BIGGLES LEARNS TO FLY
by W. E. Johns
12. BIGGLES’ REVENGE! (Pages 192 - 203)
(First published in the Modern Boy on 30th June 1934 – Issue 334)
(This was ‘The Yellow Hun’ (Chapter 21) & ‘I got him!’ (Chapter 22) in the original “Boy’s Friend Library” first edition and ‘The Yellow Hun’ (Chapter 15) in the 1955 revised edition)
“No. 266 Squadron, R.F.C., at Maranique, France, had been equipped with Sopwith Camels for nearly a month and with the improved equipment the pilots were showing the enemy – as Biggles had put it – what’s what. Except for two pilots who had been killed whilst learning to fly the very tricky Camels, things had gone along quite smoothly and Biggles had long ago settled down as a regular member of the squadron. Indeed, he was beginning to regard himself as something of a veteran in the Great War”. Major Mullen returns from Amiens, having ran into Major Paynter, with news of Biggles old friend and gunner, Mark Way. “He isn’t dead, but he’ll never fly again”. There is also news of Captain Mapleton, ‘Mabs’. “Mapleton’s dead”. The story behind the tragedy is this. Mark had packed and left to go and train to be a pilot, but was recalled due to enemy action. He was acting as a gunner for Mabs, they were attacked by a big bunch of enemy machines near Lille and their engine was shot up. Their propeller stopped and they were forced to land. The Hun who hit them followed them down shooting all the time. Way was struck in the eye by a piece of glass that cut his eye out. Mabs made a perfect landing but the German shot them up on the ground. “Mapleton fell dead with a bullet through the head. Way’s wrist was splintered by an explosive bullet, and his hand was subsequently amputated in a German field hospital. Three days ago, on the eve of being transferred to a prison camp, he escaped, and managed to work his way through the Lines. He arrived in a state of collapse, and Major Paynter thinks – and I agree with him – that it was only the burning desire to report the flagrant breach of the accepted rules of air fighting, and the passion for revenge, which he knew would follow, that kept him on his feet. The Hun seems to have been a Hun in every sense of the word; he actually went and gloated over Way in hospital”. Way found out his name. Von Kraudil of the Seventeenth Jagdstaffel. “He flies a sulphur-yellow Albatros with a black nose and a black diamond painted on each side of the fuselage”. There is much anger and hatred for Von Kraudil amongst the British pilots and they all swear to get him. Major Muller offers a week’s leave to the officer who gets him. Biggles goes to his room. He was in “a curious state of nerves, for the news had stirred him as nothing had ever done before. He was depressed by the tragic end of the man whom he still regarded as his best friend, and with whom he had had so many thrilling adventures. And tears actually came into his eyes when he thought of his old flight-commander, Mapleton, whom they all called Mabs, one of the most brilliant and fearless air fighters in France. He was suffering from a mild form of shock, although he did not know it, and behind it all was the burning desire for revenge”. Biggles goes to his aircraft, only to find the rest of the squadron already out looking for the distinctive yellow German plane. Biggles goes on patrol to look for the yellow hun and returns to refuel. He is then told by Watt Tyler (again spelt with two “t’s” here) that a large enemy formation has been seen in pursuit of two Camels up by Passchendaele. Biggles jumps in his plane and flies off. As he approaches, Biggles can see two Camels now being assisted by half a dozen Bristols. One dark blue Albatros breaks away and streaks for the Lines. Biggles comes down on him. “Biggles fired exactly five rounds at point-blank range and the Hun’s petrol tank burst into flames”. “He glanced down, to see the Hun still falling, the doomed pilot leaning back in his cockpit with his arms over his face. It crashed in a sheet of flame near a British rest camp”. Biggles joins the main fight and sees the bright yellow Hun that he was looking for. However, Mahoney is furiously on its tail determined to shoot it down. The German pilot lands rather than let this happen. Biggles and Mahoney land, and with the help of a German speaking British subaltern, they ascertain that the pilot is one Wilhelm Schultz. Von Kraudil is flying a blue machine, says the German, and he describes the plane that Biggles shot down earlier. To be certain, Biggles and Mahoney go to the British rest camp where the blue German plane crashed and are told “We found his body lying some distance away. He must have been killed when he was thrown out, but he had been badly burned beforehand”. The identity disc says his name was Von Kraudil. “Then it was our man, after all!” exclaimed Biggles. “Come on; let’s get back and report. I think I’ll take that week’s leave the Old Man spoke about – and go and see Mark”.
This is the end of the Norman Wright version of the book, which sets out the stories in the order that they were originally published (and presumably the order that they were originally written). The original Boy’s Friend Library version (and the Hodder and Stoughton 1955 reprint) had the story KNIGHTS OF THE SKY (already described above) as the last chapter of the book, where it was entitled “The Dawn Patrol”. This original story of 169 Squadron had been considerably amended to make it a 266 Squadron story and had the ending changed (again, as described above).