by Captain W. E. Johns



XI.                   THE RECORD BREAKERS  (Pages 204 – 223)


In the First World War, a certain Captain Trollope set up a record by shooting down six enemy planes in one day – a record which, while it was equalled, remained unbroken until the end of the war.  When bad weather caused Squadron Leader Wilkinson, of 701 Squadron, with eight other Hurricanes behind him, to land on Biggles aerodrome, a discussion of this remarkable feat took place.  Wilks says that if the record was to be broken it would be by a Hurricane aircraft.  Biggles says it would be by a Spitfire.  The following morning Ginger enters his Commanding Officer’s room to inform him that Squadron Leader Wilkinson has just shot down three machines in quick succession that morning, two Messerschmitts and one Heinkel.  “Biggles received this startling news with incredulity and chagrin.  “Holy mackerel!” he muttered as he tore off his pyjamas.  “We can’t let Wilks get away with this.  If he knocks down any more machines to-day his Hurricane-mongers will crow so loud that we shall all get the earache”.  Biggles goes to get his pilots up in the air as they are at breakfast.  Algy then tells Biggles that Wilks has just got another!  They have heard it over the phone from Wing.  Biggles says “The dickens!  This won’t do.  That’s four he’s got, and it’s only eight o’clock”.  Biggles takes off and goes looking for enemy aircraft.  Flying out of cloud he nearly collides with a German Dornier.  Biggles shots it down.  Only then does he look up and see a Hurricane flying besides him with the pilot gesticulating wildly.  Biggles, now low on fuel, returns to his aerodrome to land.  The Hurricane lands as well and Wilks comes over and berates Biggles.  “What’s the big idea?  That was my Hun”.  Wilks says he had stalked him for twenty minutes and in another ten seconds he would have got him.  “Then you were just ten seconds too late”, returned Biggles calmly.  Wilks wants them to go fifty-fifty in the claim.  Biggles refuses.  He got the enemy aircraft and that was it as far as he was concerned.  When Wilks has gone, Biggles tells Flight Sergeant Smyth “I’m afraid that was a bit tough on Squadron Leader Wilkinson.  But when this game gets so that you are expected to sit back and let someone else have the first pop I’m through with it”.  Biggles sets off again in his aircraft looking for enemy planes but can find none.  He even goes as far as the French coast.  Two hours pass.  Biggles starts to return home as again, his tanks are running low when a fleeting shadow falls over his machine.  Seeing a German Heinkel, fifty feet about him, Biggles shoots it down.  It bursts into flames and drops like a stone.  Biggles then sees a Hurricane tear down towards him and the pilot shakes a clenched fist at him.  It is Wilks.  “Jehoshaphat!  I believe I’ve done it again” said Biggles with a worried frown, and then he burst out laughing as the funny side struck him.  Biggles lands and the Hurricane lands as well.  Wilks get out, pale with anger, and says that Biggles hadn’t seen the plane as he was sitting in the sun.  Wilks says he roared down to save Biggles skin but the German pilot looked back and Wilks attack put him off his stroke otherwise “you wouldn’t have known what had hit you”.  Wilks says that he doesn’t think that Biggles can “rightly claim that Hun”.  “Can’t I!” exploded Biggles.  “You’ll see whether I can or not”.  Wilks tells Biggles to keep out of his way and leaves.  (‘All right,’ he grated, ‘but you keep out of my way’ – is the illustration on page 215).  Biggles third victory that day was a straightforward duel with a Messerschmitt 109, but only after one of the longest and most difficult combats in all his experience.  Biggles sees the enemy plane pancake on the water and waits long enough to ensure that boats would pick the pilot up.  Returning to his aerodrome, Algy informs Biggles that Wilks has not increased his score, so Biggles still has time to even things up.  In fact, Wilks has had a bullet graze his arm and it is in a sling.  The doctor has forbidden Wilks to fly.  Biggles has his Spitfire patched up as it needed repairs after the last dogfight and he goes out again looking for more Germans.  Biggles can find no more enemy aircraft and drops in at the nearest aerodrome to fill up with fuel.  He rings his own Squadron to say he is staying for dinner and is told by Toddy “It’s getting pretty thick here, and it would be dangerous to try and get back in the dark”.  Toddy will send transport for him.  Toddy tells Biggles that Wilks and his Hurricane squadron are coming over to Biggles’ squadron tonight “presumably to crow about their score”.  Biggles gets back about half past ten at night.  “His entry was heralded by a derisive yell from the Hurricane pilots, and a chorus of protest from the Spitfire pilots”.  Wilks goads Biggles that Hurricanes were the real Hun-getters.  “I reckon we’ve proved it by getting four Huns to your three, in a straight contest”.  “Who told you that I’d only got three Huns?” says Biggles.  “I happened to drop in at a night fighter squadron.  After dinner there was a raid …. so I went with them …. found a couple of bombers near Redhill”.  “Cut out the blah-blah,” snapped Wilks.  “How many did you get?”  “Only two,” Biggles said carelessly.  “And to settle any doubt which you may justifiably have, they’ve both been confirmed –”.  The rest of what he had to say was drowned in the yell that went up from the Spitfire pilots.


