by Captain W. E. Johns



XV.                 THE LAST ROUND  (Pages 234 – 249)


“It was a good half-hour before Biggles heard with satisfaction the sound that he had so anxiously awaited; it was the tramp of feet coming up the gangway”.  A procession of four persons arrive, a naval officer in oilskins, followed by two seamen, also in oilskins carrying rifles and between them, looking very forlorn, marched Ginger.  Biggles saluted and unlocked and opened the door.  Biggles drops the point of his bayonet until it was pointing at the officer’s back.  “The first man who moves or makes a sound dies,” he said quietly, but distinctly.  Biggles eyes meets those of the German officer.  “One sound and it will be your last,” Biggles said coldly.  “We’re desperate men.  Algy take his revolver.  Ginger, collect the rifles”.  The three Germans are tied up using the rest of the sheet and the flex and pieces of blanket are tied over their heads.  Biggles turns to Ginger.  “Let’s go.  We’ve no time to talk now, but there’s one thing I must know.  Did you get that message through to the fleet?”  Ginger begins “No, I didn’t, I looked for it until I ran out of petrol, then -”.  Biggles cuts him off.  Biggles says they have got to get to the Dornier flying-boat.  Biggles puts on the officer’s oilskins and cap and the others put on the other oilskins.  They walk off the ship and down the gangway.  On the way, Biggles sees two men near the stern, it is von Stalhein talking to the captain and he hears von Stalhein say “I must go below now; I want a few words with this new prisoner”.  Biggles says that in three minutes their escape will be discovered.  Further up the beach there is a sentry and Biggles’ party reaches him just as there is a shout from the boat, “Stop those men!”  Biggles goes to show the sentry his warrant and quickly hits him on the head with the butt of his revolver.  (‘At the last moment he moved like lightning’ - is the illustration on page 239).  “The sentry collapsed like a wet blanket”.  Biggles, Algy and Ginger run up the beach to the Dornier and then wade out to it.  They are wet to the waist by the time they reach the cabin door.  Biggles tells Algy to take the centre gun-turret.  Ginger is told to watch the beach and tell Biggles what is happening.  Biggles tries to start the engine of the aircraft, but the engine is cold and nothing happens.  Ginger and Algy open fire upon the beach to keep the Germans back.  They too, are fired upon and Ginger is shot and wounded in the shoulder.  Biggles manages to start the engine and the Dornier surges across the smooth surface of the fiord.  A searchlight dazzles Biggles, but it also gives him his position as he knows where the searchlight is.  They take off and Biggles gets Algy to give Ginger first aid.  Algy mentions there is load of bombs onboard.  Biggles swings their aircraft back round and he goes back and bombs the ship they were just on.  “Satisfied with his parting shot, Biggles turned towards the west”.  They are now faced with two problems, how to warn the fleet of its danger and how to get home in a German machine without being shot down by British anti-aircraft defences.  Biggles is worried he might not find the fleet and so decides to go straight on towards England, as a radio message can be sent to the fleet.  Algy says that Ginger is not bad.  “The bullet got him just under the collar-bone and went right through.  He’ll be all right after a day or two in hospital”.  Biggles flies low in the North Sea and drops a parachute flare to look at the water.  It is comparatively calm.  Their flare attracts the attention of a search light, so blipping his engine to attract attention, Biggles goes and lands on the sea.  A searchlight soon picks up the machine.  “We should look silly if that vessel turned out to be a Hun,” remarked Algy.  “The chances of a German ship being in the North Sea are so small that we needn’t consider them,” Biggles told him confidently.  His confidence in the Navy keeping the sea clear of enemy shipping was justified a few minutes later when the slim outline of a British destroyer loomed up in the gloom.  Naturally it carried no lights”.  The airmen hail it, Biggles shouts that they are British prisoners escaping in a German plane.  They are picked up and taken to see the commander in his cabin.  Ginger goes with them with his arm in a sling.  Biggles says “My name’s Bigglesworth, I’m a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F.  These are two of my officers.  We’ve just come from Norway”.  The Skipper started.  “Why, I’ve heard of you,” he declared.  “Aren’t you the fellows who got the message through to the fleet, warning it to keep out of Westfiord?”  Biggles stared.  “Then the fleet’s all right?”.  “You bet it is”.  The captain adds “All I know is that one of our Intelligence blokes – a fellow named Bigglesworth, so it was said – got into touch with the skipper of a trawler.  The skipper sent a signal to the Admiralty, and the Admiralty issued fresh orders to the fleet.  That’s all there was to it”.  The trawler got the message off before it was sunk.  They later sent an S O S when sinking and a destroyer picked up survivors, but they couldn’t find the fellow who bought the message.  Biggles is asked if there is anything they want.  He asks for a bath, a square meal, a comfortable bunk, and home.  Five hours later they steam into “an east coast port” and find Colonel Raymond waiting for them.  Biggles tells him “If you’ve come here to say that something, somewhere, is waiting to be done, then I’ll tell you right away that you’ve come to the wrong place”.  The Colonel says he had a little idea.  His car could take them to the Savoy.  “That’s different,” declares Biggles emphatically.  “If that’s the next mission, let’s get right along. When you hear what we’ve got to tell you I think you’ll agree that we’ve earned it”.