? If it did happen what were the circumstances, where did it happen etc. etc.
One reference mentions Pilot Officer Harper of 206 squadron getting the DFC for his attack on a surfaced U Boat on 3rd December 1939 when flying an Anson.
Are these two things somehow related?
December 1939 would tie in so neatly with Shute's meetings on the Toraplane. If there was an accidental attack was there an enquiry? (the Navy would hardly take kindly to one of their ships being mistaken for an enemy). Yet I can find no enquiry reports in the N.A. Database.

John then wrote again with this detailed account of his further research:

The Submarine background to "Landfall"
In Landfall Jerry Chambers flies a patrol over the English Channel on the 3rd of December 1939 in his Anson.
He reads the notice the night before that no submarines are to be attacked in particular zones on that day.
Towards the end of his patrol he attacks and sinks a submarine in the channel.
Just before the attack he calculates that the submarine is not within the prohibited zone and that he can attack it.
The day before his squadron had been criticised by the Navy for not spotting a German submarine that has sunk the merchant vessel Lochentie.
Chambers thus believes he has accounted for the German submarine that sank Lochentie.
Later he is accused of sinking HMS Caranx and the plot of the book develops from there. From the declaration of war on 3rd September 1939 British submarines were used to patrol the North Sea keeping watch for German vessels operating in those waters.
On the 5th September 1939 HMS Sturgeon was returning to Rosyth naval base on the Forth of Firth when she was attacked twice by enemy aircraft at 16:20 and 16:42 and suffered minor damage.
Later that same day HMS Seahorse was also on return passage in the same area and was attacked at 20:07 by "our own aircraft".
The submarine was machined gunned from an aircraft and 4 bombs were dropped. The submarine immediately dived and stayed on the bottom for 2 hours.
By 6th September both submarines had returned to Rosyth.
The mistaken attack on Seahorse was carried out by Anson aircraft of No.500 Squadron, Coastal Command based at Detling in Kent.
I have checked these events from the both submarines' log books for September 1939 and also from the Admiralty records of "Loss and damage to H.M. Submarines fom 1939-1941" They were genuine cases of an accidental attack due to mistaken identification by the aircrew.

This brings us to the case of HMS Snapper.
A number of websites say that "The British submarine HMS Snapper was hit, in December 1939, by error, by a British 45kg bomb. It shattered four light bulbs". HMS Snapper was operating out of Harwich on diving patrol in the North Sea.
The submarine's log book for Sunday 3rd December 1939 records the following:
09:51 Surfaced set course 160° 10knots to return to zone H
10:15 Aircraft sighted bearing 160° Dived.
10:16 2 bombs heard to explode fairly close to submarine but causing no serious damage. Bottomed at 87 feet. Proceeded course 120° 4.5 knots at 55ft.
15:48 Surfaced. set course 020° 5 knots.

Snapper's location was 53°19'N 4°20'E North of the Dutch Frisian Islands
On Tuesday 5th December Snapper returned to Harwich at the end of her patrol.
Later in the month Snapper departed again for another North Sea patrol that lasted until January 1940. This patrol was routine with no other incidents like the one above recorded.

So the question arises as to whether the Snapper incident was in fact another case of an accidental attack by a friendly aircraft. If it had been then it would probably have been included in the Admiralty record quoted above.
However this record has no reference to HMS Snapper.
Also the bearing of the attacking aircraft in Snapper's log is given as 160 degrees, that is approaching from the Dutch coast.

However another website indicates that Pilot Officer Harper of 206 Squadron "earned a DFC for his attack on a surfaced U-boat on the 3rd December in the same year." i.e. 1939.

I have checked the Combat Reports for 206 Squadron which gives details of all actions against the enemy. There are reports of action against enemy aircraft for October and November 1939 but there is no combat report for 3rd December 1939.
206 Squadron was based at Bircham Newton in North Norfolk flying Avro Anson patrols over the North Sea. Pilot Officer Harper is mentioned in a report for action on 8th November as being the co-pilot of the Anson in an attack on a Heinkel 115.
It seems more likely therefore that the attack on Snapper was by an enemy aircraft. I suspect that the "4 broken light bulbs" might actually refer to the minor damage sustained by HMS Seahorse on 5th September.

