BIGGLES DEFIES THE SWASTIKA
by Captain W. E. Johns
XIV. TRAPPED! (Pages 217 – 233)
“After he had watched Ginger out of sight Biggles made his way cautiously to the fiord. It took him some time to reach it”. Judging from the numerous voices and hammering it sounded as it salvage work was in progress. The area was shrouded in darkness, except for a cluster of lights near the stranded store-ship, where Biggles assumed Algy to be. Biggles had not failed to note that the airmen and the sailors went about their work unmindful of each other, so it seemed reasonable to assume that the sailors knew nothing of Schaffer suspicions. They wouldn’t know Biggles by sight or be prepared for an attempt to rescue their prisoner. Biggles made his way down the landslide to the beach and along to the rock where the ship was beached. Seeing a Dornier flying-boat riding at anchor, he noted its position carefully. Biggles is delighted to find a small collapsible canoe on the beach and uses this to make his way to the far side of the ship – that is, the side farthest from the shore, and from which, of course, he could not be seen from the beach. Biggles spends half an hour working down the side of the vessel, trying each porthole in turn, peeping into those that were open and tapping on the glass of those which were not. (This seems a strange thing to do – surely you will give away you are there if any German sailors are in the rooms and hear you?). Biggles decides he has to board the ship. A rope ladder hung conveniently down the side – too conveniently he afterwards realized – and Biggles proceeds up it. “Welcome on board, Major Bigglesworth” says von Stalhein. “We were expecting you”. “With Lacey here, a prisoner, it was obviously only a question of time before you arrived”. Von Stalhein says he arranged the boat and rope ladder to enable him to get aboard. “So you see, Major Bigglesworth, we can do a little planning – as well as you”. Von Stalhein goes on to say “Hitherto it has always been a source of irritation to me that at least one of you was at large, even although I held the other two; but at last, as was bound to happen sooner or later, I have you all in the net together. You cannot imagine the satisfaction that it gives me”. Biggles wonders why von Stalhein is speaking as if he has Ginger as well, but, suspecting a trap, he is non-committal in his reply. “Ah, I see there is a doubt in your mind,” continued von Stalhein imperturbably. “A doubt about our young friend with the difficult name -Hebblethwaite. You will be sorry to learn that he has had a piece of bad luck”. Von Stalhein explains a German submarine has picked him up, and as he was not far away, he is having him bought him there, although he hasn’t arrived yet. Biggles’ pistol is taken off him and he is taken below to join Algy Lacey. Von Stalhein says they will be leaving in the morning – but Biggles and Algy will not be going with them. Algy is confined in a cabin in the middle of the ship, with an armed sentry outside. Algy has already been told of Ginger’s capture. Biggles explains what has happened since he took off with Schaffer. Algy says of von Stalhein, “I gather from what he told me that he intends to – er – dispose of us in the morning”. Biggles looks around for any means of escape. “Jack Shepherd once asserted, and on more than one occasion proved, that neither bolts nor bars will hold a man if he is determined to get out. There’s always a way – if you can find it. Let’s try.” (This reference to Jack Shepherd is a reference to a notorious English robber, burglar and thief who lived from 1702 to 1724, when he was hanged. He was famous for escaping from custody on four occasions, mainly by using knotted sheets. W.E. Johns also has Biggles refer to Jack Shepherd in Chapter 8 of Biggles & Co., after he has escaped from confinement and in Chapter 4 of Biggles Sees it Through, when they are captured by von Stalhein). There are only two exits, the door, bolted and guarded, and a skylight which they have no means of reaching and which seems to be fastened from the outside. Biggles says the door will be opened when Ginger arrives. “We know that the worst that can happen is that we shall be shot, and as we shall be shot in any case if we don’t get away, we’ve nothing to lose if we fail”. Biggles gets Algy to turn off the light, then he, Biggles, removes the electric flex wire. He then gets Algy to lie on the floor and groan whilst Biggles calls the sentry. The sentry comes in and asks what has happened to the light. “It went out,” replied Biggles vaguely. As the sentry goes to Algy, Biggles jumps him and slips a noose of flex around his neck. Biggles forced the sentry to the floor. “Keep still or I’ll choke you”. He then has Algy tie the sentry up with strips of bed sheet. The sentry has almost been strangled to death and they have to apply artificial respiration to restore him. Biggles takes off his officer’s uniform and puts on that of the soldier. Biggles then goes outside to pretend to be the sentry. “You stay here and keep an eye on Fritz” he tells Algy. Everything now depends on Ginger’s early arrival, before it was discovered that the sentry had changed. “Still it did not occur to Biggles to leave the boat without Ginger”.