Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated February 2015

Letters to the Editor

FROM Alison Jenner

Thanks, everybody; I have had a very good initial response to my information last month about the Nevil Shute conference at Balliol College, Oxford this August-September. John Anderson is currently testing the RegOnline service and preparing the conference website, see . We expect the set-up to go live towards the end of February and I will send a direct email to everyone who has already been in touch once we are ready to take bookings. We are also looking for a few more speakers to complete our conference sessions.

FROM John W. Cooper

Types of “Flying Machines" in Nevil Shute's Marazan

Conjectures by John W. Cooper

In Nevil Shute's AUTHOR'S NOTE in the NEW EDITION 1931 (HEINEMANN) of Marazan, he states:

“It was written in the evenings while I was working at Crayford in Kent on the preliminary design of the airship R.100, as chief calculator, or mathematician. The whole book was written from start to finish three times, so it took me about eighteen months.”

This would be from the fall of 1924 through 1925.

“... The aircraft scenes were built up from my experience with the de Havilland Company in its very earliest days. The character Phillip Stenning derived from half a dozen pilots of that Company's Air Taxi service: in those pioneering days of civil aviation pilots had to be tough.”

In my second reading of Nevil's novel Marazan, that incorporates several types of airplanes, it is fun to conjecture what the types were in his mind's eye. The airplanes must be limited to those types in service in 1925 or earlier.

In Marazan there is one about which there is no conjecture:

(Page 163) “… It was was some time since I had flown a Thirty-four, ...”

de Havilland DH.34

The de Havilland DH.34 was a single engined British biplane airliner built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company in the early 1920s. 12 were built, with the DH.34 serving with Imperial Airways and its predecessors for several years.

The DH.34 had a wooden, plywood-clad fuselage, with the cockpit (for two pilots) being positioned ahead of the wings and the passenger cabin. It had two-bay wooden wings and was powered by a Napier Lion engine, which was fitted for inertia starting, avoiding the necessity for hand swinging of the propellor to start the engine.

The plane entered service with Daimler on 2 April 1922 on the Croydon - Paris service.

Daimler operated a total of six D.H.34s, four of which were leased from the Air Council, with Instone Air Line operating a further four, all leased. One aircraft was built to the order of the Soviet airline Dobrolyot.

When Imperial Airways was formed on 1 April 1924, by the merger of Daimler Airway,

Instone Air Line, Handley Page Transport and the British Marine Air Navigation Company, it inherited six D.H.34s, retaining the type in service until March 1926.

The DH.34s were used heavily on the cross channel air services, with the fleet flying

8,000 hours in the first nine months of operation, and the second aircraft flying over 100,000 mi without an overhaul.

Six D.H.34s were lost in accidents during the four years of their operation, of which several were fatal.

Now the conjectures begins.

(Page 1) “I came down from Manchester that afternoon at the conclusion of a photographic tour. It was a Wednesday , I remember, and a very hot day. I flew all the way in my shirtsleeves with my arms bare to the elbow, and without a helmet. Even so I was hot. The air was very bumpy so that we had a rough trip; from time to time I would look back at the photographer in the rear cockpit, ...”

Airco DH.9A

The Airco DH.9A was a British single-engined light bomber designed and first used shortly before the end of the First World War. It was a development of the unsuccessful Airco DH.9 bomber, with a strengthened structure, and crucially, replacing the underpowered and unreliable Siddeley Puma engine of the DH.9 with the American Liberty engine.

The DH.9 and DH.9A brought the pilot and observer, in the rear cockpit, closer together by placing the fuel tank in the usual place, between the pilot and the engine. The speaking tube linking the cockpits was of limited use.

As the Rolls-Royce Eagle engine used in the successful DH.4 was unavailable in sufficient quantities, the new 400 hp Liberty engine was chosen instead. 1,730 being built under the wartime contracts before production ceased in 1919.

Following the end of World War I, DH.9As, and earlier DH.4s and DH.4As, were used to operate scheduled passenger services in Europe by such airlines as Aircraft Transport and Travel, and Handley Page Transport. DH.9As were used by Aircraft Transport and Travel until it shut down in 1920, while Handley Page Transport continued operating theirs until 1921.

