by Captain W. E. Johns


First published March 1952



TITLE PAGE – Page 3 – This page has a small vignette of the head of a pilot, presumably Biggles.  The book contains no frontispiece.




I.              SKYWAY ROBBERY  (There are no chapter numbers) (Pages 7 – 36)

This story was originally published in THE BOY’S BOOK OF ADVENTURE (1950) by Evans Brothers Ltd and ran from pages 11 to 29 in that book.  This story was written in July 1949 as Johns’ literary agent said to Johns in a letter dated 14th July 1949 that he “read “SKYWAY ROBBERY” last night and like it very much indeed”.  This summary also points out the changes between the original version and the version in this first edition book.


“I’ll come right down, Sir.” Air Detective-Inspector Bigglesworth, of the Special Air Section, New Scotland Yard, replaced the receiver of his departmental telephone, and leaving the work on which he had been engaged with his assistants, walked down a corridor to the office of his chief, Air Commodore Raymond”.  (In the original story it was “Sergeant Bigglesworth”.  Biggles was promoted to “Detective Air-Inspector” in the opening pages of the book “Another Job for Biggles”, published in February 1951, so for continuity purposes, his rank had to be changed when this short story was collected and published in this later book.  This story was in fact written in July 1949).  Raymond introduces Biggles to His Highness, Prince Agra Khan, son and heir of the late Rajah of Malliapore.  The Prince asks to be called by his first name.  Agra says that due to the “great changes in India following the withdrawal of British control”, his father decided to send their most valuable heirlooms, which for the most part consisted of jewels collected over many years, sometimes centuries, to England for safe keeping.  He chartered an aircraft from “Transjungle Airways”, registered in the name of a Humphrey Kelly, but the plane has disappeared, along with five boxes of jewels and Agra believes they have been stolen.  He has reported this to the police.  The Air Commodore has already been making enquiries.  The chartered plane was an old Lancaster and photographs were taken, when the jewels were loaded.  From these it has been possible to identify the pilot using the name Kelly as Eustace Braunton, a former R.A.F. Flight-Lieutenant.  With him was his old mechanic, ex-Corporal Mallings.  Both had been cashiered out of the R.A.F. for black-market and currency activities.  Biggles guesses that Braunton previously flew Lancasters and served in India.  Raymond says he was based at Browshera, some four hundred miles north of Malliapore and Mallings was a mechanic in his squadron.  Although the jewels disappeared six months ago, Raymond asks Biggles to find the jewels, or find Braunton and Mallings.  Biggles says “Not being able to speak Hindustani, Urdu, or any other Indian dialect, I shall need an interpreter”.  (This is strange as Biggles was born and bought up in India and speaks these languages fluently in “The Boy Biggles” – but of course that was published years later, in 1968).  Biggles agrees to take Agra.  In Biggles Takes the Case, the line is Agra’s face became all smiles.  “That’s the best news I’ve had since the jewels were lost,” he declared.  (In the original publication of the story it was “That’s the best news I’ve heard for a long time” - without any declaration).  Biggles flies a Wellington to Dum-Dum aerodrome, Calcutta and meets a man called Crane “of the central control room”, who tells him about sightings of a Lancaster.  Crane says he didn’t get to know Braunton well; “Struck me as a bit of a bouncer” is the line in the Biggles Takes the Case (whereas in the original story it was, of course, “a bit of a bounder).  From the reports, Biggles decides to go and visit the abandoned aerodrome at Browshera, taking with him Air Constables “Ginger” Hebblethwaite, Algy Lacey, Bertie Lissie and Prince Agra.  (Neither Algy or Bertie get a line of dialogue in this story).  Landing at the abandoned aerodrome, Biggles and Ginger get out and meet two surly, scruffy white men, near an old and tatty canvas hangar.  Biggles asks the men if they have any equipment as he wants to check his compass, but he is told that they don’t.  Biggles hints to the men that the aerodrome is about to be opened up for use again.  Biggles taxies his aircraft to a patch of jungle, creating dust, where Biggles, Ginger and Agra get out and hide.  They are sure the two men are Braunton and Mallings.  Algy then flies off, taking Bertie with him.  The men at the aerodrome were not aware of anybody other than Biggles and Ginger having been in the Wellington.  Hidden in the jungle, Biggles waits until dark before approaching the old hangar.  As they walk through the jungle a leopard crosses their path (This is the pen and ink illustration at the beginning of the story on page 8).  Biggles says to Agra “I want you to take off your clothes, tie your shirt round your waist and do a little scouting”.  Agra goes off and later returns to report the under-carriage of the Lancaster appears to be broken and the men are trying to repair it.  He heard the two men talking with a third man “speaking with a funny accent”.  They spoke of the plane being found and if so, it would be known that they had been there and it might be better to burn it.  Agra also heard machinery buzzing.  Waiting in the jungle, Biggles, Ginger and Agra can hear Braunton and Mallings working on the Lancaster until well past midnight.  The two men then come out with a torch and go to the old station headquarters where Agra heard the machinery.  They then come out with a box about three foot long by two feet wide and eighteen inches deep.  The men then bury this box at the foot of an exceptionally large tree a short way into the jungle.  The next morning, Biggles knows that Algy will return with their aircraft at eight as that has been pre-arranged.  Biggles and Ginger go to the old station office and by Biggles pretending to be Braunton, they get inside.  Here they find a Dutchman by the name of Shrenk who is recutting the stolen jewels.  He is arrested.  As Algy’s Wellington flies over to land, Braunton comes running over shouting “Shrenk, get everything out of sight”.  He and Mallings are both arrested.  Braunton offers Biggles half the loot.  “Nothing doing,” said Biggles icily.  “Trying to bribe a police officer won’t make your case any better”.  “You haven’t a hope of finding it,” sneered Braunton.  “I’m not looking for anything,” said Biggles coldly, “Save your breath”.  Leaving the villains with Algy and Bertie, Biggles, Ginger and Agra go and dig up the box from the foot of the tree.  Breaking the padlock open with a chisel, they see “such a collection of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls, that Ginger could only blink in wonder and admiration”.  A week later the Wellington returns to London.  “Braunton and Mallings received long terms of imprisonment, although Shrenk, who was only an accessory, got off with a lighter sentence”.  Agra sends four magnificent uncut rubies, one for each of those engaged in the operation with a letter expressing his thanks and gratitude for the return of his fortune and extending an open invitation to the Palace at Malliapore should the course of the special Air Police ever lie in that direction.