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Nevil Shute Norway (1899–1960) was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer. He used his full name in his engineering career, and "Nevil Shute" as his pen name,
1899 January 17th. Born in Somerset Road, Ealing, London, he was educated at the Dragon School, Shrewsbury School and Balliol College, Oxford. Shute's father, Arthur Hamilton Norway, became head of the post office in Ireland before the First World War, and was based at the main post office in Dublin in 1916 at the time of the Easter Rising. His son was later commended for his role as a stretcher bearer during the rising.
Shute attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich but because of his stammer was unable to take up a commission in the Royal Flying Corps, instead serving in World War I as a soldier in the Suffolk Regiment.
An aeronautical engineer as well as a pilot, he began his engineering career with De Havilland but, dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities for advancement, he took a position in 1924 with Vickers, where he was involved with the development of airships and structural geodetic frame design.
Shute worked as Chief Calculator (stress engineer) on the R100 airship project for the subsidiary Airship Guarantee Company. In 1929, he was promoted to Deputy Chief Engineer of the R100 project under Barnes Wallis and, when Wallis left the project, he became the Chief Engineer.
Despite setbacks and tribulations, including the usual problem of the start-up business, liquidity, Airspeed Limited eventually gained significant recognition when its Envoy aircraft was chosen for the King's Flight. With the approach of war a military version of Envoy was developed, to be called the Airspeed Oxford. The Oxford became the standard advanced multi-engined trainer for the RAF and British Commonwealth, with over 8,500 being built.
For the innovation of developing a hydraulic retractable undercarriage for the Airspeed Courier, and his work on R100, Shute was made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
On 7 March 1931, Shute married Frances Mary Heaton, a 28-year-old medical practitioner. They had two daughters, Heather and Shirley.
By the outbreak of World War II, Shute was already a rising novelist. Even as war seemed imminent he was working on military projects with his former Vickers boss Sir Dennistoun Burney.
He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a sub-lieutenant and quickly ended up in what would become the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. There he was a head of engineering, working on secret weapons such as Panjandrum, a job that appealed to the engineer in him. His celebrity as a writer caused the Ministry of Information to send him to the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 and later to Burma as a correspondent. He finished the war with the rank of lieutenant-commander RNVR.
In 1948, after World War II, he flew his own Percival Proctor light plane to Australia and back, with the writer James Riddell. On his return home, concerned about the general decline in his home country, he decided that he and his family would emigrate and so, in 1950, he settled with his wife and two daughters on farmland at Langwarrin, south-east of Melbourne.
In the 1950s and 1960s he was one of the world's best-selling novelists
He had a brief career as a racing driver in Australia between 1956 and 1958, driving a white XK140 Jaguar.
1960 January 12th. Shute died in Melbourne after a stroke.