by W. E. Johns



8.  BIGGLES’ BULLS-EYE!  (Pages 128 - 145)

(First published in the Modern Boy on 2nd June 1934 – Issue 330)


(This was ‘Eyes of the Guns’ (Chapter 13) & ‘Neck or Nothing’ (Chapter 14) in the original “Boy’s Friend Library” first edition and ‘Eyes of the Guns’ (Chapter 9) in the 1955 revised edition)


Biggles is doing ‘art obs’ – in other words, artillery observation.  Basically, this is signalling to gun batteries when they fire at a target to give them information as to how to adjust their shooting.  “Briefly, this was the programme, for which, as a general rule, wireless was used, although occasionally a system of Very lights was employed.  Wireless, at the time of which we are speaking, was of a primitive nature.  The pilot, by means of an aerial which he lowered below the machine, could only send messages; he could not receive them.  The gunners, in order to convey a message to the pilot has to lay out strips of white material in the form of letters.  Now the target was considered to be in the centre of an imaginary clock, twelve o’clock being due north.  Six o’clock was therefore due south, and the other cardinal points in their relative positions.  Imaginary rings drawn round the target were lettered A, B, C, D, E, and F.  These were 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 yards away respectively.  When the gunners started work, if the first shell dropped, say, one hundred yards away and due north of the target, all the pilot had to do was to signal B 12.  ‘B’ meant that the shell burst one hundred yards away, and the ‘12’ meant at twelve o’clock on the imaginary clock face.  Thus the gunners were able to mark on their map exactly where the shell had fallen, and were therefore able to adjust their gun for the next shot”.  Biggles is carrying out this duty, the target being a German gun battery, when there is a shout from Mark Way, his observer, to alert him to an attack by an enemy aircraft, an Albatros, silver with scarlet wing-tips.  Biggles is forced to meet the attack and soon realises that his opponent is an airman of some considerable skill.  One bullet jars the joystick out of Biggles’ hand prompting him to respond with “You lop-sided son of a wall-eyed pig”.  The Hun gets behind Biggles and Biggles realises that he is ‘cold meat’.  Mark is injured as Biggles sees blood running down his face.  The Albatros breaks off the attack when nine Sopwith Pups appear.  It was a close shave for Biggles.  “His pride suffered when he thought of the way the Hun had ‘made rings round him,’ and he was not quite as confident of himself as he had been, yet he knew the experience was worth all the anxiety it had caused him”.  Biggles gets back to spotting for the artillery.  An hour later and the red-and-silver Albatros is back to attack him again.  “Biggles was not to be caught napping twice”.  He dives for home and returns to the same place to continue spotting only when the Albatros has gone.  The Albatros is back immediately.  Biggles, angry now at the cunning of the other pilot “positively flung the F.E. at the black-crossed machine” and is soon on his tail.  “It was a brilliant move, although at the time he did not know it; it showed anticipation in the moves of the game that marked the expert in air combat”.  Mark opens fire and hits the enemy fuselage but the German plane fakes an out of control spin and then escapes.  Biggles continues spotting for the guns: It has been three hours now.  “H.Q. want that Hun battery blown up, do they?” he thought.  “All right, they shall have it blown up – but I know a quicker way of doing it than this”.  Biggles flies back to his aerodrome and has two 112-pounder bombs loaded.  He telephones the battery for which he had been acting to tell them what he is doing and then flies back to the German gun battery and bombs it from a height of about fifty feet.  The explosion is tremendous and Biggles knows he must have hit the enemy ammunition dump.  There is a dense pall of smoke and the British gunners now have something to aim at.  They open fire and Biggles helps guide the shells in on the target.  Biggles is then alerted by white archie – white being British – that a German plane is present.  He just knows it must be the red-and-silver Albatros yet again.  Biggles loops the loop to avoid the attack and sees the Albatros going down with no propeller.  Biggles still has the aerial hanging out of his plane, a long length of copper wire with a lead plummet on the end.  It must have swished round like a flail and smashed the German’s propeller!  Biggles races for home to avoid more German planes and returns to base.  The C.O. is waiting for him and Biggles tells him what happened.  “Far be it from me to discourage zeal or initiative,” said the C.O. “but we cannot have this sort of thing”.  Biggles had no instructions to use bombs.  “As a punishment, you will return this afternoon to the scene of the affair, taking a camera with you.  I shall require a photograph of the wrecked German battery on my desk by one hour after sunset”.  The C.O. acknowledges that it “was a jolly good show, all the same!”