Another adventure in the careers of Major James Bigglesworth, D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C., his War-time friend and comrade, Captain the Hon. Algernon Lacey, M.C., and their protégé, ‘Ginger’ Hebblethwaite, of Smettleworth, Yorkshire


by Captain W. E. Johns


First published May 1939





List of illustrations – Page 7 (Frontispiece by Howard Leigh and six illustrations by J. Abbey on pages 19, 63, 127, 157, 201 and 247)


I.              AN INTERRUPTED CRUISE  (Pages 9 – 20)


“Major James Bigglesworth, known to his many friends (and quite a few enemies) as Biggles, tossed aside the book he had been reading, and stretching out his arms with a gesture of utter boredom, yawned audibly”.  Biggles, Algy and Ginger are on the deck of the S.S. Stavritos, a Greek cargo boat bound for Athens.  Biggles is following doctor’s orders, having been told he needs a rest, following a recurrence of fever, picked up during one of his trips to the tropics.  Biggles had been treated every day for a fortnight with quinine and when clear of fever, was told he would profit from a sea voyage.  Ginger goes to the rail and looks at the land on the northern horizon and surmises it ought to be Spain and says he wouldn’t mind having a look.  Biggles tell him to put that out of his mind.  “We’ve done quite enough barging into other people’s wars” (This refers to the Spanish Civil War, July 1936 to April 1939, in the period when this book was written.  It also refers to the 1938 Biggles book ‘Biggles Goes to War’ where Biggles, Algy and Ginger set up the Maltovian air force to assist in their conflict with Lovitznia).  Biggles and Algy join Ginger at the ship’s rail and see an approaching aircraft from the direction of Majorca, where General Franco has a base.  The crew get quite excited.  “It doesn’t take much to get a Greek excited,” murmured Biggles.  Biggles says he saw an old Spaniard come aboard at Gibraltar and speculates that “maybe there is something or somebody on board this ship whom General Franco or the Catalonian Government doesn’t want to reach port”.  The plane machine guns and then bombs the ship.  A machine-gun onboard the ship fires back but the gunner is injured so Biggles takes over, shooting the attacking machine down.  The aircraft crashes on the deck of ship, which is already sinking due to the bombing.  The crew are in a frenzied panic but Biggles grabs lifebelts for himself and his two comrades and they all climb down the side of the ship into the water and swim for their lives.  The ship is ablaze with burning petrol and slowly sinks beneath the waves.  (The doomed ship slid forward like a great fish submerging - is the illustration on page 19).  Biggles orders them all to keep together and they do a steady breast stroke to get away from the vortex that will be caused by the sinking ship, a vortex that will drag down everything that comes within in.  The look back at the sinking ship.  “It presented a terrible picture, a spectacle that none of them would ever forget.  She was going down by the nose, her stern, with its twin propellers, being high in the air”.  “Well, ten minutes ago you were wanting something to happen,” remarked Algy quietly to Biggles, “You’ve got your wish”.  Biggles thinks the coast is less than ten miles away and, with their life jackets on, they start paddling towards it.