by Captain W. E. Johns



XVIII.                     BIGGLES STRIKES BACK  (Pages 227 – 237)


The Flight-Sergeant lowers Biggles down to the ledge and lets him have the rope.  Biggles tells the Flight-Sergeant that “Mr. Hebblethwaite” will raise both hands if two German destroyers come into the cove.  Biggles says he will send Briny and Roy to the ledge and the information is to be passed down to Biggles on the far side of the lake.  Biggles crosses back to Briny and Roy and finding Roy much better, Roy is sent over to the ledge to relay the signal.  Briny lowers Biggles down the rock that dammed the water.  Biggles waits for the signal to come through and when it does, he times the bomb for quarter of an hour and places it in position, piling around it all the loose rock he can find.  He then orders Briny to pull him up and they cross over to the ledge together and throw the rope up to the top.  They are then all hauled up.  Biggles climbs up to join Ginger on the rock overhanging the entrance to the base.  He is only half-way up when there is a muffled roar and the whole island quivers like jelly.  Rocks are shaken loose and fall everywhere.  There is then a brief lull and then a terrifying rumble like distant thunder.  A great mass of cliff breaks away.  The destroyers turn towards the open sea.  The drifter also tries to leave but comes into collision with a destroyer.  “Look out!” cries Ginger shrilly, “The whole island is falling to pieces!” A cliff bulges and bursts and a mighty torrent of water shoots clear into space.  Simultaneously, from the mouth of the cave there issues a swirling yellow flood.  Ginger surveys the damage.  Before the weight of water, the three vessels were being swept about like toy ships.  The water still floods from the cave with all sorts of debris and wreckage, obviously the remains of the buildings of the depot.  Biggles wishes he had his camera.  “Raymond will never be able to say we didn’t go out with a bang”.  They see the drifter sink and the crew abandon it by jumping on the destroyer.  “There goes Von Stalhein.  That fellow seems to bear a charmed life”.  One of the destroyer’s has got away and opens fire on Biggles and Ginger.  Biggles shouts to Algy to leave and tells him of the destruction they have seen.  Algy gets in the Platypus and tests the engine and then attempts the incredibly dangerous take off, his wheels missing the rocks with just feet to spare.  Just as the watchers are relieved, the engine splutters and there is the explosion of a backfire.  The engine cuts out and Algy turns back towards the rock.  He can’t possibly make it and realising that, Algy goes down to ditch in the sea.  Our heroes all race to the cliff edge to see what is going on but snow has begun to fall again.  They are able to see Algy has landed and he is standing up in the cockpit.  Biggles guesses he is tearing up the British code-book so that he can set fire to it, even it that risks blowing himself up in his machine.  The snow blots out their vision and then there is an explosion.  “That’s his tank gone up” Ginger’s voice was little more than a whisper.  Biggles said nothing.