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Trustee from the Toolroom

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  • Trustee from the Toolroom

    It's been a long time since I read Nevil Shute's wonderful novel .
    Is that a Myford lathe on the dust jacket?

    Where is the author's final resting place, Australia, or England? Did anybody know him?
    Allan Ostling

    Phoenix, Arizona

  • #2
    Extract from the Dictionary of National Biography 1951 - 1960

    NORWAY, NEVIL SHUTE (1899-1960), novelist under the name NEVIL SHUTE and aeronautical engineer, was born in Ealing on 17th January 1899, the younger son of a Cornishman, Arthur Hamilton Norway, who became an assistant secretary of the General Post Office, and his wife Mary Louisa Gadsden.

    At the age of 11, Norway played truant from his first preparatory school in Hammersmith, spending days among the model aircraft at the Science Museum examining wing control on the Bleriot and trying to puzzle out how the engine of the Antoinette ran without a carburettor.
    On being detected in these precocious studies, he was sent to the Dragon School, Oxford, and thence to Shrewsbury. He was on holiday in Dublin, where his father was then Secretary to the Post Office in Ireland, at the time of the Easter rising of 1916 and acted as a stretcher-bearer, winning a commendation for gallant conduct.

    He passed into the Royal Military Academy with the aim of being commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps, but a bad stammer led to his being failed at his final medical examination and returned to civil life. The last few months of the war (in which his brother had been killed) were spent on home service as a private in the Suffolk Regiment.

    In 1919 Norway went up to Balliol College, Oxford, where he took a third class honours in engineering science in 1922 and rowed in the college second eight. During the vacations he worked, unpaid, for the Aircraft Manufacturing Company at Hendon, then for (Sir) Geoffrey de Havilland's own firm, which he joined as an employee on coming down from Oxford. He now fulfilled his thwarted wartime ambition of learning to fly and gained experience as a test observer. During the evenings he diligently wrote novels and short stories unperturbed by rejection slips from publishers.

    In 1924 Norway took the post of Chief Calculator to the Airship Guarantee Company, a subsidiary of Vickers Ltd, to work on the construction of the R100. In 1929 he became Deputy Chief Engineer under (Sir) Barnes Wallis, and in the following year he flew to and from Canada in the R100. He had a passionate belief in the future of airships, but his hopes foundered in the crash of its government rival, the R101, wrecked with the loss of Lord Thompson, the then Minister of Aviation, and most of those on board. He had watched with mounting horror what he regarded as the criminal inefficiency with which the R101 was being constructed. His experience in this phase of his career left a lasting bitterness; it bred in him almost pathological distrust of politicians and civil servants.

    Recognizing that airship development was a lost cause, he founded in 1931 Airspeed Ltd, aeroplane constructors, in an old garage, and remained joint managing director unti11938. The pioneering atmosphere of aircraft construction in those days suited his temperament. He revelled in individual enterprise and doing things on a financial shoestring. When the business grew and was becoming on of humdrum routine, producing aircraft to government orders, he decided to get out of the rut and live by writing. He had by 1938 enjoyed some success as a novelist and had sold the film rights of Lonely Road (1932) and Ruined City (1938).

    On the outbreak of war in 1939, Norway joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Miscellaneous Weapons Department. Rising to Lieutenant Commander, he found experimenting with secret weapons a job after his own heart. But he found that his growing celebrity as a writer caused him to be in the Normandy landings on 6th June 1944, for the Ministry of Information, and to be sent to Burma as a correspondent in 1945. He entered Rangoon with the 15th Corps from Arakan.

    Soon after demobilisation in 1945 he emigrated to Australia and made his home in Langwarrin, Victoria. High taxation and what he felt to be the decadence of Britain, with the spirit of personal independence and freedom dying, led him to leave the Old Country.

