by Captain W. E. Johns


First printed 1951









"Come in, Bigglesworth. Sit down" is the opening line as we are introduced to Sergeant Bigglesworth (known to his friends as Biggles), chief pilot to the administrative head of the Special Air Section, New Scotland Yard. Raymond tells Biggles he has been promoted to Detective Air-Inspector, which, incidentally, is a new rank at the Yard. Biggles asks if he has to do anything extra for this spot of elevation. They talk about work currently in hand and we are told "The Treasury, agreeing reluctantly that the police force would have to move with the times, had at last sanctioned a grant of money for the formation and equipment of a Special Air Unit, whereas hitherto the Air Police had had to rely on the Air Ministry for its machines, maintenance and service. The money did not run to a special airfield, but it was sufficient for the hire of a private hanger at Gatwick Airport, with the usual offices, and one or two aircraft for general work, mostly types from the R.A.F. Obsolescent List. It was, of course, out of the question for the Unit to maintain the many types, large and small, land, marine or amphibious, which its highly specialised work in different parts of the world might from time to time demand; but the difficulty had been overcome by the appointment at the Air Ministry of a Liaison Officer who was authorised to let the Police have on loan any particular type required." "I've got my old flight-sergeant, Smyth, in charge of the ground-staff," Biggles told the Air Commodore. "There'll be a twenty-four hour service in the radio room. So through it, you should be able to get in touch with us instantly, whether we're in the air or on the carpet. I hope, too, always to have an officer on duty, with an aircraft standing by, for any urgent jobs that may turn up". Raymond offers Biggles and unusual cigarette and says "you might enjoy it but it wouldn't be good for you". The cigarette contains dope. Biggles asks to bring his boys down before Raymond tells the story, although Algy is away on leave sailing somewhere on somebody's yacht. Raymond says the stuff in the cigarette is a hundred times more insidious that marijuana. Doctor Guthram Darnley, the celebrated Asiatic traveller and explorer was crossing the 'Rub al Khali' (meaning the empty quarter) in Arabia, between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, had found about 30 semi comatose Arabs in a remote wadi, their condition bought on from breathing the smoke from fires made from local shrubs. The shrubs were unknown to the Doctor and his Arabs. It was coated with a gum which was a potent narcotic. Doctor Darnley bought some seeds back for Kew gardens but as the conditions reproduced were not identical to the wadi, the few plants raised, died. The shrub was identified as a new form of Artemesia. The natives call it "gurra".