by Captain W. E. Johns



II.                    ‘Z’ SQUADRON TAKES OVER  (Pages 17 – 28)


“Precisely a week later, (so 10th September 1939 then) a little after sunrise, the small party that comprised ‘Z’ Squadron, R.A.F. stood on a shelf of rock in the sombre heart of Bergen Ait, and watched the submarine that had brought them there creep like a monster of the deep towards the entrance to the vast cavern”.  In addition to himself, there are five other members of Biggles’ squadron.  In addition to Algy and Ginger, there is Flight-Sergeant Smyth, Biggles’s old war-time fitter and rigger, his son Roy, a lad of eighteen who is a wireless operator and mechanic, and an old naval pensioner called William Salt, known as ‘Briny’.  Briny had been the cook on Colonel Raymond’s private yacht, but he had a weakness for ‘reminiscencing’ but Raymond had said “this was balanced by a shrewd cockney wit that might amuse them on their dreary station”.  Biggles says that on a job like this ordinary service discipline is bound to be relaxed and calling people by nicknames may continue except when a person is actually on duty and by that he means engaged on specific duty under his direct orders.  Bergen Ait is less than a mile in circumference and for the most part precipitous cliffs and the home of sea birds.  Here and there the cliffs had crumbled leaving terrifying landslides to the water’s edge.  One such fall had caused a two hundred yard breakwater, effecting forming a cove, but the sea was such that in bad weather it would be impossible to get back into the cave.  The cave had a low hidden entrance but opened out into the size of a cathedral and an artificial shelf (nicknamed the ‘catwalk’) had been cut to moor aircraft and a small motor boat.  A flaw in the rock left a flat space about half an acre in size where a “small but well-fitted workshop and armoury combined, a mess-room with sleeping quarters and a record office attached, and storehouse packed with food” stood.  There was a radio room a little apart, which also controlled the electrical equipment, such as the lighting and the lathe in the workshop.  Nearby was a well-stocked ammunition dump.  Another hut contained spare parts and medical and photographic stores.  There were four aircraft, one for each pilot and one in reserve.  Normally single seaters, but with a spare seat that “can be made available by merely pulling a zip fastener”.  These are amphibians that should “be able to land on a sixpence” and each have eight machine-guns and are fitted for torpedo work as well as with bomb-racks.  The official designation of the aircraft is S.I. Mark I.A. but more familiar names are given.  Ginger thinks of something that whirls out, strikes, and whirls back home again and comes up with “Boomerang”.  Biggles says they are the “Boomerang Squadron”.  On this theme, Ginger names his aircraft “Dingo”, Algy names his “Didgeree-du” and Biggles names his “Willie-Willie”.  Biggles explains that is a cyclone, typhoon and hurricane rolled into one.  The spare machine is named the ‘duck-billed platypus’.  Roy runs up with a signal setting out standing orders.  Operations are to take place at night, every precaution must be taken to prevent the enemy becoming aware of the existence of the squadron and base, if located, all war material must be destroyed and radio transmission can only be used in cases of utmost importance and that does not include personal danger.  They must assume no further supplies will be sent and they must take the greatest care not to violate the neutrality of non-belligerent countries.  “That’s all”, Biggles says quietly.