Nevil Shute was occupied during this time with his work on the Toraplane. He was present at T.D.D. Committee meetings in October, November and December 1939 at which both senior Naval and RAF officers were present. Although still a civilian (he did not enlist in the RNVR until June 1940), I suspect that he got wind of these incidents and became aware of tensions between the Navy and RAF. Certainly Naval thinking at this time was that it should take over operational control of Coastal Command.


Richard Wynn of The UK writes:

I went with my son today to the Book Mecca Hay-on-Wye for a browse around.
I was keen to add to my Heinemann NSN editions in hardback, and while I managed to find three, I was surprised by the woman shopkeeper who unlocked a glass cupboard and said, 'Have a look at this' - it was a signed copy of A Town Like Alice, and though it lacked a dust cover it was priced at, wait for it...£200!
Being a little out of my league, I thought I'd pass it on to someone else who might be interested.

Editor's Comment: It sounds like a bit of a try-on to me but then again, in a free market, the market decides.
If I found a signed copy of Marazan with a dust jacket I would pay that much and more.
200 British Pounds is about 350 US Dollars or about 470 Australian Dollars or 36,049.20 Albanian Leke.
Would any of our booksellers like to speculate a value?
It seems this is a perennial and unanswerable question.


Grant Petersen of The USA has specialty bicycle shop called Rivendell Bicycle Works but also wants to sell Shute books in his shop.
Grant has found that his source of bulk books, House of Stratus has disappeared and asked where he can get new Shute books in bulk orders of 100 or more copies of different titles.
I was embarrassed to say I haven't a clue.
I have made some initial inquiries but if anyone knows how it all works please let us know.
I realise that we don't even have a direct link to Shute's publishers and that I don't really know the ins and outs of publishing.

Editor's Comment: I wonder if Grant's bicycle-and-book shop is anywhere the hardware-and-shellfish-shop or the real-estate-and-cream-cakes-shop ? Seriously though, it sounds a great idea and I have noticed similar mercantile diversifications in other areas lately.


Laura Schneider writes

We're all set for our 2007 conference in Alice Springs!
Having literally just gotten off the plane from Australia, the information here is brief but hot off the presses.
The mayor of Alice Springs, Fran Kilgariff, was very generous with her time and I'm pleased to report she is very enthusiastic about our coming to Alice Springs. It was a major highlight of Portsmouth to be able to hear Mayor Kilgariff's memorable and entertaining speech at the UK2003 banquet!
While in Alice Springs, I met many people from all walks of life who are now excited about our upcoming Conference.
The local ABC radio station interviewed me about it and they wanted to know all about the NSN Foundation.
The Manager of Library Services at the Alice Springs Public Library assured me the Nevil Shute Memorial Garden will be completed before we arrive.
Our Conference site has been chosen and my hope is to have all the information up on the NSN web site in the very near future. I look forward to sharing specific details with you in the next newsletter and on the web site.


This month I am writing from Shanghai.
Instead of Sydney's Summer sunshine, it's cold and rainy outside but I am finding the Chinese a truly warm and delightful group of people.
You'd think they must already all be Shute readers to be so nice.
However they do have the hardest beds in the world.
I'm certainly noticing that there are a lot of Chinese in Shanghai and at rush hour they all try to get in my carriage on the subway.
I hope you all enjoy the upcoming equinox. It's one of my favourite times of the year because the sun comes up and sets at the same time of day (6am and 6pm) everywhere in the world and that has a kind absurdly unifying feeling for me.
So, just for me, everybody has to gets up at 6am on March 21st or 22nd and watch the sunrise.
Then you can all go back to bed again.
Richard Michalak
Nevil Shute Foundation Newsletter Editor and Historian


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


Jim Wells lives in Lindfield, Sydney
Richard Michalak lives in Paddington, Sydney


Julian Stargardt


Bruce A Clarke lives in Bangkok


Jim & Kristi Woodward live in Broken Arrow (east of Tulsa), Oklahoma, USA.
Priscilla Pruitt lives near Bellingham, Washington State
(Priscilla will move to Thousand Oaks near LA in 2006)
Bill McCandless lives in Joliet near Chicago.