by Captain W. E. Johns



VII.                 COMBAT!  (Pages 82 – 97)


Biggles is worried that he does not know how fast or in what direction they are drifting.  Ginger climbs out on a float and sees something.  “What the dickens is this thing in the water?” he asks.  “That’s the third one of those things, we’ve passed”.  Biggles wonders how they could pass something if they are all drifting at the same rate.  He strikes a match and realises it’s a mine!  They have either come down in a minefield or drifted into one!  The mines are stationary because they are anchored.  Ginger fends off the mine and Biggles helps him push their machine clear.  The night wears on and several times they have to fend off mines.  After a long time of seeing no mines, Biggles hopes they are clear of the minefield. Around 6.00 am, Ginger hears a sound in the distance, like a whistle.  Then they hear a motor and a ship’s siren and Biggles urgently taxes away from under the bows of a vessel.  Biggles realises it must be an enemy warship and it is soon lost in the fog.  It takes some considerable time for the fog to clear and when it is possible to see a mile in every direction, Biggles takes off.  Biggles is able to make out Bergen Ait far to the north-west and glides down just as Algy is preparing to take off in search of them.  On landing, Biggles notices a lot of oil.  Algy says it’s from the submarine they sank and a whole lot of paper has drifted there as well, including the German code book!  Hearing a noise, Biggles sees a German Dornier flying-boat approach and tells everyone to take cover.  The flying-boat must be looking for the submarine.  The flying-boat sees the oil and comes closer.  Biggles says if they report it, then there’ll be a destroyer there.  They have to stop the flying-boat.  Biggles runs to the Willie-Willie and Algy runs to his craft.  “Once we show ourselves, we’ve got to get him” says Biggles.  Biggles takes off and nearly collides with the flying-boat as it is returning from flying round the island.  Algy and Ginger both take off and the flying-boat flees for home.  Biggles knows he is faster than then flying-boat but he also knows the German wireless operator might be tapping out the circumstances of the combat – with, of course, the position of the secret base.  Biggles pours in a long decisive burst “with eight guns pouring out bullets at a rate of a thousand rounds a minute, the Boche must have been riddled”.  (The Dornier was roaring straight up like a rocketing pheasant - is the frontispiece illustration taken from a line on page 93).  The flying-boat plunges, nose first, into the sea.  Biggles goes down to search for any survivors but there are none.  Biggles, Algy and Ginger form up to fly back to their base but it is clear that Ginger has engine trouble and he has to land the Dingo on the sea.  Biggles lands besides him.  The sea is starting to get rough.  Biggles attempts to tow Ginger’s craft the six miles back to base but it soon becomes clear this will not be possible in the worsening sea.  Biggles tells Ginger to cut the tow rope and jump across to his plane.  Ginger doesn’t quite make it and Biggles has to pull him out of the sea.  Biggles takes aim at the dingo’s petrol tank with his signalling pistol.  Before he can fire, Algy flies past signalling to the south-east.  Biggles looks in that direction and sees a German destroyer racing towards them.