BIGGLES IN FRANCE
by W. E. Johns
3. FLYING LUCK! (Pages 41 - 53)
(First published in the Modern Boy on 21st July 1934 – Issue 337)
(This is ‘Biggles Gets a Bull’ (Chapter 5) & ‘Lost in the Sky’ (Chapter 6) in the book and the story became “THE ARRIVAL OF ANGUS” in “Spitfire Parade”).
For four consecutive days the weather has been bad and there is no flying. Biggles can’t stand it any longer and insists on going flying. Biggles tells Flight-Sergeant Smyth that he only intends to go and visit 187 Squadron. Biggles takes off but “however bad conditions may seem on the ground, they nearly always appear to be far worse in the air”. “Before five minutes had passed he was repenting his decision to fly, and inside ten minutes he was wondering what madness had come upon him that he should start such an errand for no reason at all”. Completely and utterly lost, Biggles is forced to land and has to swerve to avoid hitting what Biggles thinks is a cow. “There was a shuddering jar as the undercarriage slewed off sideways under the unaccustomed strain, and the machine slid to a standstill flat on the bottom of its fuselage”. The problem gets worse when Biggles discovers the “cow” is a bull and it is not happy. It charges his machine. “The cockpit of an aeroplane is designed to stand many stresses and strains, but a thrust from the horns of an infuriated bull is not one of them”. Biggles runs for his life and falls over in a shallow, but slimy, pond. He then makes his way to a French farmyard where the door is “opened almost at once, and somewhat to his surprise, by a remarkably pretty girl of seventeen or eighteen, who eyed him with astonishment”. Biggles is invited inside and introduced to her mother and soon finds himself in front of the fire in an old overcoat, eating hot soup, with his uniform drying in front of the fire. This charming state of affairs is somewhat ruined by the arrival of “a very dapper French second-lieutenant, who wore the wings of the French Flying Corps on his breast”. This is mademoiselle’s fiancé. Three days earlier, he had flown down to visit his fiancée and had been caught by the weather. He had to return to his squadron without his aircraft and has now returned to collect it as it has been reported that the weather is improving. Biggles, having explained his predicament is offered a lift back in the French officer’s plane. Biggles feels obliged to go and so, with misgivings, gets into the French officer’s dilapidated Breguet aeroplane. The officers set off for Maranique, but in the wrong direction and the French pilot won’t take any advice from Biggles. Coming down out of grey cloud, Biggles is surprised to see an aerodrome and although he doesn’t believe it can be Maranique, he just wants to get out of the aircraft. The Frenchman lands nose down in a ditch and they both get out of the plane. Suddenly, the Frenchman cries out in horror and fumbles for his pistol. “For a moment Biggles did not understand, and thought the wretched fellow was going to shoot himself, out of remorse. But then Biggles saw that he was mistaken”. Not a hundred yards away stands a German Rumpler ‘plane! The Frenchman fires his pistol into his fuel tank and sets his own aircraft alight. Biggles and the Frenchman then run for it and hide at the edge of a wood until it is dark. The Frenchman then comes up with the idea of stealing the Rumpler in order to escape. They sneak back to the Rumpler and can hear laughter from people around the crashed Breguet. Biggles insists on flying and as he goes to climb into the cockpit of the Rumpler, a head appears above the rim of the cockpit and a voice asks – in perfect English – “What the dickens do you two fellows think you’re going to do?” The man says his is Lynsdale of 281 Squadron and they are at St. Marie Fleur, the home of that squadron. The Rumpler had been forced down by Lynsdale that morning. Lynsdale turns to the Frenchman and says “Are you by any chance the johnnie who landed here about an hour ago and set fire to his kite?” The Frenchman bursts into tears. “You’d both better come up to the mess and have some grub, while I ring up your people and tell them you’re here!” observed Lynsdale, trying hard not to laugh”.