This chapter was originally a story spread over five pages – with illustrations – from issue number 339 of “The Modern Boy” (week ending 4th August 1934) entitled “Biggles Sky-High Hat-Trick”.  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 “Out for Records!” and “Biggles’ Bombshell!”.  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 “The greatest number of enemy aeroplanes to fall in one day during the Great War under the guns of any single airman numbered six.  At the end of the War two or three officers had accomplished this amazing record, which was first established by Captain J. L. Trollope shortly before he himself was shot down”.  “Biggles’ record day’s bag was four.  On one occasion he shot down three enemy ‘planes before breakfast, and with this flying start, so to speak, he thought he stood a good chance of beating his own record.  But it came to nothing.  He roved the sky for the rest of that day, until he nearly fell asleep in the cockpit, without seeing a single Hun”.  The three victories before breakfast were when he attacked a formation of five enemy scouts out of the sun and picked off a straggler.  He then fired on the next machine and killed the pilot with a burst of five rounds.  “The second machine was spinning downwards before the first had reached the ground, so he had two falling machines in the air at once”.  The remaining three aircraft came back at Biggles and he set the leader on fire with his first burst.  “For a matter of twenty rounds he had secured three victories, all within the space of two minutes”.  “The occasion on which he scored four successes was a very different proposition, and not without a certain amount of humour, although it must be admitted that only three of these victories were confirmed.  The anti-aircraft gunners put in a claim for the last one, and although Biggles was quite satisfied in his own mind that he shot it down, the subsequent court of inquiry, for reasons best known to themselves, gave the verdict to the gunners”.  “It happened shortly after Captain Trollope had astonished all the squadrons in France by his amazing exploit”.  (Captain J. L. Trollope of the 43rd Squadron performed this event on 24th March 1918 in a Sopwith Camel).  Nothing else is talked about by the officers of 266 and 287 Squadron and when they are together on a guest night, they each proclaim their Squadron would be the next to do the trick – or perhaps beat it.  The next morning, “Mannering, the recording officer of Squadron No. 287, informed Wat Tyler, the recording officer of Squadron No. 266, by telephone, that Captain Wilkinson had already shot down three machines”.  Biggles was still in bed when he heard the news and he rushes to get into the air.  By the time he is ready to take off, he has heard that Wilkinson has got a fourth.  Biggles searches for enemy aircraft for two hours and on the return home, he shoots down a big dark green Hannoverana, a two-seater.  Biggles then sees to his astonishment a S.E.5.  Biggles lands at his aerodrome and is followed in by the S.E.5, which is piloted by Wilkinson who is furious that Biggles has got “his Hun”.  Wilks says he would have got the Hun in ten seconds and suggest they go fifty fifty on the claim.  Biggles refuses.  “First come, first served is the motto!”  Flying back to the Lines, a shadow falls over Biggles’ plane and he turns and shoots down a yellow Albatross.  Wilks in his S.E.5 roars past and shakes his fist at Biggles.  “Great Scott, I believe I’ve done it again!” mutters Biggles.  “Biggles third victory that day was a straightforward duel which was won fairly and squarely by superb flying and shooting, and only then after one of the longest and most hair-raising combats that had fallen to his experience.  The victim was the pilot of a Fokker Triplane”.  The plane crashes into a hedge but the pilot got out quickly and appeared unharmed and “looking upwards, waved cheerfully to his conqueror”.  Back at Maranique, to report the matter, Biggles is told that Wilkinson still has four to his credit but “a bullet grazed his arm and took the tip of the middle finger of his left hand” and he has been sent to hospital to have it dressed.  Biggles’ aircraft needs to be repaired and it is well into the afternoon before he is back in the air.  Darkness forces Biggles to land at another aerodrome and his rings Maranique to explain.  Biggles is told that Wilks and the other S.E.5 pilots are coming over, no doubt to gloat over their officer having got four enemy aircraft.  Biggles returns to Maranique at 10.30 pm and is faced with a gloating Wilks saying he got four planes to Biggles three.  Biggles says at that at 8.30 pm he got a night-raiding Gotha over Amiens.  “It’s a mistake to count your chickens before they’re hatched!” he concluded, amid a mighty roar of laughter from the assembled Camel pilots”.


A shorten version of this story called “Two Good Turns” can be found in the Air Training Corps Gazette, volume 1, issue 5, dated July 1941 on page 13.  This one page story is effectively an extract from the Spitfire Parade version of the story.  It starts (effectively four pages into the Spitfire Parade version) with Biggles taking off in his Spitfire and patrolling.  He comes across a German Dornier and shoots it down.  Then he sees the Hurricane and returns to his aerodrome.  It is not Flight Sergeant Smyth that Biggles speaks to however, it is now just “the sergeant-major”.  Most of the conversation between Biggles and Wilkinson in their first confrontation is cut in this version.  Biggles then takes off and later on, shoots down the Heinkel.  In the Spitfire Parade version, it was “Jehoshaphat!  I believe I’ve done it again”.  In the A.T.C. version it’s “Good Lord!  I believe I’ve done it again”.  Wilkinson again confronts Biggles but the A.T.C. version finishes with Wilks telling Biggles that he saved him and had he not “You wouldn’t have known what had hit you”.  There were another eight pages of the story in the Spitfire Parade version.