BIGGLES IN THE BALTIC
A TALE OF THE SECOND GREAT WAR
by Captain W. E. Johns
First published June 1940
List of illustrations – Page 7 (Frontispiece by Howard Leigh and six illustrations by Alfred Sindall on pages 33, 73, 107, 139, 187 and 249)
I. THE CALL TO ARMS (Pages 9 – 16)
The book opens with “As the momentous words ‘England is now, therefore, in a state of war with Germany’ came sombrely over the radio, Major James Bigglesworth, D.S.O., better known as Biggles, switched off the instrument and turned to face his friends, Captain the Honourable Algernon Lacey, M.C., and ‘Ginger’ Hebblethwaite. There was a peculiar smile on his face. “Well, that’s that. It looks as if we are in for another spot of war flying”. Within minutes they get a telephone call from Colonel Raymond at Air Intelligence as he wants them to go along to see him at the Air Ministry immediately. They get a taxi to the Air Ministry. Raymond tells them “At a time like this we need our best men for special jobs” and he asks if they are willing to come into the service. “What about Gin – I mean Hebblethwaite? He hasn’t been in the regular service yet”. Raymond says he will have him gazetted as a pilot officer right away. With regard to the job they are being asked to do, Raymond says it was specially created for Biggles. He points out the Baltic Sea on a map and says that “we” have acquired from a country an uninhabited island, so small as to be negligible. Its name is Bergen Ait and a cave has been worn into the very heart of the rock that is large enough to house several aircraft. The aircraft and supplies are already there, all ready for “Z” Squadron – as it has been christened - to take over. The only way to get there is by submarine and the job is for volunteers. The Air Commodore says “You needn’t take it on if -”. “I don’t think we need discuss that, sir,” interrupted Biggles. Raymond asks when they can start and Biggles says now. Raymond says “To-day is Sunday; I will arrange for you to embark on Wednesday morning”. (Chamberlain’s historical announcement as to the start of the war was made at 11.15 am on Sunday 3rd September 1939). Raymond adds that Bergen Ait is no great distance from Kiel where an old acquaintance of Biggles is in charge – Erich von Stalhein. The Colonel holds out his hand and says “Good luck”. “We shall do our best, sir,” promised Biggles.