    His output of novels, which began with Marazan (1926) continued to the end. Writing under his Christian names, Nevil Shute, he had an unaffected popular touch which made him a best-seller throughout the Commonwealth and the United States. The secret of his success lay in the skill with which he combined loving familiarity with technicalities and a straightforward sense of human relationships and values. He conveyed to the readers his own zest for making and flying aircraft. The hazards and rewards of back-room boys have never been more sympathetically portrayed nor with closer inside knowledge. His natural gift for creating briskly moving plots did not extend to the delineation of character in anything more than conventional terms. He retained to the last the outlook of a decent, average public-school boy of his generation. Although he lived into the James Bond era, he never made the slightest concessions to the fast growing appetite in the mass fiction market for sadism and violence.

    No Highway (1948), dealing with the drama of structural fatigue in aircraft, set in terms of those responsible for a competitive passenger service, gave full scope to both sides of his talent. Machines and men and women share in shaping the drama. A Town Like Alice (1950), describing the grim Odyssey of white women and children in Japanese-occupied Malaya, captured the cinema audiences as completely as it did the reading public. Round the Bend (1951) was thought by Norway himself to be his most enduring book. It told of the aircraft engineer of mixed eastern and western stock who taught his men to worship God through work conscientiously and prayerfully performed and came to be regarded as divine by peoples of many creeds. On the Beach (1957) expressed Norway's sensitive appreciation of the frightful possibilities of global warfare and annihilation by radio-active dust.

    Other novels, several of them filmed, were What Happened to the Corbetts (1939) An Old Captivity (1940), Landfall (1940) Pied Piper (1942) Pastoral (1944) In the Wet (1953) and Requiem for a Wren (1955). In Slide Rule (1954) sub-titled "The Autobiography of an Engineer", he told, candidly and racily, of his life up to 1938 when he left the aircraft industry.

    The stammer, which was as much a stimulus as a handicap, did not prevent Norway from being good company, always welcome at social gatherings of his many friends. An enthusiastic yachtsman and fisherman as well as an air pilot, he delighted in outdoor life, and his gaiety was not dimmed by the heart attacks from which he suffered.

    In 1931 Norway married Francis Mary Heaton, by whom he had two daughters. He died in Melbourne on 12th January 1960.

    Contribution by A P Ryan


    Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

    Hope this is of help.



    • #3
      All of which reminds me, I've got to go back and re-read quite a few of those.
      Some I have already re-read several times. Besides the Trustee I think it was
      In the Wet or Beyond the Black Stump that realy took my fancy. Guess I'll
      have to go to the library and put them on reserve.
      Thanks for the Bio.


      • #4
        Two of my three all time heroes mentioned above, Nevil Shute and Sir Barnes Wallace. My third was a man of similar metal, Colin Chapman.
        West Sussex UK


        • #5

          Originally posted by Alan Smith
          Two of my three all time heroes mentioned above, Nevil Shute and Sir Barnes Wallace. My third was a man of similar metal, Colin Chapman.
          metal, or mettle?
          Works either way

          I just Read trustee a few weeks ago, great book, whetted my appetite for more.
          I read On the Beach as a kid when I was into the apocalytic thing. I think (hope) I still have a copy. It even including auto racing! The movie was worth watching also.

          I may have to go shopping


          • #6
            I have all Neveil Shute's books except for one published once. Most are paperback bought in the early '80's and have become so tattered from age and re-reading, they're almost individual pages.


            • #7
              I recently read Nevil Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom and really enjoyed it. A book that was difficult to put down.

              It was mentioned to me by my brother-in-law probably over a year ago. He told me that if I ever had the chance to read it.

              My Wife and I were donating books for a fundraiser and I went up to our storage area and opened a box that had at least fifty books in it. These were given to me by a friend and all I did was to stash them away. All hard cover books. Right on the top of the stack was Trustee from the Toolroom.

              It was a joy to read.


              • #8
                Thanks for the heads up. Ebay has about 10 of Nevil Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom listed and now one of them is mine !! One copy was priced at $52.00. Maybe I should have got that one as it likely came with a machinist tool chest!
                Last edited by Your Old Dog; 03-21-2007, 04:29 PM.
                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

                It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


                • #9

                  Re the lathe on the dust jacket: I can't tell what it is, but Neville Shute owned a Myford Super 7. There are some model engineering articles on the website link below, including one with a blurred photo showing his Adept hand shaper adapted to be driven by the lathe:-


                  I would highly recommend Shute's autobiography 'Slide Rule'. His tales of working on the airship R100 are particularly interesting. One thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that during test flights the crew used to go and sunbathe on top of the airship!


