Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated August 2009


Editor: In this Newsletter you'll find the last answers to Joy Hogg's questions. I don't know if she felt how many reactions there were to her questions, but last month she send me a new question, which you will find later in the Newsletter. So please react to this new question, and we can continue Joy Hogg's questions as a newsletter item.


Which book "hooked" me on Shute and why did it have that effect ?

"In the Wet." I picked it up at a corner dairy from the paperbacks exchange shelves in 1969 when we lived in New Zealand. I was captivated by Shute's style of storytelling and his vision of the future, as set out in that book - written in 1950 about "Stevie's" (David Anderson's) exploits in the "future." I was in awe of his writings about jet air liners, the situation between the royalty and the commonwealth - with the Royalty fleeing to Canada, and the systems of multiple votes (=SHOCKING!=)- set in the mid 1970's - but written 25 years prior !

My favorite: "The Ruined City" (aka "Kindling") The look at the real world and the gritty way folks struggled to live after the war in Britain, and the determination of the Henry Warren to get a town on its feet again was very inspiring.

Shute is one author whose books I've read and re-read several times - I think I may have read the above two books about 6 times each !


My first encounter with NS was via Slide Rule, which I read as a teenager. Then came Beyond the Black Stump and Trustee from the Toolroom. Throughout my life I have collected and read and re-read Nevil's books with unflagging enjoyment and interest. I have a fascination with desert country, the people who exist in them and the sheer fortitude required to survive such arduous conditions.

Nevil's engineering background strikes a chord with me, as does his interest in aviation and boats. I am by nature a philosopher and by practice an automotive engineer, running the best dam carburetor reconditioning and repair shop on the African continent, meanwhile restoring and building cars and doing a little circuit racing from time to time, plus building and sailing boats. Nevil was intrigued by his adopted home country Australia, and his books reflect his high regard for those hardy individuals who peopled the outback.


I have read every one of the Shute novels. I first discovered A Town Called Alice and then Trustee from the Toolroom and was hooked. I greedily grabbed every new title I could find. Was really pleased to see some of them made into movies. I managed to see all of those as well.

I was particularly intrigued by the aircraft maintenance policies. Completely dismantling an aircraft and rebuilding for certification was fascinating. Nothing like that here in the U.S.


I'm writing this having just got back from the 6th International Nevil Shute Conference in York last week. And what a week it was ! 40 or so Shutists from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe gathered to discuss the life and work of our favorite author. For about 10 people this was their first time at one of these events and I was particularly pleased to welcome them. I was also delighted that Heather Mayfield, the Foundation President, and her son Keith were also there.

Sunday. This began with setting up the displays and exhibits, the PA system and all the necessary items for the Conference. In the afternoon people began arriving and Laura did a great job checking them in and providing them with their Conference bags with an assortment of goodies. The evening reception provided the opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.

Monday. A full day of presentations with David Weir providing the keynote address. There followed Alison Jenner, John Anderson, Andy Banta and Shoshana Knapp who covered a variety of topics on the literary and historical aspects. During the lunch break Peter Willis, editor of "Classic Boat" magazine, talked about the research for his article on Nevil Shute's boat "Runagate"

Tuesday. Our excursion day began with a visit to Sherburn Aero Club, home in the 1920's to Yorkshire Aeroplane Club where Nevil was a Director. This is very much a thriving aero club and we had a chance to look around the facilities and were treated to a spectacular aerobatic display by one of the pilots. We also had the opportunity to view a restored Tiger Moth aircraft in the hangar. The next port of call was to Yorkshire Air Museum beginning with lunch and a welcome by the Director, Ian Reed. Their new "Pioneers in Aviation" exhibition is still a work in progress but we were able to see the display panels for Nevil Shute and Airspeed, newly mounted, as well as the fine collections of aircraft in the museum.

In the evening we returned to Elvington for the "Pastoral Party" hosted by Flight Lieutenant Peter Marshall and Section Officer Gervase Robertson (a.k.a. Phil and Jill Nixon) We were served a wartime dinner, though not wartime quantities, and Paul Harper provided excellent '40s style entertainment and music for dancing. He was so enthusiastic that we would be there still if we hadn't drawn the party to a close to get the bus back to the hotel later than scheduled. I draw a veil over Wing Commander Anderson's trousers falling down at a critical moment as we arrived back !

