by Roger Harris


A restored copy of an original John Hamilton ‘wrap-around’ dust jacket for”Biggles” of the Camel Squadron’


“Biggles” of the Camel Squadron' was the third Biggles book published by John Hamilton and the first ever Biggles book to have the word “Biggles” in the title – hence the quotation marks round the name!  The thirteen separate stories had previously been published in 'Modern Boy' Magazine from issue 284 (dated 15th July 1933) to issue 296 (dated 7th October 1933).  However, the first five stories, ‘The Professor’, ‘The Joy-Ride’, ‘The Bridge Party’, ‘The Bottle Party’ and ‘The Trap’ had originally been published in ‘Popular Flying’ Magazine, monthly, from January 1933 to May 1933.


The book itself was published by John Hamilton Ltd, in March 1934, with the British Library receiving their copy on 16th April 1934 (so it must have been published earlier than this date).

The book was later published in the Boy’s Friend Library Series, as issue 610, dated 3rd February 1938, but (bizarrely) it was re-titled “Biggles Goes to War” which is nothing to do with the later Oxford book “Biggles Goes to War” published in May 1938 (but two different Biggles books with the same title, being published within weeks of each other, must have lead to some considerable confusion!)


“Biggles” of the Camel Squadron was published in at least eight editions by John Hamilton and the first edition of the book was published as part of the John Hamilton "Ace" series.

The price of the book was 3 shillings and 6 pence.  Just a brief note about "old money". Prior to decimalisation there were 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound - so there were 240 pence in a pound. 3 shillings and 6 pence was therefore 42 pence (pence was referred to by the letter "d" in old money). On decimalisation, a shilling became 5 new pence so in "new money" the book would have cost 17.5 pence.


The pages of my first edition were originally tinted blue along the top edge. I have displayed photographs of my original first edition to show the dimensions of the book and also to show what the first few pages look like to assist people in identifying first editions of the book.




Above you can see that the first three pictures show the size of the first edition book cover.  The book is 190 millimetres long and is 40 millimetres wide.

The depth is just under 130 millimetres from the back of the spine to the tip of the cover.



My first edition of “Biggles” of the Camel Squadron has a double flyleaf – that is two blank pages at the front of the book.  From the age marks and thickness of the paper, these appear to be entirely original and genuine and do not appear to have been added later.  I would love to hear from any other collector out there who has another first edition of this book to hear if their copy is the same.  Is this a feature of the first edition?


As with all of the John Hamilton books, there is no publication date.


Although generally speaking, it is hard to determine the different John Hamilton editions of "Biggles” of the Camel Squadron’, as the books were undated, the first edition itself can be determined from the catalogue in the back of the book.  The first edition contained a 28 page catalogue dated Spring 1934 (see photo 15 above).  The book itself has blue boards and the titles are on the front cover and on the spine in gold gilt (although on my copy this has obviously faded over the years). The book was part of the “Ace” series and has 254 pages and the Sundial logo is at the base of the spine followed by the words “John Hamilton”.  The book has a colour frontispiece and four other illustrations by Howard Leigh.