BIGGLES IN THE BALTIC
by Captain W. E. Johns
V. AN UNWELCOME VISITOR (Pages 49 – 62)
For three days, Boomerang Squadron have no further instructions from London, which allows Biggles time to organise the base and for Ginger’s face to heal. It was just a cut from a flying splinter. On the morning of the third day, Briny is telling a story about a raid on cannibals in the Solomon Islands that he had taken part in. “Ten thousand of ‘em there was, all as black as midnight, a-dancin’ and brandishin’ their spears and only me and my old shipmate Charlie to face ‘em”. When Briny says “You wouldn’t believe it”, Biggles cuts in with “You’re quite right, Briny, I wouldn’t”. A signal arrives and Biggles unlocks the safe and takes out a code-book and an envelope to which the signal refers. The written orders in the envelope are to destroy the tunnel on the Berlin-Hamburg railway at Albeck by placing an explosive charge from the stores in the tunnel. This will involve landing in enemy territory. A suitable field has already been identified, but the tunnel is guarded at both ends. Receipt of the instructions has to be acknowledged by transmission of a double A on an allotted wave-length three times at intervals of three seconds. Ginger goes to get the explosive from the stores, identified as W.D.6 and he hears the gulls making a commotion outside. He moves the heavy tarpaulin to look out and sees two men in dark uniforms creeping along a ledge holding baskets and gathering eggs. Ginger then sees a submarine lying just off the entrance to the cove displaying the number U159. Ginger realises that Flight-Sergeant Smyth is just about the start up the Dingo and he rushes back to stop him in time. Ginger tells Biggles what he has seen. Biggles says it was the U159 that sank the liner Arthurnia without warning and it would be just retribution to hand it the same medicine. (Johns no doubt has in mind here the SS Athenia, sank by a submarine, U30, on 3rd September 1939, the day war was declared. The Captain of the Athenia was called Captain James Cook, and 117 civilian passengers and crew died. At the time, the German authorities denied responsibility and only admitted it in 1946). Biggles has their aircraft loaded with armour-piercing bombs but hopes the submarine will just go without finding them. The submarine takes two hours to go but when only a couple of miles away it stops. Biggles realises they have spotted a trail of oil on the sea leading back to their cave. They are going to have to sink the sub! Biggles jumps in the Willie-Willie and roars out of the cave, climbing and making for the submarine whilst the crew of it attempt to man and fire the gun on the front of it. Biggles machine guns them and the men abandon the gun and bundle into the conning tower as the submarine prepares to submerge. Biggles drops his bomb. The Digeree-du and the Dingo follow and they both drop their bombs. The stern of the U-boat rises high out of the water, until almost vertical, then it plunges downwards and disappears from sight. Roy had noted the submarine got out a short message, not more than three or four words but as it is in code, he has no idea what the message was. Biggles says the Admiralty will be glad to know that one raider is out of the way, but they had better get ready for the show tonight.