by Captain W. E. Johns



X.                    AVIATION THE HARD WAY  (Pages 111 – 120)


“A few minutes crisp conversation with Ginger was enough for Algy to grasp what must have happened”.  “Did you know that mine was there?” he demanded, realising that the explosion could not have been caused by anything else.  “I didn’t know it, but I thought the submarine had been up to some devilment.  I suspected mines” replied Ginger.  “Couldn’t you have made some sort of signal?” asked Algy.  Ginger’s voice rose a tone.  “Make a signal?  I was Morsing as hard as I could with my nose rag.  I’d nothing else to use”.  “We thought you were dancing for joy, old boy,” Bertie told Ginger, polishing his monocle.  Algy thinks it must have been a magnetic mine as he was travelling fairly fast when he went over the one he set off.  The few seconds delay before it actually exploded gave him time to get clear.  They decide to examine the machine.  Algy thinks that it won’t be too badly damaged and they could use rollers to get it off the rocks and back into the sea.  Marcel shouts a warning and they turn to see the bearded man in the blue jersey standing on the ridge looking at them.  “Seeing that he was observed, he turned on his heel and disappeared”.  Algy asks “Who on earth was that?” and Ginger tells him.  Ginger explains he is fixed up very comfortably with wireless and everything.  “You’d expect him to have wireless wouldn’t you?” adds Ginger.  “Yes, but not to listen to Housewives’ Choice,” declared Algy grimly.  (Housewives’ Choice was a BBC Radio record request programme, broadcast every morning between 1946 and 1967).   “He’ll be in touch with the submarine by radio,” Algy adds.  Ginger imagines the man had heard the explosion and came along to see what had happened.  Algy says if he sends out an S.O.S. the submarine will be back.  They discuss what to do.  “It’s no use waiting for Biggles,” interposed Bertie.  “Today is only Friday and he couldn’t get here before Sunday”.  Algy says he was thinking about stopping this bloke talking to the submarine.  Ginger gets everyone an automatic pistol with spare clips of bullets out of the stranded aircraft.  They then go to the hollow where the man’s hut is, but the whistle of a bullet sends them all diving for cover.  Algy is angry.  “A man who would shoot like that before we’d even said a word of complaint must be the lowest kind of thug”.  Algy says it isn’t worth the risk of getting shot to get the man, when all they want to do is put the radio out of action.  Ginger goes to a place where no window overlooks and then climbs down to where a pole is holding wires coming from the hut.  He brings the pole down and that breaks the wires it carries.  Algy calls out to the man, but there is no reply.  Algy says “Well, he’s had his chance.  It’s seldom any use trying to make contact with these Iron Curtain merchants.  Let him stew in his own juice if that’s how he wants it.  I’m not pining for his company.  We’ll deal with him later”.  They return to the aircraft and take the pole with them.  The in-coming tide is now lapping the keel of the stranded aircraft.  Algy tells them to keep an eye out for the man in the blue sweater.  “The flying-boat was examined inside and out, and all were relieved, and somewhat surprised, to find that the damage was negligible”.  The wave had deposited them gently and the pumice like quality of the rock was not hard.  The problem was getting the flying-boat back in the water.  The question of the mines could wait until this had been done.  The wireless pole is hacked into three lengths to make rollers and they are put under the hull as it responds slightly to the movement of the water.  The tide begins to ebb and they have to stop.  Algy says “We must save the machine if we can.  It cost a lot of money, and we’re likely to take a rap if it becomes a write-off”.  Algy suggests chipping the soft rock away to give the aircraft a sharper tilt towards the water.  With the rollers and the next tide, they might be able to get it afloat.  Ginger wonders why the submarine laid mines as it won’t be able to come back into the bay.  Algy suspects it has left a channel and only she knows where that is.  Bertie, says he had done a fair bit of yachting and he knows a rip tide when he sees one.  Any mines are not going to stay in the place they are laid but will be moved.  “Let’s talk about mines when the time comes to deal with them,” said Algy practically.  “The thing is to get the ship on the water”.  They get to work chipping away large lumps of lava.  The deeper they go the softer it is.  Fog comes in and soon visibility is nearly down to zero so they have to “knock off”.  Algy says they will have to mount a guard “in case our unfriendly neighbour comes snooping round”.