SPITFIRE PARADE - BIGGLES AT WAR
by Captain W. E. Johns
III. THE ARRIVAL OF ANGUS (Pages 49 – 67)
Flight Lieutenant Angus Mackail is annoyed that he has been posted to Number 666 Squadron in Rawlham (a fictional location), Kent, rather than to Aberdeen, where his brother is stationed. He thinks it’s unfair as he has shot down six enemy aircraft and four of those in one week. Angus flies his Spitfire down in worsening weather conditions and soon he is forced to land in a field, but swerving to miss a large animal, he damages his undercarriage. Unfortunately, he is then charged by a bull and his aircraft is rammed by the animal. (The ferocious-looking beast gave vent to a savage bellow – is the illustration on page 53). “The cockpit of an aeroplane is designed to stand many stresses and strains, but not the head-on charge of an infuriated bull ….. the fabric that covered the fuselage could no more withstand the onslaught of the bull’s horns than an egg can deflect the point of an automatic drill”. (The fuselage of a Spitfire was made from aluminium alloyed with a percentage of copper but see below as to why this text was incorrect). Angus runs to the farmhouse, falling into a shallow pond on the way. The door is answered by “a very pretty girl of about eighteen” who is there with her mother. They invite Angus in and give him hot soup. Wearing an old overcoat, he dries his uniform out by the fire. Another pilot officer arrives and this turns out to be a French Canadian who is also the young girl’s fiancé. The new man’s name is Armand, which his colleagues had naturalized to “Almond” and then to “Nutty”. Nutty had landed there in a Tiger-Moth and he offers to fly Angus to Rawlham, (no doubt being unwilling to leave him there with his girl as the Canadian had a jealous disposition). Against his better judgement, Angus accepts the invitation and finds the flight to be awful. “Nutty, quite light-heartedly, seemed to make a point of taking every risk that presented itself. It became more and more obvious that he was either a novice of little experience, or else he had become over-confident from long practice – Angus wasn’t sure which”. Nutty flies too far east and Angus is angered and annoyed by the journey. By some miracle, they arrive over an aerodrome which Nutty proclaims to be Rawlham. Angus just wants him to land so he can get out as it is nearly dark. They land with the aircraft finishing its run with its nose in a ditch and its tail cocked high in the air. To their horror, they see the nearest plane is a German Heinkel and Angus turns to Nutty and says “You fush-faced fool. I said ye were off your course. You’ve landed us in France. These are Germans”. Nutty fires his pistol at point plan range into the fuel tank of their Tiger-Moth in order to set it on fire. They then run for their lives and hide in the woods. Deciding on a plan to sneak back and steal a German plane, Angus insists that this time he will fly. As they are about to climb into the selected aircraft, they are addressed by Lord Bertie Lissie “Here, I say, what the dickens do you fellers think you’re playing at?” Angus and Nutty are astonished to find they are on a British aerodrome! Bertie had forced the German Heinkel to land there that morning. Squadron Leader Bigglesworth turns up to find out what is going on. He greets Angus, saying they were wondering what had become of him and he tells Nutty that he too has been posted to 666 Squadron with effect from tomorrow. Nutty had been absent without leave and was unaware of that.
This chapter was originally a 4 page story – with illustrations – from issue number 337 of “The Modern Boy” (week ending 21st July 1934) entitled “Flying Luck”. The story was collected in “Biggles in France” and published by the Boys’ Friend Library in issue number 501 dated 7th November 1935. The differences in the original story are these. Firstly, the original story was a First World War story rather than a Second World War story. It starts at 266 Squadron, R.F.C. and, although in “Biggles in France”, chapter five is headed “Biggles Gets a Bull”, in the first printing in the Modern Boy the chapter is actually headed “That Sinking Feeling!”. The weather is foul but Biggles insists on going flying in his Sopwith Camel. He decides to go over to 187 Squadron but in the bad weather gets completely lost. He lands in a field with the same consequences but it is a French second-lieutenant of the French Flying Corp that is mademoiselle’s fiancé. They fly in a “rather dilapidated Breguet ‘plane”, heading to Maranique, where Biggles is stationed. They drop out of grey clouds and crash land in near dark only to see a German Rumpler ‘plane. The officer in Royal Flying Corps uniform who speaks to them is called Lynsdale. He forced the Rumpler to land that morning and they are at 281 Squadron at St. Marie Fleur. This story can also be found in the June 1941 edition of Air Training Corps Gazette where it is vastly abridged from the Spitfire Parade book version. This version starts with Angus and Nutty going to the Tiger Moth and all the preceding story cut out. The edits remove all reference to Biggles appearing in the story at all, but Lord Bertie Lissie does appear at the end.