One was used by Instone Air Lines until its merger into Imperial Airways in 1924.

My second conjecture.

(Page 222) “I chose one of our light touring machines. She had a turn of speed of about a hundred and twenty miles an hour, and handled like a fighting scout. She had a cabin to seat four. ...”

De Havilland D.H.16

Early in 1919 the Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Ltd. were already considering the type of aircraft best suited to the era of civil flying which lay ahead. Experience gained in converting the rear cockpit of the military D.H.4 into a cabin for two passengers and successful operation of the resultant D.H.4A by R.A.F. Communications Squadrons, undoubtedly influenced their decision to build a somewhat larger machine in the same configuration. The D.H.16, Airco's first purely civilian type, was consequently built from D.H.9A instead of D.H.4 components and the rear fuselage was widened to seat four passengers in facing pairs in a glazed cabin.

Although powered by the 320 h.p. Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine of its predecessor, it was faster and carried four instead of two fare paying passengers.

The prototype first flew at Hendon in March 1919. In the following May it entered service with Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd. Although the D.H.16 was inspired by the military D.H.4A, it antedated the entry into service of the first civil D.H.4A by two and a half months.

On August 25, 1919, one inaugurated scheduled London - Paris service.

Before production ceased in June 1920, nine D.H.16s had been constructed, one of which was experimentally fitted with air brakes and flaps. One was sold in Argentina; but the remainder were used on the Continental services of Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd. The final three were fitted with the heavier and more powerful Napier Lion engine.

They were flown until the firm closed down in December 1920, its aircraft, including seven surviving D.H.I6s were stored in a Bessoneau hangar at Croydon, where all but two were broken up in 1922.

The exceptions, G-EALM and 'FT, were taken over by the de Havilland Aeroplane Hire Service* in 1922 after overhaul at Stag Lane. The D.H.16s were later based at Stag Lane, ready to go anywhere at 111 miles per hour. *Rawdon Air Taxi Service in Marazan ?

After G-EALM crashed near Stag Lane during a test flight on January 10, 1923, G-EAPT was dismantled and the type became extinct.

My third conjecture came up empty handed; even after much surfing of the 'Net.

(Pages 227 to 242) “'Steady a moment,' I said. 'That'll be the seaplane going down.' … They gave it as their opinion that the engine was a Rolls Eagle or Falcon, probably an Eagle. …

She's a float seaplane with two floats on the undercarriage … She's a single-bay machine – one lot of struts in the wings. She's quite a normal design, but I don't know what type she is.

… I had leisure now now to study the seaplane more closely; suddenly I realized what she was, and why she had seemed vaguely familiar.

She was the old Chipmunk. She was the only one of her sort, built for a wealthy young coal merchant just after the war. … There was something about her tubby lines that suggested a chipmunk, … She was very slow. … It was the Chipmunk all right. She had suffered a sea change; her wheels and under-carriage had been removed and floats substituted, probably with wheels incorporated to make her into an amphibian. There was no doubt about her.”

My guess is that this “Flying Machine” was not in Shute's “mind's eye,“ but much deeper within his very creative brain!

Marazan ended with an aircraft type about which there is no conjecture.

(Page 253) “... It was about a quarter of an hour afterward that I looked up and saw aeroplanes overhead, three Siskins maneuvering down in ever widening circles. ...”

Armstrong Whitworth Siskin

The 156 m.p.h. Armstrong Whitworth Siskin was a British biplane single-seat fighter aircraft produced by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. The Siskin was one of the first new Royal Air Force fighters to enter service after the First World War, and its first all-metal fighter.

In 1922 the Air Ministry ordered this all-metal single-seat high performance landplane, with a Jaguar engine. A contract for three production aircraft was placed on 13 October 1922 with a further six ordered on 26 January 1923, including one as a prototype of a two-seat variant. The Siskin III first flew on 7 May 1923, with first deliveries to RAF Squadrons in May 1924.

Shute also states “In spite of its immaturity the book (Marazan) got good reviews. I think it sold about 1,200 copies. ...”

