by Captain W. E. Johns



X.                    THE AIR COMMODORE IS WORRIED  (Pages 116 – 122)


The following afternoon there is a conference in Air Commodore Raymond’s office between Biggles, the Air Commodore, Major Charles of the Intelligence Service and a senior official of the Foreign Office.  Biggles has explained everything and confirms he spoke with Marcel Brissac on the way home to ascertain that there has been a series of desertions from the French Army as well.  Major Charles expresses concern about the propaganda broadcasts.  “The general trend of the broadcasts is an appeal to the United Nations Forces to stop fighting – to refrain from killing innocent people, as they so nicely put it.  We shall have to try to put an end to it”.  Biggles says he has a personal interest in the matter as he has a moral obligation to get Ross back.  He wants authority to go and get him.  Biggles outlines his plan.  He will start by getting aerial photographs of Kratsen.  He has a Chinese friend that he plans to send in to reconnoitre the area.  This is Doctor Wung Ling.  “I flew him out to China not so long ago to salvage his father’s treasure chest”.  (A footnote tells us to see ‘The Case of the Mandarin’s Treasure Chest’ in ‘Biggles – Air Detective’.  This is interesting as that story is NOT in ‘Biggles – Air Detective’.  It’s in ‘Biggles of the Special Air Police’.  Now, ‘Biggles Follows On’ was published in June 1952.  But it was written by July 1951, as I have the letter from Johns’ literary agent acknowledging receipt of the manuscript.  ‘Biggles Air Detective’ was published in May 1950, but ‘Biggles of the Special Air Police’ wasn’t published until September 1953.  The mistake was pointed out to Johns by Peter Watt, his literary agent, in a letter to him dated 24th July 1951.  He said the story was due to appear in a future book as yet not named and they couldn’t use ‘Biggles – Air Detective’ as the Marks & Spencer book had used that.  He asked Johns to suggest some possible book titles.  Johns then pencilled on this letter ‘Biggles of Scotland Yard ‘and the alternative ‘Biggles of the Yard’.  He also suggested ‘Biggles Flies to Work’ (which was to become a future book title in 1963) and ‘Biggles Solves the Mystery’.  It would appear that the error was not corrected as they didn’t know what title to correct it to!  Readers of ‘Biggles Follows On’ in 1952 would not know the character, as the story that he first appeared in had not been published.  This reference is wrong in every edition of the book, up to and including the 1980 Armada paperback).  Biggles also says he wants to use Gimlet King and “that crazy gang of his”.  (Johns cleverly inserts Gimlet into this Biggles book as a way of advertising his Gimlet series of books).  The man from the Foreign Office objects, saying they don’t want to start a war.  “Listen,” said Biggles, speaking distinctly.  “When I was a kid I hated war.  And I haven’t changed.  But how have I spent most of my life?  In wars, big and small.  Why?  I’ll tell you.  Because, instead of settling down to a quiet life as I intended I’ve been pitchforked into wars started by other people who have never been in a battle in their lives.  I’m not starting anything.  The other side have already done that.  No doubt there are people who would like the police to pack up for fear of starting a war with the crooks, spivs and chisellers, who thrive like a lot of maggots on decent folk”.  “Steady.  Take it easy, Bigglesworth,” adjured the Air Commodore.  “There’s no need to get worked up about it”.  Biggles asks if he is to get Ross or not.  If the answer is ‘no’ the Air Commodore will have his resignation on his desk in five minutes and Biggles will buy an aircraft and do the job himself.  Both Raymond and Major Charles give permission.  The Foreign Office official shrugged.  “I can’t sanction the raid, of course; but I can shut my eyes”.  Biggles returns to his colleagues and says they are going to get Ross.  He tells Ginger to get Gimlet King on the phone.