A further episode from the career of Major James Bigglesworth, D.S.O. (commonly known as ‘Biggles’), with his friend and war-time comrade,

Captain the Honourable Algernon Lacey, D.F.C., and their protégé, ‘Ginger’ Hebblethwaite


by Captain W. E. Johns


First published August 1936





List of illustrations – Page 7 (Frontispiece by Howard Leigh and six illustrations by Alfred Sindall on pages 49, 73, 131, 163, 221 and 249.  There is also a map of the air route from London to the Cape on page 27)


I.              A PILOT PASSES  (Pages 9 – 25)


“Biggles looked up from the breakfast table of his Mount Street flat as his two friends, Algy Lacey and Ginger Hebblethwaite, walked into the room.  From their shining faces and the dressing-gowns they wore it was clear that they had come direct from the bathroom, and Biggles eyed them with frank disapproval” (So it would appear that Biggles, Algy and Ginger all live together).  Biggles criticises them because “It’s nearly half-past nine – a nice time to roll down to brekker, I must say”.  Algy says there is nothing much to get up for.  “None of us has done a day’s work for weeks, not since we wound up Cronfeldt’s gold-running racket” (this is a reference to the previous book in the series, ‘Biggles & Co.’, although Johns has forgotten how he spelt the villain’s name!  In the previous book it was “Cronfelt” without a “d”!  The same mistake is repeated in the Armada paperback of ‘Biggles in Africa’ published in 1962).  Biggles tells Algy and Ginger that he is expecting a visitor, having received a letter from Mr. Felix Marton, whose address is ‘Marton’s Motor-cycles, Ltd., Birmingham’, saying that Colonel Raymond of Scotland Yard has suggested Biggles’ name to him to help him solve “a very grievous problem”.  Felix Marton arrives and is shown in by Mrs. Symes.  He tells the three airmen that he is a widower and his only son, Harry, has disappeared following an attempt to break the record for flying from England to Capetown in South Africa.  Harry was flying in a red Puss Moth, which is a monoplane.  He took off from Malakal (now the second biggest city in South Sudan after the capital, Juba) in Central Africa but never reached his next stop at Juba (now the capital of the South Sudan).  There are few clues as to what has happened but a white hunter named Major Lawton reported at Nairobi seeing a monoplane gliding down in the direction of Insula with its engine off.  Insula was supposed to be an emergency landing ground for Imperial Airways, which was abandoned and sold to a Greek trading concern, who wanted to grow Turkish tobacco there.  Felix Marton has been to Insula.  “A supply of petrol is held there in charge of a half-caste fellow who appears to act as a sort of caretaker-storeman”.  After being evasive, this man eventually admitted that a red aeroplane had landed there to affect repairs and then took off again, flying south.  Mr. Marton is convinced that something happened to Harry at Insula and he wants Biggles to find out the truth, even if that is confirmation of a crash site and that Harry is dead.  Biggles says he will go.  As to payment, Biggles says “the only fair way would be for you to finance the expedition, paying all expenses, and paying myself and my co-pilots a flat rate worked out on a time basis”.  Marton says he will and he will also pay them five thousand pounds if they find Harry’s aircraft and he will double that if they find Harry or his grave.  Marton asks them when they will start.  “Just as soon as the Royal Aero Club can get permits for us to fly over foreign territory” says Biggles.  “If we discover anything we will cable you at once”.  They shake hands and Mr. Marton leaves.  Biggles observes whimsically to his colleagues “It looks as if we’ve only escaped von Stalhein’s bullets to make a dinner for lions”.  Biggles says he is going round to the Aero Club.