Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated December 2009


What does one say to encourage a person to read a Shute book ?

From Mills & Nancy Dyer

I like the recommendation of Gadepalli Subrahmanyam (November Newsletter) of getting someone to read just one Shute novel as a way of turning them on to NSN. However, I would be hesitant to use "Trustee from the Toolroom" because it is the last of Shute's novels and may be one of the best. Thus reading the other novels afterward might not live up to the strengths of Trustee. Therefore, I would use one of the earlier novels. In my opinion, the first really good story (and one of my favorites) is "Lonely Road" / "Kindling." I would skip "What Happened to the Corbetts" / "Ordeal" which is somewhat of a diatribe on Britain's lack of war preparedness. But the others from the early 1940's are good.("Most Secret" is a little gory.)

Editor: Mills & Nancy send a copy of their email to Gadepalli Subrahmanyam. Here is the reaction:-

From Gadepalli Subrahmanyam

Your point is well taken about TFTT being his best.

Sometimes, a blockbuster novel suddenly makes its appearance and then the reputation of the author is made. Thereafter, even if he/she churns out prosaic stuff, it would have some momentum. The point in question was, how to make new readers take to NS. I selected TFTT for its sheer readability.

I do agree with you regarding the content of Most Secret. For that matter even Pied Piper, was sad reading for the pathos of the main plot.

Hence, I strongly recommend TFTT as starts to wonderful NS reading pleasure.

Thanks for sharing your views.


There are 2 news items from the board of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation this month.

  1. The 2009 Aviation scholarship award has been presented. Dan Telfair presented this award on behalf of the Foundation to a very young pilot, Mike Williams. You can find more about this at:

  2. Dan Telfair has stepped down as Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Foundation. These functions will now be carried out by John Anderson of the UK as his designated successor. Dan will remain on the board as a member. Almost 12 years ago Dan began planning the Centennial, and then established the Foundation. Without him there would never have been a Nevil Shute Norway Foundation. Dan, I'm sure that I speak for many Shutists when I thank you very much for all that you have done. Your contribution has been second to none. Hopefully we will meet you at many future conferences.

Letters to the Editor

From Sherill Anderson

Hi there ! I am rereading Pied Piper and enjoying it so much! It has everything: humor, sadness, trepidation, adventure, romance, WW2 history. Someone said in last month's newsletter that Nevil Shute was not a great writer. I think he was!

From Father Daniel Beegan

I was wondering if anyone could help me in my quest for a set of Nevil Shute's novels? I would appreciate a recommendation of a book seller, or, of course, if someone wanted to sell their own collection having no one in their family that would appreciate them.

I must say I did not find the novel On the Beach depressing at all. The characters met their Maker with class and grace. The cinema version messed it all up, but that's typical and not Mr. Norway's fault or responsibility.

Again, I am so pleased to have found this wonderful group of people. I discovered Nevil Shute, courtesy of Capt. Bill, at a rough patch in my life. Bill knew that, living right up the road, and figured Mr. Shute would be a good cure. He was.

From Alison Jenner

In response to your item from David Vaughan about the grim books, can I say that I have recently read The Road by Cormac McCarthy as the choice for my (non-NSN focused) book group. It was recommended by a member who from time to time does recommend what I call "vein-openers," because when you've read them you want to open a vein and end it all. This was indeed one such. It is probably the grittiest, most horrible book I have ever had occasion to read, including the majority of the books in the ABE list (I have not read the Elie Wiesel or Toni Morrison books); the others, although quite depressing, preserved a bit more of the hopeful spirit that sustains me and also gave much to think about. I only managed to finish The Road because I was hoping to find some balm in it; and there was a little at the end. It certainly made me reassess Shute's On the Beach, which I had previously thought was the bleakest post-apolcayptic novel to be had.

The characters in OTB are doomed, and yet they retain much of their civilised values and behaviour even in their twilight days, with some outstanding quirkiness. I like quirky. Is it a question of Shute's 1950s Australians being more well-behaved than 2000s Americans ? Or is the modern book the more realistic because the characters in The Road are reduced to neanderthal, hunter-gathering savagery ? So: post apocalyptics: On the Beach, doomed but not degraded; The Road, degraded and probably doomed. Any other suggestions ? My other post-apocalypse reads, which I am happy to re-read, unlike The Road, include Richard Matheson's I am Legend, which has recently been made into a film, Margaret Atwood's novels The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake and PD James' Children of Men; John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes, The Day of the Triffids, and The Chrysalids. These also are very quirky.

Then I thought, when you have read a book as depressing as the McCarthy, what about antidotes to these dystopian visions ? The book I read yesterday (again, for the book group!) and am currently going round pushing at people is the wonderful The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows which I read in a Shute frame of mind. It is a book about reading, and has a gentle playfulness, even dealing with the Occupation during WWII, and I feel sure that Shutists will appreciate it.

From Chris Philips

John Homersham asks "Why does the author refer to alligators rather than crocodiles ?"