                  • #10
                    Nevil Shute.....

                    Wow, thanks for posting his biography. Having read some of his books first in highschool, (On the Beach....) and later as an adult, I can appreciate his love for writing, technical work, freedom & individual enterprise, mistrust of big government etc. (Traits that many on here have ???)
                    I still wonder why so few engineers/ technical people become good popular writers. Shute was one of the few. To further extend that, why don't more "science writers/ reporters" have science degrees....?
                    Modern properity is/ was based on industry & technology. Isn't it important for the general public to at least understand the basics to make informed decisions ? Maybe not any more, maybe nobody's interested. maybe we should just stay home & contract out the work....
                    "Hey Mr. Government man, save me....."


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Asquith

                      I would highly recommend Shute's autobiography 'Slide Rule'. His tales of working on the airship R100 are particularly interesting. One thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that during test flights the crew used to go and sunbathe on top of the airship!
                      I retired three months ago. The last six years of my career were spent as a thermal engineer at Orbital Sciences, Inc., a company which assembles and launches rockets.

                      My first job as a rocket engineer was on the Saturn V, the first stage of the Apollo moon rockets. This was in 1963 and all our calculations were by slide rule. I've always kept this K&E rule in my desk drawer. About a year ago I showed it to a young engineer at Orbital. He confessed that though he'd heard of a slide rule, he'd never actually seen one!

                      I then knew it was time to retire.
                      Allan Ostling

                      Phoenix, Arizona


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by aostling

                        My first job as a rocket engineer.........
                        What a great line to drop into conversation.
                        I'm in awe!



                        • #13
                          I got a couple of books recently about Barnes Wallis - "Barnes Wallis: Dambuster" by Peter Pugh is a smallish book published in 2005, and "Barnes Wallis" by J.E. Morpurgo, a more in-depth book, published in 1971 and kindly given to me by Asquith! Info in both books about Neville Shute.

                          Brooklands in the UK (where Barnes Wallis worked) is a good place to visit for many reasons, but in particular they have several items of interest connected with Barnes Wallis, e.g. various bombs and also a Wellington bomber. This aircraft was rescued in recent years from a loch in Scotland, part of the skin is removed so you can see the geodetic construction.

                          BTW, I believe there is a new film being made about the "Dambusters".


                          • #14
                            Best grab a copy of this before the site disappears.

                            If there is a delay try later, having a few server ans ISP issues.



                            Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


                            • #15
                              Trustee from the Toolroom

                              A bit more, folks!

                              Neville Shute was also a Model Engineer and there is a proper obituary such as we would add about him making a model steam engine whilst iin Australia.
                              My memory is not what it was. Perhaps someone will find the rest!

                              Again, our hero, the Trustee is modelled( not intended) on a real person- or so we think.

                              For many years, the name Edgar Westbury appeared as a contributor, assistant and finally editor of Model Engineer magazine. There is no doubt that the two seemed to have a close association and Westbury will be known to many of you, especially the UK modellers. If the name Ned, Artificer, Exactus appear amongst many others, we suspect that these belong to Ned or the Trustee. Again, Westbury is a legend in his own time and a raft of stationary engines were designed by him and I believe are about or do appear in the HemingwayKits catalogue. They were part of Woking Models.
                              In addition, Westbury is well known as the original designer of the Westbury miller. It later became simplified for home construction. The knock on comes with Professor Dennis Chaddock who made the Dore Westbury- and made
                              the Quorn Tool and Cutter Grinder to make the cutters for his aeroengine.
                              So the circle is complete. We have Shute building an airship and Chaddock an aeroengine.

                              It isn't quite finished because our own John Stevenson built a Dore Westbury Mill- and I built both a Quorn and an original Westbury.