Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated August 2012

Letters to the Editor

From Chris & Penny Morton

For this month we'll simply ask Shutists to please use the numbers below to tell us:

How likely is it that you'll be coming to Tasmania in October 2013 and, if 'yes', 'probably' or 'hope to', how many will be in your party ?

5Definitely !Number in party
4ProbablyNumber in party
3Hope to be thereNumber in party
2Not likely 

Please send answers, plus any comments or new ideas for the conference, to us at

From Richard Kidd

Re the last newsletter, this is an interesting thread about reindeer tails. gives you movie trailers to watch.

I had always pictured the Reindeer as being Nevil's interpretation of the Bristol Brabazon, however the cover illustration on a paperback copy of No Highway I have has the exact tail shape of the Hermes.

From Johan Bakker

Readers might want to know that on Sunday, July 1st, the only remaining airworthy DH53 Humming Bird G-EBHX crashed shortly after take-off from the airfield of the Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire, UK. Pilot Trevor Roach was killed instantly and the aircraft was extensively damaged.

Nevil Shute fans will recall that the DH53 was one of the first aircraft designs that he worked on during his time with De Havilland, and that he personally calculated the parameters for the design of the propeller. A prototype of the propeller he designed was one of NSN-s personal mementos throughout his later life, and is now owned by a Nevil Shute fan who is well-known to many of us.


Further to the report in last months Newsletter regarding the trip Nevil Shute made with James Riddell in 1948 to Australia.

There is a fascinating account of this trip in Riddell's book Flight of Fancy published by Robert Hale in 1950. The book includes a description of how the journey came about and 69 photos + route maps. It also has the specification of "Item Willie". Great photo of Shute with Koala ! I have a first printing of this book available for sale if anyone is interested. Please email me for further details.


Requiem for a Wren - The mystery of the lone Luftwaffe plane shot down by Wren Prentice.

I have been reading a book by Ray Gerard Smith a fighter pilot. He saw a lone luftwaffe plane shot down by 266 Squadron (Typhoons). The crew of the german plane was 2 more in number than the regular crew and these were wearing ground staff uniform. Personal items not usually carried by aircrew were found including a brothel ticket ! A POW from the same squadron was interviewed by intelligence officers. He stated that it was not unknown for a bomber stationed in France to locate to another airfield in Holland before a raid on London. They would carry ground crew with them. It was suggested that this was what had happened to the bomber but for some reason (? navigational) the bomber had flown north from its French base to end up over the Isle of Wight rather than north west to the airfield in Holland which would have been the expected flight plan. It was thought unlikely that it was an effort to surrender.

I apologize if this has been highlighted before in the newsletter but thought other readers may find interesting as this may give an explanation to the events which Shute describes.

From Ken England

You may care to insert this story which has a distant relation to "ATLA" in the newsletter. It's not terribly relevant but I've just finished writing it down for my father's benefit and I thought you may care to see it.

A Queensland mystery with a distant Shute connection. Though Mount Isa with a population of about 19,000 is now the main town in the north west of Queensland, for many years the much smaller and older former copper mining town, Cloncurry, had the main airport in the region. It was a centre for the fledgling QANTAS and the first flight of the Royal Flying Doctor Service took off from there in 1928. During the days of the pre-war Kangaroo Route, airliners leaving Brisbane landed in Cloncurry, then flew to Darwin and points north to London.

So it was at the outbreak of the Second World War Cloncurry became a fairly important air force base with plenty of military activity in the region. It's known that the late US President Lyndon Johnson passed through and he is said to have participated in a search for an aircraft crashed in the area.

By the late 1960s Cloncurry had a good all-weather airport with two runways with lights that could be turned on from aircraft cockpits for night landings, refueling facilities for light aircraft, and various terminal buildings. However, the airport was not manned at night.

Copper was first mined in Cloncurry in the 1870s but by the 1930s or so payable copper had been worked out. A number of small abandoned copper mines dot the area. Outcrops of good ore which are too small for large mining companies to bother with were still being worked on weekends in the 1960s. This copper gouging could be very profitable.

In 1969 I spent five months in the town working for the then Bank of New South Wales, now called Westpac. Like many of the other single young men in town, we used to eat meals at local hotels. The Post Office Hotel offered three meals a day, seven days a week for the princely sum of $21. These were two or three course meals. Soups, roasts, steak, sausages or ham and eggs for breakfast, corned beef fritters, desserts with ice cream, custard, fruit salad. How could you refuse?

That of course was the same hotel that "Jean Paget" rested in before finding her way to ""Willstown" in Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice".

In the 1960s and into the 1970s Queensland bush workers used to tell stories of how they knew someone who knew someone who had seen vast dumps of military equipment left over from the war and standing unattended "way out west". Being a sceptical sort, I used to take these yarns with a pretty large grain of salt.

Toward the end of my stay in Cloncurry, I was in the Post Office Hotel dining room with one of the other bank workers. Across the table from us were a man and his wife. He worked in the then Department of Civil Aviation and had come to the town to relieve the airport manager and his assistant as they took consecutive annual leave, a stay of about six or seven weeks.

He began to tell us of odd goings-on at the airport. On arrival at work one day, he found the runway lights had been used twice after the previous midnight. An aircraft had landed and taken off again soon after. On two other occasions a light aircraft had landed during the day and taxied off the end of the runway and stopped close to the airport fence. A few minutes later a truck appeared and someone got off the plane, stepped over the fence, and the truck drove off into scrub land. A hour or so later the truck re-appeared and the plane took off.

He became curious and in his lunch break went down to the area where the plane had stopped, stepped over the fence and walked of in the direction the truck had gone. He said he saw nothing, just some litter including a single, very old, very weathered boot.

I forgot the story for years but about 2003 I read "Not For Publication" by Chris Masters, the television and print journalist who blew the lid off official corruption in Queensland in the 1980s. One of the longer articles in the book mentions the appearance on the antique market of a large dinner service. This dinner service was in one of the station (ranch) homesteads in north western Queensland. After the entry of the Japanese into the Second World War and an invasion of northern Australia seemed possible, this service was supposed to have been hidden on the property but never recovered by the owners after the war.

More interesting perhaps was the fact that some criminals in Australia seemed to have ready access to illegal weapons, many of them military and of 1940s make. Mr Masters alleges that rifles, sub-machine guns etc. had been hurriedly dumped in old copper mines in north west Queensland instead of being trucked back to military stores after VJ day, 1945.

Am I seeing a connection where none exists ?? Perhaps.


Finally it is summer. I'm loving it. Temperature in Holland today 25°C (77°F). See you all next month