by Captain W. E. Johns



XVIII.                     BEHIND BARBED WIRE  (Pages 218 – 234)


Twilight is closing in as they enter the camp. The camp is an area of perhaps two acres enclosed with a closely stranded barbed wire fence about ten feet high.  The top wires have an assortment of bells along them.  At each of the four corners of the camp is a high pole with an electric light and reflector to throw light into the camp. There is no cover for the prisoners but it is summer time.  At the top end of the camp is a long hutment and then two smaller ones, being a guardhouse and a washing-place.  There were forty of fifty men in the camp before the column of road workers, numbering about a hundred had joined them.  There are not more than a dozen men in the smaller enclosure at the top.  One of them is Jock McLannoch.  Ginger whistles Jock and Jock is surprised to see him.  Ginger asks the all important question – has Jock still got the letter?!  He has, tucked into the lining of his coat.  Jock has seen the two new prisoners arrive and says they would have been locked in some small rooms in the big hut, where the windows are barred.  Ginger asks Jock to get a message to them.  “Tell them to sing or whistle occasionally, so I know where they are”.  Ginger asks Jock to give them the file and tosses it over to him.  Ginger says he intends trying to get them all out tonight.  As darkness falls and the camp lights are switched on, the guards call the prisoners in the top camp in, Ginger makes his way to where food is being served to the prisoners in his compound.  Ginger asks Fred if other members of their battalion were captured with him.  Fred says “There was Chris Fowler from Liverpool – you remember ‘im – and Jim ‘Arris from Manchester.  Then there was Abe Morris – I dunno where ‘e came from – and Bob Donovan, the Yankee ---”.  “All right, that’s enough,” interrupted Ginger.  Ginger asks Fred to get the lads to kick up a row at a certain time.  Ginger and Fred cut through the wire into the top camp and then Ginger heads to the top fence to cut a way out before doing anything else. Going to the main hut, which is about a hundred feet long, Ginger then investigates the guardroom.  “He could hear no movement, which did not surprise him; having seen something of Spanish sentries, he imagined that the men would be sitting down, for no Spaniard stands when he can sit”.  Ginger looks at the bars on the main prisoner’s hut and realises it would take a week to cut through them.  Ginger waits until he hears the sound of a man quietly singing to himself and works out that Biggles and Algy are in the third room from the end.  Ginger hears “a wild yell split the air from the camp below” and six guards from the guard-room go to investigate.  Ginger and Fred go to the corridor of the prisoner’s hut and overpower the guard.  They get the keys and go to the third room and get Biggles and Algy out.  Ginger then goes and gets Jock out from a different room.  They then all make their way to the pre-cut wire and get out of the camp.  The plan is to make for the Caproni some three miles down the road.