SPITFIRE PARADE - BIGGLES AT WAR
by Captain W. E. Johns
V. ONE GOOD TURN (Pages 82 – 96)
Ginger Hebblethwaite decides to land at Dewton, the home of Number 701 (Hurricane) Squadron. However, before he does so, “in accordance with custom” “for the honour and glory of the squadron to which he belonged he first treated any casual spectators of his arrival to a short exhibition in the art of aerobatics” such as zooming so low over the mess that his wheels almost touched the roof. “Loops, slow rolls, half rolls, rolls on the top of loops, upward spins, and whip-stalls followed each other in quick succession”. When he lands, he is confronted by a Flight Lieutenant who is in command during the temporary absence of Squadron Leader Wilkinson. The officer asks Ginger what he means by acting like a madman over his aerodrome and gives him a sound ticking off, finishing with Ginger being placed under open arrest and told to give his name and unit to the Duty Officer. Making enquiries, Ginger finds out the officer is called Bitmore – and he hasn’t shot down any German planes. Ginger returns to his own aerodrome at Rawlham and informs Algy Lacy, his Flight Commander and Lord Bertie Lissie that he is under arrest and has been reported to Wing Command. Algy says they ought to do something about it. “Bertie fingered his wisp of moustache, “Absolutely”, he declared. Sometime later two Spitfires appear over the Hurricane aerodrome at Dewton and put on a show of terrible flying. They make flat turns, try to land and undershoot, then overshoot, narrowly escaping disaster. Eventually they land, as badly as possible. The two pilots in brand new flying kit and crash-helmets get out, only to be confronted by Flight Lieutenant Bitmore with anger and disgust on his face. He calls the two pilots over and proceeds to give them a stern dressing down. “You’re not fit to pilot down a promenade, either of you. A steam-roller driver would have put up a better show. I’ve never seen such an exhibition of supreme inability in my life. You make me ……”. His voice trails away in silence as the two pilots remove their flying kit and reveal the uniforms of an Air Commodore and a Wing Commander. The Air Commodore then takes Bitmore’s name and gives him a dressing down in front of his own men for daring to criticize “officers who have learnt their flying in the field”. They insist their aircraft are cleaned and refuelled which is done. Before taking off, the Air Commodore says to Bitmore “I shall bear your name in mind”. A quarter of an hour later, Algy, in Air Commodore’s uniform and Bertie, in Wing Commander’s tunic, are laughing their heads off at the embarrassment they have caused Bitmore “right in front of the whole blinking squadron”. Two days later, Squadron Leader Wilkinson, D.S.O. comes to visit his old friend Biggles at Rawlham. Wilks, as he is known to Biggles, tells Biggles that he has just returned from leave and ran into Air Vice-Marshall Logan. Logan happened to mention that he was going to make a surprise inspection at Biggles’s squadron sometime today. Wilks leaves and Biggles has his whole squadron get ready for the surprise inspection. Everything is cleaned, all ranks parade in their best uniforms. Time passes. One hour, then two. The afternoon wears on and nobody arrives. Then nine Hurricanes flying over low and one drops a message. It reads “It is requested that Flight Lieutenants Lacey and Lissie be asked how they like their eggs boiled. For and on behalf of the officers of Number 701 (Fighter) Squadron. (Signed) A. R. Wilkinson, Squadron-Leader”. Biggles is annoyed and asks his flight commanders to his office. There, Algy explains what they did. Biggles says that Wilks has done this for the squadron to get their own back. Had he reported the matter officially, both Algy and Bertie would have been court-martialled. Biggles says every officer of 701 squadron will be laughing their heads off now. Suddenly, Toddy, rushes into Biggles office to tell him that a load of officers from the Air Ministry have arrived – including the Air Chief Marshall! The Air Chief Marshall is extremely impressed by what he finds at Biggles’s squadron and gives a speech commending them all. Biggles is asked if there is any particular request he would like to make. Biggles asks for his squadron to come off reserve and go on to first-line duties and he also takes the opportunity of mentioning Ginger’s arrest. The Air Marshall promises “to put things right Wing” and Ginger need no longer worry.
This chapter was originally a story spread over five pages – with illustrations – from issue number 363 of “The Modern Boy” (week ending 19th January 1935) entitled “Biggles’ Borrowed Plumes”. 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 it is Algy in the Ginger role. Algy lands at 301 Squadron at Cassel to get the severe telling off from Bitmore. Captains Bigglesworth and Mahoney then don the uniforms of a Colonel and a Major to get their revenge. It is a Major Benson, who comes from 301 Squadron to see Major Mullen, at Biggles Squadron at Maranique and it is nine Bristol Fighters that fly over to drop the message. General Sir Martin Ashby is the visiting senior officer who puts thing right with Wing for Algy.