by Captain W. E. Johns



III.                   VON SCHONBECK STRIKES FIRST  (Pages 29 - 41)


A fortnight has now passed and Biggles, Algy, Bertie and Ginger watch their supply ship, the "Tern" sail away from Kerguelen Island.  They have been left with two iron-roofed Nissen huts, one for mess, living and sleeping quarters, with packing cases as chairs and tables, and one storing tinned food, spare parts and ammunition.  Further away there is a fuel dump covered with tarpaulin.  A spring fed burn provides unlimited water.  They have a radio and their call sign is 'XL'.  They have two aircraft, both identical twin-engined flying boats, amphibious monoplanes of the Tarpon class (still on the secret list when the war ended) armed with two forward firing machine guns, a mounted weapon covering the tail and two 500 pound depth charges.  Our heroes are discussing their plans as they try to work out the best way to find von Schonbeck, when Biggles hears distant gunfire.  Looking in the direction of the "Tern" very little can be seen, so Biggles flies out only to find a spreading patch of oil, some debris and raft with two men on it.  Landing on the sea, both men are found to be dead having been shot.  The "Tern" has been torpedoed.  Flying back to their base, it is obvious the U-517 has arrived.  All lights have to be blacked-out as an attack on their base would be disastrous.  The only advantage they have is that they may be able to spot an oil trail from the submarine.  Tomorrow they will search the immediate vicinity of Kerguelen Island to make sure the submarine base isn't there.