SPITFIRE PARADE - BIGGLES AT WAR
by Captain W. E. Johns
X. THE FLYING SPY (Pages 182 – 203)
Biggles spots an unknown Spitfire as he is returning from a short patrol and the Spitfire follows him in to land. The pilot is a Canadian Flight Lieutenant, who introduces himself as Lakers of 298 squadron. He says he is based down at Marley in Sussex. Lakers’ Spitfire has a large number of bullet holes in it and he tells a story of being attacked by, and fleeing from, half a dozen Messerschmitts. In the mess, Lakers offers Biggles a cigarette and Biggles examines the gold cigarette case with interest. It is engraved “F.T.L.” Lakers says he wants to get a Hun and Biggles offers him the chance to fly with Biggles and Algy on their afternoon patrol. When Biggles gets a chance to speak privately with Algy, he shows him Lakers Spitfire. Pushing a thin stick taken from a hedge through a bullet entrance hole to the exit hole, Biggles demonstrates that the bullet would have gone through the pilot’s thigh. Yet, Lakers said he had no injury. Biggles tells Algy that he knows a pilot called Frank Lakers and he has seen the identical cigarette case, with the initials F.T. L. engraved in the same place. Frank Lakers has told him that his father had given it to him as a twenty-first birthday present. Biggles has already rung the Air Ministry to confirm that Frank Lakers is dead. He was seen to crash – in France – near Calais. Biggles thinks that the “fake” Lakers is a German spy – or he may possibly be a British agent up to some game. Biggles has planned a trap to find out. He has put a map in the map-room showing all the Fighter Command aerodromes in the wrong places. Biggles wants Algy to suggest to Lakers that he goes along to the map-room to ascertain the position of their aerodrome in relation to Lakers’ own. Biggles says that if Lakers is a German spy he will steal the map and make excuses to leave as soon as possible. Biggles plans to take off and wait up in the air for Lakers. Algy is told to run out in front of the mess and wave a towel if Lakers takes off. Algy speaks to Lakers and suggests he has a look in the map room. Lakers takes his flying kit with him and says he may get off as he doesn’t like the look of the weather. Left in the map-room, Lakers looks at the map and then puts it in his pocket. Lakers then makes for his Spitfire. Algy runs out with the towel and waves the signal to Biggles’s aircraft. Bertie comes up to Algy and asks if Lakers is taking off. Bertie then remarks that it was a “Bad show about his brother”. Bertie explains that while Biggles and Algy were out of the room, Lakers had said his brother, Frank has been killed. They were in the same squadron and he had borrowed his brother’s cigarette case the very day “he went west”. Lakers would have been with his brother had he not lent his Spitfire to another pilot who got badly shot up and took a bullet in the leg. Algy suddenly understands the whole situation and runs to his aircraft to prevent a tragedy. Biggles, high in the air above Lakers, sees him take off. He then flies down behind him only a few hundred feet above and behind his quarry. Lakers looks up and then spins the Spitfire around and fires a stream of bullets past Biggles wing-tip. Biggles dodges and gets the Spitfire in his sights. He is about to fire when he sees a burning Messerschmitt flash past him. Five more Messerschmitts are flying down. Biggles realises that Lakers wasn’t shooting at him, but at the leader of the Nazi planes and he had got him, with a brilliant piece of shooting, at the first blast. Biggles and Lakers take on the diving German planes and Biggles sees Algy flying his Spitfire down behind them. An aerial dogfight takes place and only two Messerschmitts escape. Lakers’ Spitfire has been forced to land. Back at the aerodrome Algy asks if Lakers is all right. When told he is, Algy says “Thank God! My word, Biggles, you nearly boobed this time!” Algy tells Biggles the pilot is the brother of the chap he knows. “Brother!” ejaculated Biggles. Lakers arrives back by car and Biggles tells Algy not to mention a word about this spy business. Lakers asks “Did I hear you say something just now about a spy?” “Yes, you did,” replied Biggles slowly. “But it was only a rumour”.
This chapter was originally a story spread over six pages – with illustrations – from issue number 357 of “The Modern Boy” (week ending 8th December 1934) entitled “Biggles Sky-High Spy!”. The story was collected in “Biggles in France” and published by the Boys’ Friend Library in issue number 501 dated 7th November 1935 as two chapters entitled “Suspicions” and “Off and Away”. 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 with Biggles seeing a Sopwith Camel from an unknown squadron and noticing the plane is badly shot up. The pilot is Butterworth of 298, a Canadian. He says they are based up on the coast at Teteghen and he has flown down to take a look at the Lines. The cigarette case is engraved with the initials “F.T.B.” Biggles tells Algy that he knows Frank Butterworth personally. He met him at Lympne the last time he was in England. “Today was the not the first time I have taken a cigarette out of the self same case that that fellow is now flaunting!” It is Mahoney who asks Algy if Butterworth is taking off and then comments “Bad show about his brother”. Algy asks him what he means. Mahoney says that Butterworth was saying his brother, Frank, was shot down yesterday, “went West” and it was his brother’s cigarette case he has, as he had borrowed it from him before it happened. Mahoney also mentions that Butterworth would have been with his brother if he hadn’t lent his aircraft to another pilot who then got shot through the leg. For Algy “understanding of the whole situation flooded his brain like a spotlight, and he ran like a madman towards the hangars, praying that he might be in time to prevent a tragedy”. The rest of the story is the same as the re-write.