Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated May 2012

Letters to the Editor

From Philip Nixon

Nevil Shute Weekend in Maidenhead on May 19/20 Saturday 19 May

Meet up in Maidenhead at the Holiday Inn, before taking a trip to West Ealing to visit Nevil Shute's birthplace. We are looking to insert in to the schedule a visit to the Maidenhead Heritage Centre that day. This is a small museum and is the official museum for the Air Transport Auxiliary. (see>

Later, that evening, we will have a dinner together in Maidenhead. For those unfamiliar with Maidenhead, it is a town on the river Thames in Royal Berkshire, situated west of London and approximately 25 minutes drive from Heathrow airport.

Sunday 20th May

Spend the day at White Waltham aerodrome, scene of the UK HQ of the Royal Flight in In The Wet. Our room is "The Snug", in which we will have on-topic presentations. We are also arranging a guided visit to the hangars. Refreshments & buffet lunch will be provided. See

The costs of the museum visit and day at White Waltham is yet to be finalised but early indications are that a budget of £30 per head is likely. We are hoping to avoid hiring coaches, if enough of us are prepared to share seats in our own vehicles.

Speakers have yet to be confirmed and volunteers to present a talk are welcome to get in touch with me (Phil).

From Chris & Penny Morton

"The Rainbow Connection"

TAS 2013 is shaping up to be a stimulating week.

Four major presenters are now confirmed. One, a retired bush pilot from the remote northwest of the state, will enliven the banquet evening with tales of his exploits in the air. Billy (Vincent( is said to have been Shute's model for Billy Monkhouse in "The Rainbow and the Rose", but was actually more of a Johnnie Pascoe in his early flying days ('50s and '60s). Provided he remains in good health, he looks forward to joining us in Hobart and should be highly entertaining. His recently published biography, "Billy Vincent, Bush Pilot" by Guy Nicholson, is available to Aussie readers through the Shute Library here and is great pre-conference reading.

By Webmaster - book is also available in UK library

Following the success of York and Seattle, we're considering including an additional evening function, a harbour cruise aboard Hobart's own square rigger, the "Lady Nelson", if the budget will allow. More on that later.

We're off in a few days for three weeks in Dallas, visiting our elder daughter and family, so there won't be much progress till we return to "Oz" in late May.

It may be early, but a rough idea of numbers for Hobart, 2013 would be most helpful. Also, there are several vacant presentation slots in the tentative schedule, so we'll welcome any offers. Feel free to contact us at the above e-mail address.

From John Anderson

You may have seen an article that twenty iconic Spitfire aircraft buried in Burma during the Second World War are to be repatriated to Britain after an intervention by David Cameron. They were apparently factory-new, crated up, shipped out and never opened or used in combat but buried. So should be almost as new even after all this time.

What has this to do with Nevil Shute ? It reminded me that the last article he wrote from Burma in 1944 was about his visit to a Spitfire Squadron operating in support of the advancing army. He writes about the difficulties the pilots had in flying in monsoon conditions and problems maitaining the aircraft and obtaining spares. It is a fascinating article, well wriiten and, in my opinion, the best example of his writing as a War Correspondent.

From Mike Blamey

Stephen Morris -Shute - mathematics calculations to determine stresses and hence dimensions (as opposed to empirical rules of thumb) of plywood sections for aircraft structures.

I have had a copy of this for years, and cannot remember if I have ever read it before: but I was delighted to read in Stephen Morris, Shute describing the work on bringing some mathematics and calculations to the sizing of such structures.

Readers might like to read parts of a piece I wrote to a UK journalist that describes a not dis-similar situation in the 40s. It appears that the RAF Top Brass had learned little as they rose up the system.

My good friend, Roy Fielding, at the time a callow youth of 19 (with a deferred occupation ( designing parts of Lancasters working for Avro in Chadderton) described attending meetings with Barnes Wallis and Co at the War Office. Sitting there were rows of officers with scrambled egg all over their hats. These folk just could not get their heads around the concept of having to actually use mathematics to re-design the main strength members and then do the modifications necessary for Lancasters to carry bigger and bigger bombs, such as Wallis was proposing. They had been brought up and learnt their aeronautics in the era of wood, fabric, wire and "dope" - a craft as opposed to a science. (When I knew him, Roy was subsequently the Chief Designer of a firm Scragg, which made the machines that put the crimp into Crimplene yarn: subsequently knitted into those terrible sweat/odour inducing garments worn by our grandmothers!)

I have a personal and family interest in ply-wood. My maternal grandmother who's maiden name was Thorbecke (grand-daughter of that Thorbecke, well known to Dutch people as a social reformer and politician) was first married in 1910 to an analytical chemist, Reginald Stewart Laing. By 1914 they had two young children and lived in Eltham, a suburb of London. Laing worked with a firm, developing industrial adhesives, based upon, amongst other chemistry, the derivatives of animal blood. When WW1 started obviously ply-wood made by such methods was vital for the war efforts.

Laing was required to work shifts, over-time etc and after a late-night session was cycling home to his young family. There is a long hill from the river Thames up to Eltham. He was "puffed" cycling up it, and a passing "steam lorry" offered to give him a "tow" up. It was common practice for cyclists to hold onto the driver's door (handle) to be pulled up. Sadly, the inevitable happened. He fell off his cycle and under the 'solid tyres of the truck. He was killed instantly.

My grand-mother recalled that after the local vicar, the next visitors she had were two gentleman in bowler hats - the start of Special Branch - coming to search their apartment for any papers, documents, drawings, etc that Laing might have had in his home as he worked upon this essential effort.

Amazingly her children were "absorbed" by other parts of Laing's family (*) and she lost all touch with them. Again, this was apparently quite common at that era: a woman without a husband was considered unsuitable to bring-up children. She was nothing if not resourceful (no social services at that time) and quite quickly established herself with my grandfather (clergy were not involved until many years later) and had three daughters, the youngest of which was MY mother.

(*) many years later my grandmother was watching an ITV television programme, "The Golden Shot" A very popular comedienne, Bob Monkhouse, was the compére, and another character was "Bernie the Bolt" - the camera man who had to direct his camera, assisted by instructions given by telephone by viewers, to shoot a cross-bow "bolt" at an apple.

As the credits rolled at the end of one programme, my grandmother noted the cameraman's name, Paul Stewart Laing. Subsequent investigation confirmed that he was her long-lost grandson.

From Sandra Beckett

Not sure if this is known, but I just found the script for the film "On the Beach" - see

FROM Bill Levy

Thought you might find this of interest:-

From Jim Woodward

For any of you that have had the problem that I have lately developed, lack of concentration while reading, I suggest you get a book in CD format. I finally got around to listening to "A Town Like Alice" and the narrator/reader made me feel like I was one of the participants in the book. His voice was magnificent and I was hoping for a good ending as Joe and Miss Paget were chasing each other around the world looking for each other. I had met several people (civilians) from Holland that were interned in camps by the Japanese while working in the Dutch East Indies early in the War. "Bless 'Em All!"


I am very much looking forward to the "inbetweeny" that we will have this month in White Waltham. I missed the Seattle conference, the first that I missed, since my first conference in Southsea in 2003. I am already saving up money for TAS 2013.

From the Netherlands where we had the first real warm day of the year today, see you all next month