by Captain W. E. Johns



XV.         TRAPPED!  (Pages 216 – 227)


“Inch by inch they approached their objective.  Biggles dipped his left oar deeply, and the boat crept nearer to the cliff until Ginger, by reaching out, was able to touch it”.  Their boat goes into the void and they are swallowed up by the darkness.  Biggles is forced to use the torch in order to see to make progress and has to take the chance that no guards have been posted who might see it.  Biggles uses his fingers against the wall to maintain forward movement.  A blue light indicates the end of the tunnel which it is soon perceived is cast by the moon.  They turn their boat so they are ready for a speedy retirement should the alarm by given.  As they pass through the opening, the scene beyond unfolds.  “Biggles realized instantly that he was looking into an old crater, the crater of a long extinct volcano, now filled with water which had come through from the sea presumably by the same channel through which they themselves had come, and which had, no doubt, once been a blow-hole bored by a colossal pressure of pent-up gas when the rock had been in a fluid, or semi-fluid, state”.  There is a submarine up against a rough quay at the base of an incline.  The whole area is perfect for a submarine base.  There were four buildings built of the actual rock which formed the sides of the crater or camouflaged to resemble them.  One, near the lip of the crater, had a wireless aerial outlined against the moonlit sky.  Besides the submarine, floated a seaplane with its wings folded.  Ginger points out to Biggles a narrow cleft in the rock wall by them and rowing through, they find a small secondary crater with mines and munitions.  Biggles sees ledges which look as if they have been cut by hand with shells on them.  This is a naval armoury “and the concentration of stores was apparently still proceeding, harmless-looking junks being used for the purpose”.  Biggles had seen enough.  “My goodness! These people have got a brass face, if you like,” he breathed in Ginger’s ear.  “Fancy having the nerve to put up a show like this on a British island!”  Knowing that a submarine was out as Ginger had seen it, Biggles decides to put a mine in the tunnel so that when the submarine passed through it would strike it.  That would bottle up everything in the crater.  “A sort of miniature Zeebrugge, eh?” grinned Ginger.  (Presumably this is a reference to the attack on the German held Zeebrugge harbour and submarine base that occurred on 22nd and 23rd April 1918 and was hailed as a great success, but in truth was not).  Biggles says “Don’t run the boat against one of those spikes or we shall take a flight through space that will make Clem Sohn’s show look like a half-fledged sparrow doing its first solo”.  (Clem Sohn was an American air show dare-devil who perfected a way of gliding through the air with a home-made wing suit.  His was dropped from an aeroplane and glided down before opening a parachute at around 300 metres from the ground.  He was badly injured at the opening ceremony at Gatwick when he only managed to open his emergency parachute at 60 metres.  He was killed on 25th April 1937 in France, aged only 26, when both his parachutes failed to open.  This Biggles story was written before his death).  “The ‘spikes’ to which Biggles referred were, of course, the ‘horns’ of the mines, which in effect act like triggers, in that anything coming into contact with them depresses a firing-pin into a detonator, which explodes the bursting charge”.  Biggles unties a mine and Ginger drags it into position, where they leave it floating in the channel.  Biggles rows towards the entrance of the cave only to see the light bloated out.  “It’s the submarine!” he cried in a strangled, high-pitched voice.  “She’s coming in!”  (It’s the submarine!” he cried.  “She’s coming in! - is the illustration on page 227).