by Captain W. E. Johns



IV.           ‘REPORTED MISSING  (Pages 68 – 76)


“Half an hour later, after a hasty toilet and breakfast, they all foregathered in the captain’s cabin to discuss a revised plan of campaign made necessary by the loss of the decoy ship.  It was not a cheerful gathering, for the fate of the crew of the Bengal Star, in particular the captain and wireless operator whom they knew, weighed heavily upon them”.  Biggles notes the enemy have changed their plan.  Instead of sending out a false S.O.S., they jammed the wireless equipment so that Turrell couldn’t broadcast a message.  Captain Sullivan remembers he has a letter for Biggles and gives it to him.  It is from Tom Lowery, the man Biggles met at the beginning of the story.  The letter tells Biggles he has seen about his flight to Australia in the papers and that he, Tom, is flying a new Gannet flying boat back to Singapore and will be flying over the Mergui Archipelago.  He hopes to meet Biggles either in Alor or Singapore.  The Mergui Archipelago was the direction the submarine was heading.  Biggles tells Sullivan to hide up on the coast opposite the Mergui Islands, while he flies to Singapore to see the R.A.F. and then he will fly around looking for the submarine.  “I shall go on looking while you have any petrol left” Biggles tells Sullivan.  The Nemesis lands at Singapore and Biggles goes to see the Group Captain in command.  Biggles tells him about the enemy submarine base.  “I’m looking for that base, and when I find it I’ve got to wipe it out of existence.  If I can find a way of doing that single-handed I shan’t trouble you, but if I can’t I shall send you a signal and you’ll have to do it for me with as many machines as you can get into the air”.  Biggles says he will put out a Zone Call, that they used to use in the (First World) war with a password, “Nomad”.  (The ninth short story in the very first Biggles book published in 1932, The Camels are Coming is called “The Zone Call”).  Biggles says his supply ship, the Seafret, has about eight thousand gallons of petrol on board which they can use for refuelling.  Biggles asks to speak to Tom Lowery, only to be told that he has been reported missing.  “Biggles stared.  “Missing!” he ejaculated”.  “Well, he’s four days overdue.  No one has seen or heard a word of him since he left Rangoon a week ago”.  A search has been made for him but they believe he’s down somewhere.  Biggles asks if the mess secretary can put them up for the night and then says “I’ll go and see my aircraft put to bed”.