Nevil Shute Norway

Nevil Shute Norway

17/1/1899 - 12/1/1960

Better know as the writer Nevil Shute, after emigrating to Australia after the second World War he took up racing in a Jaguar XK140.

Other links relevant in this story:

<font face="Tahoma" size="2">Born in Ealing, London, Nevil Shute Norway was educated at the Dragon School, Shrewsbury School and Balliol College, Oxford. He served in World War I in the infantry. Qualified as an aeronautical engineer and a pilot, he joined the de Havilland Aircraft Company but left in 1924 to work for Vickers Ltd.

While at Vickers he started writing under a shortened version of his name as he felt that his employer would take a dim view of him writing on the side.

At Vickers he was involved with the development of airships, working as a stress engineer on the R100 Airship project. In 1929, he was promoted to Deputy Chief Engineer of the R100 under Sir Barnes Wallis. The R100 was a modest success but after the fatal crash of R101 in 1930, with the loss of 48 of the 54 on board, the R100 was grounded and then scrapped. He left Vickers shortly afterwards and in 1931 founded the aircraft construction company Airspeed Ltd.

By the start of World War II, his popularity as a writer was on the increase but he continued to work on military projects with his former Vickers boss Sir Dennistoun Burney.

He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve but due to his fame as a writer, the Ministry of Information send him to Normandy on June 6, 1944 and later to Burma as a correspondent.

In 1950 he emigrated to Australia, disallusioned when a Labour Government is re-elected.

There he took up motor racing between 1956 and 1958. A few months after suffering a heart attack in November 1955, he wrote to one of his friends informing them that: "I suddenly went crazy the other day and ordered an open two-seater Jaguar XK140 so you will probably see my obituary before long." 

The Jaguar was delivered to Bryson's, a Melbourne Jaguar dealer, on 8th Mar 1956, and delivered to Shute on 11th May 1956. This was the only XK140 Special Equipment roadster sold in Melbourne in 1956; only 12 SE roadsters were made in that year, and only two were shipped to Australia.

The Jaguar XK140 was said to have a top speed of around 145 miles per hour though it was propably closer to 130 mph in "favourable conditions".

Nevil Shute was a regular competitor at the new Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and regularly raced his white Jaguar XK140. He was quite competent, placing in scratch races, but mostly raced purely for the enjoyment of it.

Some of his racing experience found its way into his book, 'On The Beach', and he justified the purchase as research for the book. At the end of the film version, Fred Astaire's character Julian competes in the Australian Grand Prix. This was shot in part at Phillip Island. In one scene, a white Jaguar XK can be seen. There was a story at the time that the author made a cameo appearance however it seems unlikely that this actually happened.

He died in Melbourne in 1960.


Leave a comment