From my second reading, I conclude that it is also a good history of the early days of civil aviation.

FROM Alison Jenner

Nevil Shute Reading Group

Tom Wenham has kindly booked the Ford Room at Brooklands for the 21st March from 1 pm so we can discuss "Ruined City". He has also asked them to reserve the larger Napier Suite in case there are more than 12 of us. Let me know as soon as you can and by 01/03/15 at the latest, whether you intend to come so we can let them know whether we need the larger room.

Brooklands is well signed, especially from the M25.

Entry is £11.00 (opens at 10 am).

There is loads to see and Tom suggests that people get there early enough to have a good look round before having lunch at say 12.30. There is a pleasant cafeteria doing good lunches at reasonable prices.

Some of us will meet at 10:30 for coffee and go round as a group. In two hours there would have to be a certain amount of cherry picking of what we looked at as it would be impossible to see it all.

Tom will open the Masefield Archive and explain briefly about Masefield and his contact with Shute. There is also the Barnes Wallis office; Tom is going to research any information about BW connections.

There are acres of parking shared with Mercedes-Benz World and parking is well signed.

FROM Richard Michalak

Great minds thinking alike. The Edison / Shute connection.

I am reading a 1910 biography of Thomas Edison and came across this:

Edison's native shrewdness and knowledge of human nature was put to practical use in the busy days of plant construction. It was found impossible to keep mechanics on account of indifferent residential accommodations afforded by the tiny village, remote from civilization, among the central mountains of New Jersey. This puzzling question was much discussed between him and his associate, Mr. W. S. Mallory, until finally he said to the latter

"If we want to keep the men here we must make it attractive for the women--so let us build some houses that will have running water and electric lights, and rent at a low rate." He set to work, and in a day finished a design for a type of house. Fifty were quickly built and fully described in advertising for mechanics. Three days' advertisements brought in over six hundred and fifty applications, and afterward Edison had no trouble in obtaining all the first-class men he required.

FROM Kristin Hagelstein

Plans are well underway for our gathering on February 28, 2015 at noon in Fredericksburg, Texas. The response has been greater than I anticipated, as we will have over 20 attendees. Because of the large number, I'm still working on the venue and will give you details soon. It will be at a locally-flavored restaurant, where each person can order lunch and get a separate ticket.

John Cooper will lead the discussion for "A Town Like Alice" and Gregg Hagelstein is planning the museum tour to tie in to that book and some other Nevil Shute books. Group tickets for the museum will be $8 per person.

Please feel free to invite any Shutists but I need to know the count soon. I'm looking forward to it with great anticipation!

Kristin Hagelstein

256 Schattenbaum Dr

Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Home (830) 997-2328

Cell (432) 770-0930


FROM John Anserson

A review of 3 books about Nevil Shute by John Ander-son

1. Beyond the Beach – The Wit and Wisdom of Nevil Shute, by Bill Levy

BLS publishing, 2012.

I begin with this one, far and away the best of the three. Bill Levy was at the Centennial in 1999 where he gave a presentation and came away inspired to “spread the word about Nevil Shute”. After a concise biography he lists the reasons why Shute should be read, good reasons with which all devotees would agree.

There then follow quotations from all of Shute’s novels with a brief summary of the plot introducing each. Good quotations they are too, well selected to remind us why these books are so good and, in Bill Levy’s case have “ …provided me with a sanctuary from many of the absurdities of contemporary life, given me much of my moral base, and helped to expand my personal horizons.”

For those new to Nevil Shute this book will provide a taster, an encouragement to read his novels. To long-standing devotees, it will remind us of favourite passages and provide an excuse, if one was ever needed, to go back and savour them all again. A worthy addition to any Shutist’s collection.

2. The Divine Storyteller- Dialogues with Nevil Shute Norway, by William McCandless. Touchwood Press, 2014

Putting words into the mouth of Nevil Shute is, as the author admits, presumptive and in danger of being a caricature despite “being done with the greatest affection and admiration of the man and his work.” The dialogues, based loosely on Shute’s unpublished articles and essays, are “those he might have had with friends and associates between 1944 and 1955”. The blurb tells us that the book “puts you in the same room, yacht, automobile or airplane as the author and his companions.” Maybe, but not with the same Nevil Shute that I have come to appreciate and discover after years of reading his books and researching his life in detail.

