by Captain W. E. Johns



XII.                 A COLD SWIM  (Pages 150 – 158)


“Biggles, coughing convulsively as the acrid fumes bit into his lungs, pushed aside a limp body that lay across him and staggered to his feet”.  Biggles sees that it is nearly dark outside and that a great jagged hole has been torn in the ship’s side and water is pouring in.  Biggles turns back to see if he can help anyone, just as Von Stalhein takes aim at him with a revolver.  Biggles springs aside just as Von Stalhein fires.  Biggles shouts “Don’t be a fool, man; let’s get out of this.  We can argue afterwards” at the same time as throwing a chair at Von Stalhein.  The chair spoils Von Stalhein’s aim as he takes his next shot.  Biggles runs to the hole and dives into the sea.  He swims away from the ship and then finds a piece of wreckage to cling onto.  Biggles sees von Stalhein standing on a wrecked lifeboat, revolver in hand, apparently trying to see him.  “My goodness, how that fellow must hate me” thought Biggles, for he could not imagine any normal-minded person behaving in such a way at such a time.  Biggles strips to his vest and pants and discovers he has a companion.  Biggles recognises him as the officer who had been in charge of the escort when he had been marched before the tribunal. The man has oil in his eyes.  Biggles pulls off his silk vest and gives it to him to help.  The man wipes away the oil and gives Biggles his vest back, which he puts on again.  Biggles asks the sailor if he saw the aeroplane that did the damage and the sailor gives him all the description he needs to realise that it must have been either Ginger or Algy who had dropped the torpedo.  The German tells Biggles they are in a channel and that the German mainland is about a kilometre away, but a sandbank is nearer.  Biggles realises where he is, having recently been on that very sandbank.  The German sailor know Biggles is the Englishman (we are not told but presumably Biggles is speaking in German with an English accent as from previous stories we know Biggles is fluent in German).  The German sailor says if Biggles is going to swim to the sandbank he had better start now.  Biggles looks around and sees the drifter is there, lowering boats to pick up survivors.  Biggles thanks the German and sets off into the darkness.  The German calls “Lebewohl! (Farewell) Good Luck!” after him.  Biggles sets off at a steady breast stroke, knowing if he misses the sandbank his position will be hopeless.  In an hour, his body is fast becoming numb from the cold, so he dares not rest.  He then hears the beat of surf on the sandy shore and shortly afterwards crawls up on the sand.  Although deadly tired, Biggles jogs along the lonely beach in order to keep warm.  After what seems hours, Biggles tries breaking into a sprint “to satisfy himself that he still had it in him” and as he rounds the foot of a dune he collides with another dark human form.  Biggles fights with the unknown man and sees him raise the butt end of a revolver.  The figure calls out “Hi! Briny! Help!” and Biggles realises it is Algy.  “Algy,” gasped Biggles weakly.  “Get off my chest, you maniac!”