BIGGLES FOLLOWS ON
by Captain W. E. Johns
II. GUARDSMAN ROSS (Pages 20 – 35)
The following morning, Biggles is escorted in to see Captain Kingham, acting adjutant at the Guards’ Depot. Biggles asks to speak to him in private. “I hope you’re not wasting my time” he remarks and Biggles replies “I hope I’m not wasting my own”. Biggles says that a recruit named Ian Ross has been spending a certain amount of his off time in the company of “one of the most efficient foreign agents in Europe”. He asks if Ross is working on anything secret or could gain access to anything secret, but the answer is no. Kingham calls for Ross’s file and Biggles sees he enlisted voluntarily and his father was a Grenadier. Biggles asks to speak to Ross and that has to be done in consultation with the commanding officer, a Colonel. Ross is called in and Biggles tells him to look at him while he is talking to him. (“Stand at ease,” rapped out the Colonel – is the first illustration between pages 32 and 33). Ross agrees he has been talking with a man at the ‘Stand Easy’ café. He said he was Czech. Yesterday, was the third time Ross had spoken with him. The man had said he was recruiting for another army. “A better one than ours, he said. The pay was twice as much as we get here, with plenty of leave, and sport and so on. He said the regiment was a sort of International Brigade, like the French Foreign Legion”. He said the regiment was based in Czechoslovakia and “there was a guarantee we should never have to fight against British …” Biggles picks Ross up on the “we” and is told that others have already gone. Ross says his chum Hugh Macdonald went. The man knew he was a friend of Ross’s and said he had a message from Macdonald that he was having the time of his life. Ross produces a letter from his wallet. Biggles examines it and says “If ever I saw a piece of forgery, that’s it”. Ross said he was hoping to find out where Macdonald had gone to persuade him to come home. The Colonel adds that in the last three months they have had seven men go absent without leave. Ross is sent to wait outside. The Colonel wants the “Czech” arrested. Biggles says that will defeat any change of getting the men back. “A foreign power, we can guess which one, (Biggles must be referring to Russia. 1952, the year of the book’s publication was during the “cold war”) is apparently forming a unit composed of troops of other nationalities …… a force of that sort could instruct others in the drill, tactics and equipment of every other country in Western Europe. They would also be helpful as interpreters, and so on. We’ve got to get these men back, if only to save them from the consequences of their folly”. Biggles suggests asking Ross to carry on the meetings and find out as much as he can. Ross is called back in and Biggles warns him of the danger. “I’ll do anything you say, sir”. “Even though the business may cost you your life before we are through with it?” asks Biggles. “If I’d been afraid of dying I wouldn’t have joined the army” is the reply. “That’s the way to talk” replies Biggles, who then tells Ross to find out as much as he can and that eventually he may have to accept the offer and go. Ross is to report anything he learns to the adjutant. Biggles will be at Scotland Yard and will return when telephoned. Biggles asks the Colonel not to report this to higher authority. “If one person outside this room learns what is going on, a hundred people will know” say Biggles, adding “If you do decide to report the matter officially, tip me off in time to do the same”. Biggles goes to his car, puts on a pair of dark glasses and pulls the rim of his hat well down. “He wasn’t taking any chances of being seen in Caterham by Erich von Stalhein”. (“He wasn’t taking any chances” – is the second illustration between pages 32 and 33).