by Captain W. E. Johns



VII.                 DITCHED  (Pages 70 - 81)


Biggles and Ginger return to base and brief Algy and Bertie.  Biggles wants to find the U-boat.  "Even if we locate her I fancy we should have a job to catch her on the surface," opined Algy.  "Von Schonbeck must know all there is to know about dodging aircraft".  Biggles says the submarine can't stay at sea indefinitely.  She's bound to make landfall somewhere even just to pick up the gold bullion.  Biggles decides to fly, with Ginger, to Corbie Island, to see if the U-boat is there.  "Bertie looked disappointed".  "I say, old boy, isn't it time we had a cut in?".  "Perhaps it is," agreed Biggles.  "But for the moment I'd sooner play safe".  Biggles says he wants Algy and Bertie in reserve.  "You'll get a turn presently".  "As you say, old warrior," signed Bertie.  "You know best".  20 minutes later Biggles and Ginger take off and fly for an hour before sighting the whaler.  She is back on her old course.  Another hour takes their plane to where Corbie island should be, according to the map, but it isn't there.  Biggles flies on the course the whaler is headed and finds the island 80 miles away from where the map had it marked (with the letters E.D - existence doubtful).  As they close in on the island, Ginger sees the U-boat on the surface, sheltered against a natural rock-quay!  Biggles flies down - under intense fire - and drops both depth charges on her.  Their plane is hit not once, but several times.  It is not clear if he hits the submarine.  They fly flat out for home but the strong smell of petrol alerts them to disaster.  The fuel tank has been holed in two places.  Ginger does his best to plug them, but it is no use, they are going to have to land.  A radio call to Algy is not possible as the radio has been shattered as well.  Fog is closing in and all Biggles can do is ditch in the slack water near some icebergs.  The plane starts to fill with water but there is enough fuel in the gravity tank to "beach" the plane on a shelving bank of ice.  Biggles and Ginger get out on the ice.  Biggles worries that they may be drifting north as the ice will melt from under their feet.