by Captain W. E. Johns


3.     CHAPTER 3 – A STRANGE TALE OF A BAG  (Pages 39 – 47) (34 – 39)


“Following the interview with the new prospective recruit events moved faster than Biggles had reason to expect.  He reported his impressions to the Air Commodore, expressing himself satisfied with the man he had produced.  He did not think they could do better and proposed giving him a trial right away”.  Raymond is also looking for new premises for the Air Police and suggests Oakley aerodrome, “recently evacuated by an American Air Force unit”.  (There really is an Oakley aerodrome in Buckinghamshire).  Raymond says there will have to be a resident caretaker.  “He would leave it to Biggles to find one, perhaps a retired N.C.O. who had at some time served under him.  He would be enrolled as a constable in the Police Air Section”.  (What has happened to Smyth?  He filled this role in previous Air Police stories, but hasn’t been mentioned since “Biggles of the Special Air Police” in September 1953)  A week later Police Air Cadet Mackay reported for duty, having found himself temporary lodging not far from the office.  “Now it had been Biggles’ intention to take this introduction of a new member of the team slowly, in stages, the first step being to show him their aircraft, tell him about their methods and general police procedure, of which he knew practically nothing.  This would also provide him with an opportunity to get to know them.  But this did not work out as planned, the reason being that on the very day that Minnie – as they already called him – was due to report, Biggles was called to the Air Commodore’s officer and a case for investigation brought to his notice”.  Raymond tells Biggles that a schoolmaster in East Grinstead, an enthusiastic botanist, took a walk through the fields and woods between Newchapel Corner and Lingfield (W. E. Johns used to live in a cottage in Lingfield) looking for rare flowers and instead he found a light-coloured canvas bag, or sack, with brass-bound loopholes round the neck, through which a cord had been threaded to close the mouth.  On one side it is torn.  Biggles says it looks like an army kitbag.  It had been packed with registered Post-Office mail, which had been stolen.  It lay under an oak tree in a small clump of trees, or copse.  It had been there at least a week as it had been rained on.  It’s a mystery as many of the letters, being registered, had contained money, why had it been just dumped.  “Are you asking me to try to sort out this little conundrum, sir?” said Biggles.  “That’s a pretty tall order.  I’m not clairvoyant”.  Biggles agrees to investigate and asks to see the spot where the bag was found.  Raymond says he will arrange for him to meet the constable who collected the bag at the Star Inn, not far from the spot and he can then take him there.  Biggles returns to the office and tells Minnie he can try his apprentice hand at a little job that has cropped up.  Biggles says they are going to a wood in Surrey and they are not flying but “shall go in an old but comfortably motor car I happen to possess”.  Biggles invites all to come.  “It’ll take all the brains we can muster to sort this out.  Between the lot of us someone might get a brainwave”.