Wednesday. A second full day of excellent presentations by Laura Schneider, Andy Burgess, Ken Deacon and Beall Fowler, again covering a wide range of topics. Chris Henderson of the Barnes Wallis Trust kindly showed the archive film of the building of R.100 with Barnes Wallis's commentary - an opportunity for everyone to see this unique footage.

Thursday. Dividing into 3 groups, we had a walking tour of York each group with an expert guide from the Voluntary Guides of York. Of course we saw Shute and Airspeed related sites, the old garage, Piccadilly Chambers, the Solicitor's office and the site of the St Leonards Club, but much else of York's history was described by the Guides. Some viewed the house in Clifton, the Norway's first married home. The afternoon was free to explore York. Some headed to the Railway Museum, others to the Yorvik centre and some to the magnificent Minster.

At the Conference Banquet in the evening our guest speaker, Mary Stopes-Roe, (Barnes Wallis's daughter) talked about the early days at Howden, quoting from her mother's letters written at the time, which gave a charming insight into life of the airship station at that time. For me it was a great pleasure to introduce Mary to Heather, two daughters of famous men who had both been born in York but who had never met before.

Friday. A final day of presentations. Phil Nixon with a visual guided tour of Yorkshire locations in the books and Colin Cruddas, an aviation historian, describing the history of aviation between the wars with reference to Alan Cobham. After lunch Laura hosted the popular "Reading Nevil Shute" where people read favourite passages from the novels. Finally it was time to close the Conference and pass a symbolic baton to the United States with plans that the next event in 2011 will be in Seattle.

My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who came and made the Conference what it was, honoured guests, attendees, presenters, staff at the Yorkshire Air Museum, Sherburn Aero Club, Voluntary Guides, hotel staff, etc. For many it was, to quote Richard Michalak's letter, "like coming home to somewhere you've never been before". Also it was an event that will live long in my memory and I hope in the memories of all those who were there.

John Anderson.



My book club did "A Town Like Alice" and I was able to hand out copies for everyone to keep. As they were non-Shutists, I was eager and anxious to hear what they thought. I lead the discussion, as you have to do if you suggest the book.

We were all taken aback by the racism of the day towards the blacks. They found his writing so slow to develop the plot, but were delighted by certain turns of phrase, such as "He shall not make old bones" or "the ashes of a dead love". They enjoyed the story. There was discussion as to whether Noel was in love, initially, with Jean and whether or not he should have stayed in Australia with them at the end. I informed them that the original title had been The Legacy and we ended the club meeting with a discussion about legacies and I asked each of them what theirs might be. Most people don't think about that, but I do think Jean did.

So here's my next question for the group. What has been the reaction to a Shute book by new readers of his work ?

Editor: In the July Newsletter Art Cornell had a question about the filing system, that is used in libraries. Allen Parmet has the answer (below).


As a library page (not the paper type, but rather the person who fetches and files books) back in the 1960s, I had to know the filing system, Dewey's 1873 catalogue system. The system is very specific for non-fiction topics with a three digit-decimal-multidigit code for the specific topic. Fiction books are not assigned numbers but filed separately, alpha by author. The author's real name and not pen name is used, so pages had to find Mark Twain under Samuel Clemens, Isak Dinneson under Karen Blixen, Nevil Shute under Norway. The correct filing for a Shute book like Chequer Board (1947) would read:


F for fiction, NOR being the first three letters of the author's name, then year of publication. A, B and C suffixes for more than one book in that year. Art has a variant, full last name, then the numeric entry of fiction books with N as author's last name (basically the 892nd N-book purchased), then Br for British. Basically alpha by author under the heading of N.


The pennant shown on your website (and in the article in the latest edition of Classic Boat magazine) as being the pennant from Shute's yacht Runagate is the burgee of the Blackwater Sailing Club (founded 1899) Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Essex. See The arms depicted on the burgee are in fact those of the former Borough of Maldon and have been used by the club since the 1920s.

Is it actually recorded that Nevil Shute flew this burgee? If he did, it would imply that he was a member of the Blackwater Sailing Club, which seems unlikely given that he lived on the South Coast. It is more likely that perhaps he visited the Blackwater Sailing Club and exchanged burgees, a practice common at that time.

Look forward to hearing from you

Michael Ferrier

Former Commodore, Blackwater Sailing Club

Editor: Gary and Mary-Ann Swinson visited Herefordshire, prior to coming to York. They sent the following email. They have sent a lot of info as an attachment to the email, which I have send to our webmaster David.