The answer may be that the Australian Saltwater Crocodile is as large as, and resembles, an alligator, and in 1950, when ATLA was written, many people may have still thought of it as such. The Wiki entry on the Saltwater Crocodile says:

"The Saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest of all living reptiles. It is found in suitable habitats throughout Southeast Asia, Northern Australia, the Eastern coast of India and the surrounding waters. The Alligator Rivers of Northern Australia are misnamed due to the resemblance of the saltwater crocodile to alligators as compared to freshwater crocodiles, which also inhabit the Northern Territory."

If I remember correctly NS travelled in the Northern Territory before writing the book, where the locals may have referred to the beasts (incorrectly) as Alligators.

From Paul Spoff

Hello everyone, I received a couple of reply's to my question about the "Bebeda Commodore" cocktail in the bio Slide Rule. I'd have to say that Mr. Chris Phillips answer in last months News Letter seems to make the most sense. "Hi, I'd like a "drink drink commodore" please." Grin, doesn't have quite the same ring as a Bebeda Commodore. Someday when I'm out and feeling flush, I'll have to order a Commodore and see what I think of it. Thanks for the help.

From Owen Hurrell

I belong to a discussion forum interested in UK WWII airfields and we have had it brought to our attention that the airfield featured in the "Landfall" film has never, to our knowledge, been identified. We have surmised that it may be Ford, Llanber or Thorney Island. Thorney Island being unlikely as the type of hangar shown in the film was never errected at Thorney island.

Given that you are the experts on Mr Shute we hoped you would be able to shed some light on the question. Or at worst perhaps point me in a direction of further investigation.

From Philip Nixon

Editor: Philip send me the following, very interesting article:-

"Extract Digit" - Shute fiction and fact

I was reading a biography on the Battle of Britain Ace, Ginger Lacy, by Richard Townsend Bickers, ((Ginger Lacey -Fighter Pilot. Richard Townsend Bickers 1997 (1962) ISBN 0 7090 6095 5) when I read a bit that got me diving for a copy of The Chequer Board. This lead to a bit of nosing around and here's what I found.

James "Ginger" Lacey, who happens to also come from near Harrogate, was Commanding Officer of No. 17 Squadron flying Mark 8 Spitfires in Burma. In the book it recounts the following; "They were patrolling over Rangoon every day, and at last came the morning when the city was in flames as the Fourteenth Army shelled and the Allied Air Forces bombed it. May 1st, 1945. Not long after, the patrolling pilots saw, in huge white letters on the roof of the gaol, the message 'Japs gone'. And, to authenticate the information and dispel suspicion that it was enemy bait to draw the forces into Rangoon, another message was painted on an adjoining roof: 'Extract digit'."

Of course, you will recall the story told within The Chequer Board (Chapter six); "At dawn they set about communicating with the RAF aircraft patrolling above the city. Morgan and others got a long ladder and got on to the roof of their block, and with lime-ash painted in huge letters - JAPS GONE. They were rewarded by a Mosquito which came down to a thousand feet and circled round, photographing what they had done. Later in the morning they became apprehensive that the High Command might think their sign a Jap ruse. They searched their minds for a code message which would carry conviction, and in their impatience for release they had no hesitation in framing a rude one. They got up on the other side of the pitched roof and painted in large letters, EXTRACT DIGIT. A Thunderbolt came by and waggled its wings at them."

So NSN was typically basing his fiction on fact again. In Nevil Shute - War Correspondent - Articles written by NSN in 1944 and 1945 there is a covering letter, dated May 3rd 1945, to Grafton Greene at the Ministry of Information about "a second article" (without title) sent just three days after the Rangoon Jail event. In this article Shute writes, "The prisoners who were left in Rangoon jail put up a large notice on the roof yesterday, which read JAPS GONE. A Mosquito of the R.A.F. flew over and photographed this notice."

This real life event is told further on a website by a chap who was researching his grandfather's service in Burma during the war ..."The Story of Arthur Leslie Howney, My Chindit Grandfather", by Steve Fogden from which I extract the following:

"The allied forces rightly expected the Japanese to do what they had always done and fight to the last man in the city. But for some reason the Japanese commander, General Kimura, abandoned the city well before the 14th Army got near. For this I am sure he was vilified when facing his superiors, but as he was hanged by the verdict of the War Crimes committee, I suppose this matters little. This left the prisoners in the jail to face a tricky dilemma, how were they going to convince the allied bombers that the jail was now in their own hands. They achieved this, but not before they were bombed several times, by placing a message on the roof of one of the cellblocks. This message 'extract digit' was code that the RAF understood and could only have been placed by a captive airman."

The men could think of nothing worse than to be killed by their own side having survived all that POW life had thrown at them in the past year or two. I have it on good authority that the graffiti artist on Rangoon Jail roof was John Wilde, a Lieutenant in the British Army. It is true to say here that SEAC had agreed amongst headquarters that if the bombing of targets known to have POW's nearby was deemed necessary, that the raids would take place regardless of the consequences to the Allied prisoners!"


From the Netherlands, where it is still much too warm, even if the temperature is finally going down, Happy Holidays, and see you all next year.

PS. I'm afraid, that next months Newsletter will be a little late, as I will be skiing in Austria.


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


Håkan Larsson lives in Löberöd


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