BIGGLES – AIR COMMODORE
by Captain W. E. Johns
XVI. IN THE LION’S DEN (Pages 228 – 242)
“That was, without doubt, one of the most desperate moments of their many desperate adventures”. Biggles turns the dinghy and rows back into the submarine base. A light from the submarine illuminates the tunnel and a shout rings out so it is clear they have been seen. Biggles has forgotten about the mine and they miss it by a foot as they row passed. Ginger lets out a shrill cry of horror. “Keep your head,” snarled Biggles angrily. “I’m going to make for the quay – it’s our only chance”. The submarine hits the mine and there is a huge explosion. The force of the resulting water wave causes the dinghy to crash “into the under-carriage of the seaplane with such force that the top was ripped clean off one of the floats and a hole torn in the dinghy’s side. It began to sink at once”. Men begin running down to the quay and lights appear everywhere. “Looks like the evacuation of Sodom and Gomorrah,” grinned Biggles, his curious sense of humour overcoming all other emotions even at this critical juncture”. (Two Biblical cities mentioned in the book of Genesis, which were consumed by fire and brimstone; the activities in the cities incurring the wrath of God). As everyone gathers at the quayside, Biggles and Ginger made a dash up the path to the top of the volcano. Unfortunately, they are soon spotted and chased. Pushing loose rock of all shapes and sizes down on their pursuers, they get a good lead but they are confronted at the top by a stream of Dyaks armed with their native weapons, the kris “which, in the hands of an expert, can take a man’s head from his shoulders as cleanly as a guillotine”. The only hope for Biggles and Ginger is to run into the wireless building and barricade themselves in. “Two men, oriental in appearance, in gold-braided blue uniforms, who had been sitting at the desk in front of a magnificent modern wireless equipment, sprang to their feet with startled eyes as the two airmen burst in”. One man goes for his revolver and Biggles shoots him. The other they let go and bolt the door behind him. Ginger sets to work trying to send a message to Singapore. Ginger revolves the “black vulcanite controls”. (Vulcanite is a hard, usually black, rubber, produced by vulcanizing natural rubber with large amounts of sulphur). Biggles fires at faces at the window. A stream of machine-gun bullets pour through the wooden door but Biggles and Ginger stay well out of the line of fire. Ginger can’t get Singapore, but he can get the Seafret. Biggles writes out a message to be transmitted to Sullivan at the Seafret for onward transmission to Singapore. Ginger gets the message off but soon after the instrument goes dead. The wires have been cut. Biggles sneaks a look out of the window and sees the machine-gun unmanned whilst a much heavier gun is being dragged into position. “I’m going to make a bolt for it,” he snapped. “Keep me covered as far as you can”. With that he unfastened the door, flung it wide open, and raced to the machine-gun. It is probable that this was the very last thing the people outside expected”. Biggles turns the muzzle of the machine-gun and opens fire. “There was no need to take aim. The target was large and the range point-blank”. (The target was large and the range point-blank - is the illustration on page 241). “Those who had been hit lay where they had fallen; the others raced for cover”. When the bullets run out, Biggles make a dash for the jungle “not a score of paces distant”. Ginger follows. So completely successful had the sortie been that Ginger “did not have to fire a single shot during the whole engagement”.