by Captain W. E. Johns



XVII.               JUST RETRIBUTION  (Pages 243 – 253)


They initially follow the path, but knowing that the Dyaks will follow, they turn into the jungle, trying not to leave any marks that would betray them.  Biggles says they need to make for the islet where Algy is hopefully still waiting for them.  A shout indicates that the Dyaks are after them and Biggles and Ginger abandon all stealth and just have to make as much speed as possible, regardless of noise.  The ground slopes towards the sea.  “Down towards it they plunged, slipping, sliding, falling, and sometimes rolling, grabbing at any handhold to steady themselves”.  Coming out near the quicksand, Biggles looks out to sea and sees a dozen or more Vildebeest aircraft in arrowhead formation.  Biggles and Ginger are surprised because there has not been time for the R.A.F. to come from Singapore.  The Dyaks stream out of the jungle and are not more than fifty yards behind.  A kris is thrown at them and both Biggles and Ginger turn around and fire their automatics.  The Dyaks dive for cover just as the aircraft begin dropping their bombs.  Biggles and Ginger run on and see the Nemesis skimming over the sea towards them.  Algy pulls onto the beach and gets the machine-gun out.  “But that was all they saw for, at that moment, the whole island seemed to blow up.  Ginger afterwards swore that the ground lifted several inches under his feet, and Biggles admitted that he had never heard anything quite like it, not even during the war, although the explosion must have been similar to that of the famous Bailleul ammunition dump (this refers to a huge explosion after the First World War.  It was on 9th August 1919 that this British ammunition dump in Northern France blew up, destroying most of the town which had just been rebuilt).  It was just like a tremendous roar of thunder that went on for a full minute”.  Biggles and Ginger get on the plane.  The three friends watch a pale green transparent cloud come from the centre of the island and Biggles realises it is gas!  “Almost before the word had died on his lips the three of them were falling into their places in the aircraft faster than they had ever embarked in all their travels”.  Biggles flies to Hastings Island and taxes up the beach near the stranded destroyer.  Sullivan explains that he sent for the Vildebeests from Singapore when Algy didn’t return.  The planes were commanded by Squadron-Leader Gore-Alliston and when the radio message came through from Ginger, they took off straight away to do their stuff.  Biggles says “I didn’t know our fellows carried gas-bombs nowadays – ”  Sullivan says they were carrying ordinary hundred-and-twelve pound high explosive bombs and must have hit the enemy’s gas-shell dump.  An examination of shells from the junk had shown they were gas-shells.  “Then it serves them jolly well right that they’ve got hoisted with their own blinking petard” says Biggles.  (A petard was a small French bomb consisting of gunpowder and used to blow up gates and breach fortifications.  If the petard went off prematurely, the petardier would be lifted by the explosion, hence the expression).  Biggles says he intends to go home to tell the people who sent them what has happened, but only after a dinner to celebrate the occasion and to tell Sullivan everything that has happened on Elephant Island.