Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated October 2013

Letters to the Editor

From Chris & Penny Morton

Countdown time; less than a fortnight to go before TAS 2013, "The Rainbow Connection"! It's going to be an intimate group this time but, we hope, a great week for all, plus happy memories to take home.

We have extended the registration deadline, but final numbers are needed in a day or two.

As for Tassie weather, the operative word is unpredictable, especially at this time of year. John has very knidly put a link to the Hobart weather website on the Conference webpage, so you can find details there. As long as you plan to dress in layers you should be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at us! Today we are basking in warm spring sunshine with a predicted high temperature of 20 degrees centigrade, but snow is likely at higher elevations this evening!

For anyone driving to The Woolstore, there is free parking for all delegates. Coming in From the airport by shuttle or taxi, it's a 15-minute drive.

Hobart, recently voted the world's second friendliest city, awaits you. We wish everyone hassle-free flights and a safe arrival. We'll see you in a few days.

David Henshall’s conference presentation "Beyond the Black Rock" IS on the agenda. David has unfortunately suffered a serious back injury and can not travel, however he is sending his Power Point disc with John Anderson and we are going for a Skype hook- up if possible. It promises to be an excellent presentation in spite of the difficulties All will be revealed in Hobart.

Registrations are still being accepted and there is still room at the inn.

Spontaneous actions are often the most fun – jump in and do it !

All the best,

Chris and Penny

From Michael O’Brien (on Facebook)

Joined Chris & Penny Morton for an interview on local radio station 936. We had the last 15 minutes of the morning show to chat with Leon Compton, who is three quarters of the way through "The Rainbow And The Rose" (no, we didn't tell him how it ends).

From Lawrence Johnston

Here is a link to the trailer we just completed for FALLOUT -

Editor: While checking the link to the FALLOUT trailer, I found another interesting video on YouTube -

From Julian Stargardt

Dear NSN'ers,

I was interested by John Anderson's article about Maj P L Teed who worked in crucial capacity on R100.

As is so often the case of "BI" (Before Internet) historical figures there is very little about P L Teed on-line.

However, the impetus supplied by John inspired me to search again and I found some material that I expect may be of interest to NSN'ers:

Here's a list of links with brief notes on the contents of each link.

  1. Grace's Guide to British Industrial History
    (Note: Many of Grace's entries contain a number of links to other fascinating and relevant material)
  2. University of Melbourne (Australia) archives, some info on Teed
  3. Flight Global on-line archive, appointment of Teed as a Director of a Vickers Aeronautical subsidiary with photo
  4. MoD Airforce List, apparently mentions Teed (I haven't confirmed this myself as the format of this scanned document is not conducive to easy reading. Source University of Edinburgh digital archives)

From Ken England

Shute's treatment of avoiding government involvement

Now it is some time since I have read "Slide Rule" and I may have misremembered the ultimate cause of the R101 debacle. I'm well aware that this debacle is held up by many as an example of the foibles of government involvement.

I beg to disagree. The involvement was political, not governmental. There is a distinction. The airship R101 was enlarged over what may have been a satisfactory design to make it larger than R100 for political purposes, the prestige of certain members of parliament. If the British government at the time was employing competent engineers in the Air Ministry supervising the R101 (and there is no guarantee they were employing any engineers), I would not be surprised if these engineers opposed these political changes and were over ruled.

An incident in Queensland, Australia almost thirty years ago illustrates the difference between political and government interference.

The electrical power and main distribution system in Queensland was then a state government function. This was the result of long distances and sparse populations for which private capital was unwilling to finance distribution because of high infrastructure costs compared to potential returns. In the early 1980s a new multi-kilovolt line was built From a power station near the provincial town of Biloela. (Billo-eluh) The contract for the supply of the large porcelain insulators was handed to a particular supplier whose name and nationality I will not mention. However a political decision seems to have been made to encourage trade with a certain nation, possibly at the federal level.

These insulators had already gained a poor international reputation because of defects in the glaze, which allowed the porcelain to absorb moisture From air and rain. When exposed to multi-kilovolt stress, the moisture allowed internal currents, which heated the moisture to steam, which in turn exploded the insulators. A number of engineers within the department vociferously opposed the use of these insulators and at least one was told to shut up or be sacked.

Came the day that the new line was to be energised. The power was switched on, there were many explosions along the line which promptly fell on the ground. The engineers said "We told you so," but of course there was never any politician publicly willing to take responsibility.

The point is, if I have to labour it, if the government department had been allowed to allocate the insulator contract in the normal way to a known reliable supplier, the failures would not have happened. Political pressure prevented that.

From Shoshana Knapp

Here’s a link for a lovely article.