Just before heading to York 2009, Mary Ann and I visited the home of Mr. Vivien Weaver in Winforton, Herefordshire. Mr Weaver resides in the bungalow that was once the laboratory for Prof. Thomas Merton who conducted many secret experiments on behalf of the British Govt. in the years leading up to and during WW II. The garage area in the bungalow once housed the water tanks used by Barnes Wallis to perfect his bounding bomb. This fact is not well known, even to local residents of Winforton.

The whole text of Gary's article is available if anyone would like it - just email me. David Dawson-Taylor, Webmaster


I suppose many Shutists have read John G. Fuller's fine non-fiction book "The Airmen Who Would Not Die". It is a non-fiction story of early British Airmen and the doomed R-101 airship. As you recall, the rival R-100 is a big part of "Slide Rule" and the books fit together nicely.


In 1954 the Shell Film Unit made a black and white documentary "The Back of Beyond", depicting the trials of a carrier service carrying goods and mail between Marree (near Lake Eyre) and Birdsville (Queensland), crossing some 500km of never-never track. The film is based on real life capture of events, with a little dramatic invention thrown in, but no Hollywood style special effects. Just raw bush adventure made all the more fascinating because these guys did the trip on a regular basis twice a month. The truck driver Tom Kruse comes across as a true to life immensely capable person who will stop at nothing to get his job done. The documentary is riveting reporting of factual events with little if any embellishment and comes across with an impact that is totally different from modern news casting and reporting. Nevil would have appreciated it.

I saw this film in the late 1960s and tried with avail to get a copy. I have since discovered that this film is available from the National Film and Sound Archive (Australia). However one day in 1982 a customer who was moving house delivered a box of junk to my workshop. He remarked that he knew I was an old movie fan and that he had put in the box a reel of 16mm film. You have to believe this - a complete 16mm copy of The Back of Beyond, except that this is the Afrikaans commentary version titled "Die Verre Dorsland" (The far away thirsty country). Afrikaans is the bastard child of the Dutch language, akin to Fanagalo (a South African Esperanto miners language), and concocted by the early Dutch settlers of South Africa to communicate with the lower (indigenous) classes. It has been said that if you are a native Afrikaans speaker you can go anywhere in the world and not be understood. This is not strictly true. I knew a Belgian lady once who could understand "die taal" even though she could not speak it. So, if you have a little Dutch, you will be able to follow the Afrikaans commentary.

I would like to see my copy of this remarkable film go to a good home. Any takers ? For free ! (you pay the shipping)


Wow, what a grant time did we have in York. If, in the Netherlands, you really think that somebody did a great job we say "Petje af" (which means something like "I take my hat off" in English). So for John and his team "Petje af" you have done a great job. In 2011 we'll meet again in Seattle. A very important task task for the organizers of that will be that we all go to Seattle in Washington state, and not to Settle in Yorkshire, as Alan Duncan did.


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


Jim Wells Lindfield, Sydney
Richard Michalak Paddington, Sydney
Ruth Pearson Adelaide
Neil Wynes Morse Canberra
James Fricker Melbourne
Tommy and Polly Thomas Tumbi Umbi, NSW
Jane Lowe Berridale, NSW


Mike Marsh Chepelare


Harvey Fetterly Winnipeg, Manitoba


Joost Meulenbroek Enschede


Julian Stargardt


Gadepalli Subrahmanyam Vizianagaram


Robert Davis


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
Bill McCandless lives in Joliet near Chicago.
Joy Hogg, Harrietta Michigan (northern lower Michigan, near Traverse City and Cadillac)
David B. Horvath, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Al Benkelman Warrenton, Virginia
Mary L Barnich St Petersburg, Florida
Art Cornell Cape Cod
Bob King Stanwood, WA
Dave Penniman Newtonville, NY
Jim MacDougald St Petersburg, Florida
Alan Gornik Western Springs, IL
Bob Schwalbaum Honolulu
Mike Miller Chariton, IA
Sally M Chetwynd Wakefield, Massachusetts
John Cooper San Antonio, Texas
Barry Barnes Reno NV
Jim Sterling Modesto, California
Kit Lauen Edina Mn (Minneapolis)
Steve King 30 miles north of Seattle
George Norcross New Mexico
Merle Bedell Buford, Georgia
LauraSchneider New Jersey, Eastern PA, New York