“Imaginative” the dialogues certainly are and, to make matters worse, are full of errors. We are told that Shute was “General Manager” of Airspeed, not Managing Director, that he worked in the Department of “Military” Weapons Development (Miscellaneous not Military) and that his house on Hayling Island was Pond’s Head (in fact Pond Head). Minor slips perhaps, but annoying and repeated on numerous occasions. They could have been so easily corrected. We read that Airspeed was founded in 1932 (in fact 1931), the “Honsa” (actually Horsa) Glider was designed by Airspeed (true) in 1938 (false) and that in September 1955 Shute’s “oldest” daughter was about to start her last year at school (She was in her early twenties at that time).

If you want highly “creative”, totally fictional, slightly improbable dialogues, with a disregard of historical accuracy, based on an American’s concept of this essentially English author, then this is the book for you.

3. Nevil Shute and the Accident of War by Mohamed Fazlulla Khan.

Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012

This book is “A study of the theme of Love in times of War, with reference to three of Shute’s war novels.” The three novels are Pied Piper, The Chequer Board and A Town like Alice. There is a brief introduction outlining Shute’s career as aeronautical engineer, war work and subsequent literary work, which again has many niggling historical inaccuracies. Dr Khan writes about the three novels and the theme of love – Nicole and John in Pied Piper and Howard’s love in the sense of caring for the children and seeing them safe. The themes of marriage in The Chequer Board cover Philip Morgan, his unfaithful wife and marriage to Nay Htohn, Dave Lesurier and Grace Trefusis and Jackie Turner’s unsatisfactory marriage. The theme of inter-racial marriage and racial tolerance is discussed. With a Town Like Alice there is the love of Jean and Joe, her gift of the well to the Malay village, and Noel Strachan’s love for Jean

These are themes which readers can explore for themselves by just reading or re-reading the novels: this book adds little in the way of useful insights. The author is clearly a fan of Julian Smith whom he describes as “one of the greatest sources of study of the author.” Dr Khan quotes extensively from Smith’s biography, citing many of the references quoted in that book.

This book is clearly taken from an “academic” study turned into a book by a publisher which specialises in such work, and charges accordingly - $80 including postage. It seems a high price to pay for a book which will do little to enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the novels, nor provide new insights.

FROM trailport@aol

From AvWeb; it was a Tiger Moth discussed in Rainbow and the Rose

Female Tiger Moth Pilot Has Lofty Goals

Poised To Join Display Team That Flies The Antique Aircraft

Amanda Harrison of Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, U.K. has always loved airplanes, a love instilled by her father when she was just a young girl. Amanda took her first flying lesson at 14, left school at 15, and finally qualified for a pilot's license at 24.

Now, the Lancashire Evening Post reports that Harrison is the only female commercial pilot qualified to fly the Tiger Moth in the U.K.

The Tiger Moth is "easy to fly, but difficult to fly well," Harrison told the paper. After spending several years as an instructor, she was hired to fly the airplane for commercial bookings, an opportunity she accepted quickly.

Since then, she has taken part in the round-Britain Dawn to Dusk challenge, and hopes one day to recreate aviatrix Amy Johnson's 1930 flight from England to Australia in a Tiger Moth. And, she has been tapped to join the Tiger Moth air display team, a nine-person team Harrison describes as "the geriatric version of the Red Arrows", the RAF's jet demonstration team. Harrison will be the team's only female member.

She has also written a book called "Confessions of a Lady Pilot".

FROM John Henri

I ran across this a few weeks ago from a military blog that I follow. It is about the support craft for the Normandy invasion. Things like boats with kitchens and bakeries on them and other things that make a lot of sense but I have never thought about. Sort of the type of boat that Janet Prentice might have been serving on in RFAW.

It might be of interest to fellow Norwegians.

Editor: I had to think about that for a few seconds

From the Netherlands, see you all next month.