Details about three short stories originally published in "Air Stories" in 1939 and 1940
The short story "Spitfire Parade", does not actually appear in the book "Spitfire Parade - Biggles at War" but is certainly related to the contents of the book due to the characters it features. The eight page short story (which includes one and a half pages of illustrations) appeared in Air Stories in March 1940 and Johns obviously liked the title as he used it for the book published in August 1941. However, Spitfire Parade is not the first story from Air Stories to feature the characters who appear in the book Spitfire Parade. We have to go back to the October 1939 edition of "Air Stories" to find a six and a half page story called Hard Case" Carrington, with a half page illustration. "Mac" Maclaren is called to see his Commanding Officer and meets Second-Lieutenant Tug Carrington, a former Flyweight boxer, who doesn't take kindly to discipline but is one hell of a fighter in the air. This First World War story introduces a character that Johns will later use in the Second World War based "Spitfire Parade". The next story Johns has published in "Air Stories" is in February 1940 and is called "So This Is War" and this introduces us to three new characters. Firstly, George "Ferocity" Ferris, Tex O'Hara and most importantly of all, Flight Lieutenant Bertie Augustus Lissie, who would become a regular companion of Biggles. This 8 page story (which includes one full page and two half pages of illustrations) has Bertie meeting Ferocity and Tex for the first time and they then fly their Spitfires (for this is a Second World War story) over the enemy lines in France to escort back a Blenheim that has been taking photos over Saarbrucken. The short story describes from Tex's point of view the trials and tribulations of the flight. It is only when they return that Tex sees that Bertie has the D.F.C. and the A.F.C.
The following month we have another story about Ferocity, Tex and Bertie. Air Stories of March 1940 published "Spitfire Parade" which is about "Ferocity" Ferris of Umpty Squadron, R.A.F. and his flight commander, the Hon. Bertie Lissie, D.F.C. now making his second appearance in a W. E. Johns story. It is again set in France before the fall of Dunkirk. When a pilot lands at Ferris's aerodrome, he takes an instant dislike to him. When the stranger reveals his Squadron Leader's uniform and says he is carrying urgent dispatches, Ferris decides to follow him to protect him as he flies over German territory. But all is not as it seems and in due course the strange Squadron Leader is revealed to be a German who is using trickery to obtain undamaged Spitfires! However, Ferris gets the better of the German Squadron Leader and the captured Spitfires are revealed when all British Spitfires put black paint on their wing tips. This allows Ferocity, Bertie and "Tex" O' Hara to identify the German flown Spitfires and shoot them down ..........
Does this story sound vaguely familiar? If you know your First World War Biggles stories then it will. The main plot of the story is simply an updated rewrite of "Biggles Takes the Bait" which was originally published in The Modern Boy Annual 1938 - so not that long before this new version was published. The character of Biggles is merely replaced by "Ferocity" Ferris. The painting of the aircraft may sound familiar as well. This was the same idea in another Biggles story - J9982 - the third story from the first Biggles book, "The Camels are Coming". Only in that story, to find the German flown Sopwith Camel, the British painted their prop bosses blue. This additional part of the story was not in "Biggles Takes the Bait" but was merely tacked onto this new version of the story. I assume that writing these short stories gave Johns the idea for a whole book of similar stories updated from previous First World War stories he had written. The book "Spitfire Parade" was eventually published in August 1941 but didn't feature any particular short story called "Spitfire Parade"!