From Tony Woodward

The Sound Barrier is one of my favourite films. I’m glad I have a copy on VHS tape (which sadly I can’t play at the moment until get my new system sorted out!). Nigel Patrick, Denholm Elliott, Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd, John Justin, Dinah Sheridan, Joseph Tomelty, and director David Lean (Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, In Which we Serve, Hobson’s Choice, Brief Encounter) - what’s not to like so far? I’ll admit that the plot is a bit creaky and a trifle obvious – especially Ralph Richardson’s part (not his finest hour) - but it is a very good and gripping movie. I believe the buffeting at close to Mach 1 was genuine in aircraft with straight wings not designed for supersonic flight, but I believe the story of reversing the controls is anecdotal at best. I’d be happy to be corrected by people who know more about this than I do. But why on earth is a significant David Lean film not more widely available? Criterion ought to be revamping it and reissuing this one - for Lean at any rate,

I was so glad to acquire (finally!) a copy of Landfall recently. Michael Denison, much as I like him, is too urbane and totally miscast as Jerry Chambers, who was a brash but naïve pilot in the book. but I’m not complaining as long as I now have a copy of the film. I won’t carp on again right now about the unattributed NSN film adaptations I am convinced I once saw on late night TV 40 years ago, but have never found any confirmation of. Well I guess I am indeed carping about them so I shall now continue! I am convinced I once saw on late night TV back in the 1970s (naturally under different titles) adaptations of Pastoral, Requiem for a Wren, and Ruined City. I was watching this late night movie and I suddenly said “Hey! This is Ruined City!” This was the one that really made me sit up and notice. I started a conversation several years ago in this newsletter and someone agreed that they too had seen a movie that had the plot of Ruined City. I now start this conversation up again among a new slate of Shutists who didn’t see my previous posts From many years ago and who may be able to add a new perspective to my memory of these films, or perhaps convince me that I was dreaming ! I am still convinced that I once saw all these movies in the 1970s, naturally without attribution to Nevil Shute. I once saw them and I wish there was someone out there who can confirm this. And even more to the point remind me what the titles were so that I can look them up. Ruined City is the one I am surest about, then Requiem for a Wren, then Pastoral. Can anyone help me? I am talking the 1970s here.

There is no mention of Chuck Yeager in The Sound Barrier. I believe the British were the first to break the sound barrier in a real aircraft that could take off From the ground and land under its own power rather than being dropped at 40000 feet From a Superfortress, so we Brits do deserve a note in history where the sound barrier is concerned. It seems that Geoffrey de Havilland may actually have beaten Yeager by a year anyway, but sadly he didn’t survive to tell the tale. And in the end who was it who actually first broke the sound barrier in level flight in a genuine aircraft that took off and landed under its own power? There are so many issues concerned with any speed record.

This is rather like the world land speed record for a car that drives its own wheels from its own engine. This is belittled these days in favour of unadulterated speed. But I honour wheel-driven cars far more than I do grounded jet planes. I am thrilled at the idea of the new initiative to reach 1000mph, but for me Don Vesco in the US at 470 mph in 2001 is still the holder of the land speed record for real wheel-driven cars and this means a lot more to me, yet he is virtually ignored by the world. To watch the video of Thrust SST is viscerally thrilling but it is not a car, merely a space shuttle that never left the ground.

I honour the memory of past record breakers like Parry Thomas’s Babs, or the G.E.T. Eyston record breaker “Speed of the Wind” of which I once had a huge clockwork tinplate model. It was about fifteen inches long and had a captive key in the bottom (a large disc with fins) to wind it up with. As far as I remember the steering wheel actually turned the front wheels. Heaven only knows how many hundred dollars this model would be worth today. I believe it is very rare but my parents dumped it when I wasn’t looking and I wasn’t there to object. My father is known for being penny wise but pound foolish and the antiques and collectables market thrives on this attitude or there would be too many of these things around today. But that was my life. How about the first five years of the British Eagle comic From the very first issue in April 1950? I went home From Canada to the UK once and those were all gone too. I just about cried.

Checking I see that Eyston’s “Speed of the Wind” never broke the absolute land speed record but it did break the 24 hour endurance record. It is a gorgeous looking car and I’m so miffed that I don’t have that model anymore. Sometimes in retrospect you want to throttle parents who held on to rubbish but gave away fortunes. I wouldn’t have sold this model car, I’d have kept it and treasured it. It was unique - I have never seen another.

A propos of your contributor’s posting about Nicholas Winton. I hope he gets a Nobel Peace Prize because he deserves it. But it seems that this award is becoming political these days. I don’t think Nobel would have approved. He was already on a guilt trip because he had invented and made a fortune on dynamite and he was wanting to salve his conscience ad make amends.

I think a Proctor was the first aircraft I ever flew in, when I was an air cadet at Cirencester Grammar School in my teens in the 1950s.

I sigh and drool about all these wonderful NSN gatherings all over the world. Hold one in Ottawa (or Toronto or Montreal, about the limit of my mobility these days), and I will be there like a shot. Meanwhile I resort to envy.


Like Tony, I envy those who will be in Tasmania for TAS2013. Do hope to be there again next time. (In England ?)

Have a great time and a great conference. From the Netherlands, where the weather is great, but rather cold, see you all again next month