Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated January 2015

Letters to the Editor

From Alison Jenner

We have completed much of our planning for the conference in August-September. The event will be in Oxford, a place dear to Shute, where he attended school and University and which features in so many of his novels. The venue is Balliol College and will start with registration and a reception in the College common room on Sunday 30 August,

We will, as usual, hold three days of talks, interspersed with two days of visits. A number of speakers have already been identified, with some familiar names and some new ones, on very engaging topics.

On Tuesday there will be a walking tour of Oxford City centre, when we intend to call at places mentioned by Shute in his novels; in the afternoon we will visit his school, the Dragon School, to see the surroundings with which he would have been familiar. We also want to show you some of the neighbouring parts of Oxford which Shute refers to in his books and with which you may be familiar from reading Alice in Wonderland, the Morse detective stories and maybe even seeing the films of Harry Potter.

The full day excursion on Thursday will be to Bletchley Park, centre of Enigma code-breaking during the war and also to the Shuttleworth Collection of historic aircraft not far away.

Our conference dinner will be held in the Great Hall of the College, overlooked by portraits of past Masters including AL Smith, whom Shute of course knew.

Our final day will include the now traditional final session Reading Nevil Shute.

We are holding this conference in the college and apartments that Shute would have walked through himself. To complete the immersive experience we shall be offering ensuite rooms, at £65 per night (single) or £95 (twin), and single shared facilities rooms (£46) in the main historic centre of the college. We will also be in a position to take up the offer of rooms at the Randolph Hotel opposite, at a special rate negotiated with the college, which are £158/195 single/double and which will be upgraded to Executive class without further charge. (All room rates include breakfast)

However, the need is for us to secure as many rooms in Balliol as we can before the end of February, to enable us to keep the conference costs down. I have already had emails from friends asking to be put down for a room in the college, so I am confident that we shall be able to do so. **Please Note: unless we can be sure of booking 20 rooms in the college by the end of February we will have to rethink the conference.**

Do let me know as soon as you can, and preferably before the end of February, whether you will be taking up a room in Balliol.

If we have more interest, we have also secured some rooms in hotel in another historic part of the city. Contact me for details of this venue, please.

And, of course, for those on a very tight budget the Youth Hostel, which I have used on many occasions and can recommend, is within walking distance of Balliol College.

Whatever arrangements you want to make for accommodation, I would like to emphasise that there is, as usual with our conferences, so much to see in the surrounding districts that you would be well advised to arrange to stay a few days before and/ or afterwards, to make the most of the opportunity.

If you have any queries please contact me straightaway. John is organising a web site and we intend to make use of RegOnline again, from the end of February; that has been a very satisfactory arrangement in recent years and easy for people from all over the world to book.

From Alison Jenner

"Nevil Shute's Oxford”

An introductory course held at the Story Museum, Oxford.

This six week course will look at the early novels of Nevil Shute. Participants may wish to contribute their own local knowledge as well as finding out more about the writing background of one of the twentieth century's great storytellers.

We start on 09/01/15 for an initial six weeks. I'm hoping to tie it into local publicity for our conference.

The books I have suggested are

Stephen Morris; Pilotage; Pastoral; and an excerpt from each of Lonely Road and In The Wet.

Any help or suggestions that you can give me will be more than welcome!

From John Lorenz

Those of our readers who particularly like dirigibles will want to read a brand new 2014 book, Dirigible Dreams by C. Michael Hiam. Not only is it an outstanding history of The Age of the Airship (that is the book's sub-title), NS is mentioned at length on pp. 176-182. The photographs throughout are absolutely wonderful.

From Cedric A writer makes reference to a book about aviation that she can’t quite remember.

After doing some searching, I came across the biography of Donald L. Mallick

who was a test pilot for the XB-70 bomber. This plane was referred to as “The Great White Bird”

The Smell of Kerosene, A test pilot’s odyssey by Donald L. Mallick

In 1927 an attempt to fly the Atlantic was made in a plane named “The White Bird”.

It has become the subject of much mystery and speculation.

From Wikipedia

L'Oiseau Blanc (commonly known in the English-speaking world as The White Bird [N 1]) was a French Levasseur PL.8 biplane, that disappeared in 1927, during an attempt to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York to compete for the Orteig Prize. The aircraft was flown by French World War I aviation heroes, Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who were attempting to win the USD $25,000 Orteig Prize for the flight. The aircraft disappeared after its 8 May 1927 takeoff from Paris. Two weeks later, Charles Lindbergh successfully made the New York–Paris journey and claimed the prize, flying the Spirit of St. Louis.

An interesting sounding movie for TV was inspired by this flight:

From IMDB:

Restless Spirits (1999)

TV Movie - 96 min - Adventure | Fantasy - 1 August 1999 (USA)

Ratings: 6.3/10 from 312 users

Reviews: 9 user | 2 critic

A young girl, who struggles with her pilot father's death in a plane crash years before, visits her grandmother in Newfoundland. While there, she encounters the ghosts of two pilots, who are condemned to Earth to constantly re-live their own crash that occurred in 1927. The girl decides to help the pair by helping them re-build their airplane and complete their flight so they may be released and, in turn, deal with her own emotional bondage. -

Written by John Sacksteder. Director: David Wellington. Writers: Gail Collins (story), Semi Chellas (story). Stars: Lothaire Bluteau, Michel Monty, Juliana Wimbles.

Hope this adds to the discussion


The novel to which your correspondent referred in the December 2014 newsletter was " The White Sea Bird " by David Beaty . Beaty was an RAF and later a BOAC pilot who wrote many fine novels connected with aviation, two of the best of which were "Cone of Silence" and " Sword of Honour" . Later, he went on to write a number of factual and technical books about flying, " The Human factor in Aircraft Accidents" probably being the best known, since it was this pioneering book which was largely the trigger for the techniques of Cockpit Resource Management which now are compulsory study for all pilots , both amateur and professional.

