by W. E. Johns



7.  THE LAUGHING SPY!  (Pages 113 - 127)

(First published in the Modern Boy on 26th May 1934 – Issue 329)


(This was ‘Biggles’ Special Mission’ (Chapter 11) & ‘The Decoy’ (Chapter 12) in the original “Boy’s Friend Library” first edition and ‘Special Mission’ (Chapter 8) in the 1955 revised edition)


Biggles is asked to report to Major Paynter, his C.O. and he is introduced to Major (not Colonel) Raymond of Wing Command.  (Interesting continuity situation here.  The character of Colonel Raymond – is a regular in the Biggles stories and he was originally introduced in the second ever Biggles story – called “The Packet” – originally published in the May 1932 issue of ‘Popular Flying’ and subsequently published as the second story in the first Biggles book ‘The Camels are Coming’.  In that story he is not described as being from Wing but “from a higher command”.  However, that story was set when Biggles was at 266 Squadron.  This story, set at 169 Squadron pre-dates the 266 Squadron stories.  That means that Biggles is meeting ‘Major’ Raymond for the first time in this story.  So why don’t they know each other when Biggles meets ‘Colonel’ Raymond at 266 Squadron?).  With Major Raymond is “a round-faced, cheerful-looking civilian in a black coat and bowler hat”.  Biggles is asked to fly this man, a Frenchman and a Secret Service agent (or spy) to the German side of the lines and to drop him at “a suitable spot”.  Biggles will then be asked to go and collect him when his mission is over.  Biggles agrees to go.  Biggles is told to tell no one other than his flight-commander, Mapleton.  A few evenings later, Raymond is present to see Biggles and the spy off.  Raymond tells Biggles “He’s going to dynamite a bridge over the Aisne”.  Biggles suggests waiting for the spy whilst he does it but that is not thought to be a good idea.  Biggles shakes hands with the spy.  “It is an honour to know you,” Biggles said.  And he meant it”.  Biggles takes an instant liking to the Frenchman.  Biggles flies the man to a pre-planned field between two roads and a railway line and he takes off again leaving the spy to do his work.  He returns to his aerodrome without incident.  “It had all been absurdly easy, and the reaction left him with a curious feeling of elation – a joyful sensation that the enemy had been outwitted”.  At 5.00 am, the next morning Biggles has to fly back to go and get the Frenchman.  Arriving at the field at the first flush of dawn, Biggles sees mounted enemy troops – Uhlans.  Biggles concludes the Frenchman is not there so there is no point in landing, but then a figure bursts from the edge of the field and waves his arms.  Biggles immediately decides that he has to land to rescue the man.  “Then a remarkable thing happened”.  Another man runs out into the field and this man is wearing a black coat and bowler hat.  Biggles is close enough to recognise him as the French spy.  The first man had been a decoy to entice Biggles to land.  The real spy runs over to this decoy and shoots him.  The spy “had exposed himself to warn his flying partner, even at the expense of his own life”.  Biggles is now more determined than ever to save the Frenchman and he lands his aircraft.  The Frenchman jumps in the front cockpit head first and Biggles takes off under heavy fire.  Back at base, Major Raymond is waiting and the spy reports successfully blowing up the bridge.  The Frenchman says to Biggles it was “Just a little excitement to – how you say? – warm the blood”.  “Warm the blood!” exclaimed Biggles.  “When I want to do that I’ll do it in front of the mess-room fire, thanks!  Your sort of warm jolly well gets me overheated!”