BIGGLES DEFIES THE SWASTIKA
by Captain W. E. Johns
VI. THE NAVY ARRIVES (Pages 86 – 107)
“How Biggles kept control of himself at that ghastly moment he never knew”. Biggles stands stock still for two seconds then walks on looking for Ginger, but of Ginger there is no sign. Walking back, Biggles feels he ought to make an excuse for stopping in front of Algy, so he asks him harshly, “Haven’t I seen you before somewhere?” “You may have seen my picture in the papers,” sneered Algy. “I won the world championship at snakes and ladders – up one minute and down the next”. “There was a titter along the line”. “Biggles spluttered with rage, German fashion. “Silence!” he bellowed then walked away”. “He isn’t here” he tells the adjutant and they return to the German Colonel. Biggles says he didn’t find his man. A German N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer) arrives and reports the capture of seven more prisoners. Biggles asks to have them in so he can see their faces. It is Bill and his party of sailors, captured earlier. Biggles asks if there were more of them and is met with stubborn silence. “I think you forget where you are. I hope it will not be necessary for me to remind you. Were there ever more than seven in your party?” Evans says there was one more but he left them. Evans says the man found a dinghy and rowed out to a steamer. Evans adds that the man had said that he had escaped from Oslo. Biggles asks the man’s name. “He told me his name was Bigglesworth”. Biggles asks the German Colonel to confirm to Biggles’ chief that he, Biggles, had done everything possible in the time at his disposal and Biggles has the prisoners taken out. “As they filed away Biggles’s eyes met those of Evans and flashed his thanks”. Biggles calls Gestapo head-quarters at the Hotel Port, Oslo and speaks with Oberleutnant von Hymann. “This is 2001, speaking from General Head-quarters, Narvik,” he said. “I have to report that I tracked Bigglesworth to here, but he had left in a streamer before my arrival. I obtained this information from a party of British prisoners with whom Bigglesworth had for a short time been keeping company. One moment, sir, the Commanding Officer will speak to you. I am telephoning from his office”. “There followed a long conversation in which the Colonel confirmed in detail all that Biggles had said, and added details of how the information had been obtained, remarking that he had been a witness of it”. (We are not told what language the conversation with the prisoners was in. Presumably it was English. But that must mean the German Colonel understood English. Best not to try and analyse the language issue in too much detail as it won’t stand up to scrutiny). When the Colonel finishes on the telephone, he tells Biggles that “Oberleutnant von Hymann says that you are to return to Boda at once”. Biggles salutes and withdraws; his plan having worked perfectly. The only problem now is Algy. Why had he come to Narvik? Where was Ginger? Biggles had to return to Boda but could not contemplate departing from Narvik, leaving Algy a prisoner in German hands. Biggles watches a German flying-boat land at a wharf. The pilot gets out and shouts something and instantly all is confusion. A soldier tells Biggles that five British destroyers are coming up the fiord. Biggles knows six German destroyers lay in the fiord and wants to warn the British. Biggles gets into the now empty flying-boat, a Dornier, and writes a message and draws a rough sketch of the fiord showing where the German destroyers are. He then puts both pages in his silver cigarette case. He takes off and flies towards the British fleet, only to face heavy anti-aircraft fire. Biggles wants to drop the message on the leading ship, but knows he will have to pass them and then turn and fly as slowly as possible whilst going the same way as the ship in order to have any chance of doing it. Braving the shells bursting all around him and hitting him. (Shells burst in front of him, beside him, above and below him - is the frontispiece illustration taken from a line on page 94). He had never known an aircraft to stand up to such punishment. Once behind the destroyers, Biggles uses their smoke as a screen and the acrid fumes sting his eyes and make him cough. Biggles drops the cigarette case on the deck of the leading destroyer but is shot down and crash lands in the sea. Biggles get out and climbs onto the hull. As the destroyer passes his wrecked plane, a rope is thrown to Biggles which he quickly winds around himself. Biggles is dragged off and through the water. Momentarily passing out, Biggles comes round on the deck. An officer says they got his message and stares at Biggles swastika armlet. “Don’t take any notice of that. I’m a British agent. Take me to your skipper at once”. Biggles is assisted to the bridge, “where he was at once the cynosure of all eyes”. (‘Half supported by two sailors, he was taken to the bridge’ - is the illustration on page 99). In a few crisp sentences Biggles told who he was, what he had done, and why he had done it. He also tells the captain to try not to shell the schoolhouse as it is full of British prisoners. Biggles wants to go to help Algy and after giving his name “Bigglesworth – Squadron Leader, R.A.F.” and adding “If you get home safely you might notify Colonel Raymond of M.I.5 that you saw me”, he leaves the bridge. The shore is a quarter of mile away, but not any easy swim, fully clothed in ice water. The fiord has cliffs jutting out and the ship approaches within a hundred yards of one. Telling a chief petty officer of his intention, so they don’t think a man has fallen overboard, at sixty yards, Biggles takes a running dive overboard to clear the churning screws of the ship. Biggles drags himself ashore and wrings out his clothes as much as possible. He then runs towards the town where everything is in confusion. “On the fiord itself a terrible battle was raging between eleven destroyers”. No one takes the slightest bit of notice of Biggles as he dashes towards the schoolhouse. Biggles finds two elderly German soldiers on guard. Showing his Gestapo pass, he tells them they have to get down to shore as the British are going to land marines and that he will take charge of the prisoners. Biggles is greeted with cheers as he releases all the prisoners. He tells them they will have to take their own chances and if they get as far down the fiord as they can, they may be able to signal to a destroyer and be picked up, if the destroyers withdraw. Algy asks what he should do and Biggles tells him to go with the others. Biggles asks “Where’s Ginger?” “He’s somewhere off the coast in an aircraft carrier – at least, he ought to be. That’s where I left him” replies Algy. With no time to talk, Algy dashes after the other sailors. Biggles reasons that he cannot be seen with the prisoners as the Germans will realize at once that he was not what he pretended to be. The situation demanded serious thought, but there was no time for lucid reasoning. If the British took the town, he would be safe, but if they were beaten off, there would be inquiries about the prisoners. Biggles goes to German head-quarters and runs into the Colonel, who asks why Biggles did not return to Boda. Biggles said he set off but was shot down and had to swim ashore. Biggles asks what is happening and is told that the British are going back down the fiord. A German pilot runs up and tells the Colonel he is leaving now. The Colonel asks if he has room for a passenger. The Colonel tells Biggles that Schaffer is flying down to Oslo and Biggles can go with him and then on to Boda. Schaffer offers to drop Biggles at Boda. Biggles now wants to go and join Algy and try and get onboard a retreating destroyer, but he daren’t refuse the offer. He tries to make excuses about being soaked to the skin and if he flies, he will be frozen stiff. Schaffer offers some of his kit. Biggles goes with Schaffer to the wharf, where Schaffer has an amphibian. Schaffer does not know Biggles is a pilot, so Biggles plans to overpower him in the air, however, there are already three German officers in the aircraft. Schaffer gets his suitcase and gives Biggles a spare uniform. In five minutes, they are in the air heading south.