by W. E. Johns



4.  SPY IN THE SKY!  (Pages 65 - 81)

(First published in the Modern Boy on 5th May 1934 – Issue 326)


(This was ‘The Lost Airman’ (Chapter 7) & ‘Snow and Bullets’ (Chapter 8) in the original “Boy’s Friend Library” first edition but it was omitted from the 1955 revised edition as the story was used in “Biggles of 266” instead)


The weather is so foul that there is no flying today.  A Spad (which stands for Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés), bearing the red, white and blue cockades of the French Flying Corps lands, apparently lost, and a French pilot gets out and joins the officers of 169 Squadron.  The newcomer explains that he is from the Spad Escadrille Fifty-eight, at Soyons des Dames and is surprised to learn that his home aerodrome is some fifty miles farther north.  Major Paynter comes in and “the Frenchman glanced up, and for one fleeting second his expression revealed something more than the whimsical smile he had worn ever since he had joined them.  Biggles happened to be looking directly at his face, and he distinctly saw the pupils of his eyes dilate and then return to normal.  For a fraction of an instant it seemed as if Biggles saw, through that mask of assumed gaiety, a cold deliberateness that did not reconcile itself to the man’s manner”.  The talk turns to flying and Major Paynter says he will ring the French officer’s squadron but the officer insists on doing it himself.  Suspicious, Biggles says he knows Jaques Fabrier at Escadrille Fifty-eight and the French officer, who says his name is Marcel Joudrier, acknowledges that he knows him.  Biggles knows the man is lying because Biggles just invented Jaques Fabrier on the spur of the moment.  As the officers talk about the relative performance of French and British machines, Biggles knows the man is gathering important information with a vengeance.  Biggles takes Mark aside and tells him his suspicions.  Biggles has a plan to take this French officer to Soyons des Dames and he tells Mark.  As the weather lifts, Biggles goes out to see Sergeant Hopkins in the ‘A’ flight shed and then sinks a screwdriver into the tyre of the French officer’s aircraft.  He asks the Sergeant to have it repaired – slowly.  The mechanics then get out Biggles’ F.E. aircraft (number 4391) and get it ready to fly with the engine ticking over.  When the French officer comes out it is clear he is anxious to leave but he has to wait for his tyre to be repaired.  Biggles offers him a flight in a British aircraft “that is, if you’re not afraid to fly in a British machine”.  It was “a challenge that no airman could ignore if he did not wish to be thought a coward”.  The French officer gets in the front seat of the F.E. and Biggles flies around the aerodrome and then sets off for Soyons des Dames.  The Frenchman asks where he is going and when his is told, “Soyons des Dames – to see Jaques Fabrier”, the Frenchman goes for his gun but Biggles is quicker.  “His automatic leapt into his left hand and the muzzle bored into the leather-clad back of his passenger”.  Biggles tells the Frenchman if he moves his hands, Biggles will blow a hole through him.  Biggles continues flying but the weather conditions deteriorate and he has to fly lower and lower.  With snow getting in his face, Biggles finds holding the joystick in his right hand and the gun in his left, a strain.  When Biggles goes to wipe snow from his goggles, the Frenchman twists round and manages to get the gun from Biggles.  “Biggles kicked out his left foot on the rudder-bar, and then jerked the stick back into his right thigh.  The instant result was a stunt that he never attempted to repeat”.  As the plane jerks violently; the Frenchman is thrown against the side of his cockpit and drops the gun.  He then draws his own Mauser and covers Biggles with that.  Biggles then loops the loop to try and get him to drop out but centrifugal force keeps him in.  The spy then starts shooting at the propeller.  A green-and-red German Albatros drops on them and opens fire and bullets hit the machine.  Some French Spads arrive, with the number 58 painted on them, Biggles knows that they must have received orders from Headquarters to look out for him.  Half blinded by driving snow, Biggles knows he must land and does so with a tearing, splintering crash.  Biggles gets out and finds the spy dead, with a neat bullet-hole through the centre of his forehead, ironically from the German Albatros.  A Major Bricault of the French Intelligence Service arrives and says he knows the spy.  He is Franz Hymann of the German Secret Service.  They were waiting on the aerodrome for Biggles to arrive.  Bricault says “We will ring up your squadron and tell them you are safe, and that you are dining with us tonight!”