From Brian Swann

I don’t know if any of the membership would be interested, but I have just found a distant connection between Nevil Shute Hamilton and Sir Thomas Picton (1758-1815). I have not had a chance yet to get my hands on a copy of his autobiography, Slide Rule, and see if this story is mentioned anywhere there.

Sir Thomas Picton was born at Rudbaxton in Pembrokeshire and became famous for commanding the 3rd Division under Sir Arthur Wellesley through much of the Peninsular War, 1810-1814, and was killed at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 in command of the 5th Division. In 1859 his remains were reinterred at St. Pauls Cathedral, close to the monument to the Duke of Wellington who had died in 1852.

The connection comes through a younger sister of Sir Thomas Picton, Catherine Picton (1764-1832) [their parents had 14 children overall]. She married a John Warlow in 1796 and they lived in Pembrokeshire also. Their second son (but the first to leave any children) was a Thomas Warlow (1797-1839), who went out to India about 1812 and died there in 1839. The family then came back, to England and his widow remarried, dying in 1877.

Their youngest daughter was called Mary Cecil Warlow (1833-1911, born at Bognor in Sussex) and she married a Frederick Gadsden in 1854 who eventually became a Major-General in the Indian Staff Corps. But of more significance she was living at Ealing in 1891, 1901 and 1911 where she died on 30 October 1911, aged 78. She and her husband had a large family of nine children (5 sons and 4 daughters) of whom the eldest daughter, Mary Louisa Gadsden (1861-1932) married Arthur Hamilton Norway and was thus the mother of Nevil Shute Norway, born in 1899. Indeed in the 1911 Census, Frederick Holroyd Gadsden was living with the Norway family at Ealing. He was a son of Edward Holroyd Gadsden (1859-1920), an older brother to Mary Louisa Gadsden.

So in the 19th century, the name of Sir Thomas Picton would have been very well-known to the Victorians and a source of some considerable family pride, and I would like to think this family connection may well have been passed down to the young Nevil Shute Hamilton, not least by his grandmother, Mary Cecil Warlow/Gadsden who was living at Ealing also at same the time and would have been a frequent visitor to her eldest daughter’s house, no doubt. Also Sir Thomas Picton and several of his relatives served in the Suffolk Regiment, and I just wonder if this was the reason Nevil Shute Hamilton joined this Regiment in the Great War, although a lot depends on when he decided to enlist, as later on the option to choose which Regiment you could join was removed.

Nowadays Sir Thomas Picton can be equally well-remembered for being the first Governor of Trinidad (1797-1803), and also for enforcing the apparatus of slavery on the island during his term as Governor there, but that is another story.

I just wondered if either of Nevil Shute’s two daughters were still alive, as they might be aware of this story. With the run-up to the Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 2015 I thought this connection might be of interest to your readers.

From Kristin Hagelstein

Dear Shutists,

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at Noon for lunch in Fredericksburg there will be the Texas Hill Country Shute Gathering. Please re-read “A Town Like Alice" for a starting place for discussion. John Cooper will lead the discussion at the meeting.

A brief trip to the Museum of the Pacific War museum after the meeting, can be arranged, for those that are interested. You will be taken to the pertinent exhibits and then those who want to can tour the rest of the museum. We can get a group rate - I will get back to you on the cost.

Please let me know if you can attend, along with any significant others, so that I can finalise the meeting place. Thanks for all your input and I am excited to meet each of you.

Kristin Hagelstein, 256 Schattenbaum Drive, Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Home (830) 997-2329; Cell (432) 770-0930; email:

From Cedric

American woman recalls her imprisonment by Japanese during WWII.

Unlike 'Unbroken' bombardier, woman will never forgive her Japanese captors

Kansas City Star: Donald Bradley

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Betsy Herold Heimke's Christmas story has candy, a turkey drumstick and soldiers at the front door.

It was night. Light glistened on bayonets. The soldiers barged in and ordered her family to leave the next day. Take food, they yelled. This may take a while.

Heimke was 12 and "so scared I had no spit in my mouth," she later wrote. She would wear the same shoes for the next three years until American tanks arrived at Bilibid prison in the Philippines in February 1945.

Heimke is now 85 and lives in Overland Park, Kan. Her story of internment as a young girl during World War II tells of mean men, hunger, rats, blood-soaked mattresses, clogged toilets and, most of all, a fear that it would never end.

She watched her mother struggle daily to keep the family together and fed. People died around her. Her father's ribs stuck out like steel bars.

No one should expect any Louie Zamperini-like absolution from her.

Zamperini was an American bombardier who was held as a POW and tortured by the Japanese after his plane went down in the Pacific. Part of his story, as told in the best-selling book "Unbroken" and now a movie that opened Christmas Day, is that after the war he traveled to Japan and forgave the guards who mistreated him.

When asked whether she could do the same, Heimke lifted her eyes from her scrapbook and locked onto those of her questioner.

"He's a better Christian than I am," she said of Zamperini. "I'm not there and doubt I will ever be."

[Article continues …]


First, a very Happy New Year to you all. May it be a year of happiness and health.

The current owner of Runagate, Nevil Shute’s sailing yacht, has bought another boat. So Runagate is for sale. I contacted the owner, and asked him what price he is thinking of. This was his reply:

Hi Joost not asking a huge amount, I may just list on ebay, but I would like her to go to someone who is serious about finishing the project.

So, if you are interested, please let me know and I will put you in contact. I would like to buy her myself, but as I’m in the Netherlands, and Runagate is in Newcastle in the north-east of England, that seems difficult.

From the Netherlands, where winter still hasn’t arrived, see you all next month.