by Captain W. E. Johns


(Page references are for the paperback first edition, followed by the hardback second).



II.    BIGGLES’ CHRISTMAS TREE!  (Pages 31 – 41/Pages 33 – 42)


This story was originally published in “Modern Boy” number 359 – dated 22.12.34


An enormous Handley-Page night bomber lands at 266 Squadron, Maranique, France and the pilot, introduces himself as Fernwell of 100 Squadron at Auchez.  Fernwell comes with a warning.  He says the Squadron mess at 266 is lit up like a West-End cinema and they are very likely to be bombed by the Germans as a result.  “Thanks, Fernwell,” said Biggles seriously.  “Very decent of you to take the trouble to let us know”.  After some further chat, Biggles remembers there are forests around Auchez and he asks Fernwell if he can get them a Christmas-tree and bring it over “in that flying goods train of yours?”  Fernwell laughs and says he’ll see if he can do it tomorrow.  The next afternoon, Biggles takes a phone call from Fernwell.  He had got them “a grand tree” but engine trouble had forced him to land at 287 Squadron’s aerodrome and “some skunk had pinched the tree”.  Fernwell says a man called Wilkinson was behind it.  Just then, Wilks walks into the mess at 266 Squadron and, although he receives an earful from Biggles, he merely wants to invite all the officers at 266 Squadron to a Christmas party at 287 Squadron the day after tomorrow.  He says he has a tree and presents for everyone.  Biggles and his colleagues agree to go.  Two nights later, at 287 Squadron, Major Raymond is there to distribute presents after a meal.  Biggles is given a fine silver wrist-watch, much to Wilks’ horror, who recognises the watch as his own.  Wilks is given a present and it is a box of wriggling worms.  Algy is given a present that turns out to be a splendid leather case containing a safety razor.  Judson, a pilot at 287 recognises that as his.  “And so, as it had begun, the present-giving continued.  The pilots of 266 Squadron all received useful presents, while the members of 287 Squadron were the recipients of such curious things as a box of cinders, a wad of engine-cleaning rag, pieces of torn fabric, or a handful of rusty iron nuts and bolts”.  Major Mullen asks Biggles quietly, how he managed it.  “Lacey and I came over at two o’clock this morning when everyone was in bed and changed all the wrappers,” whispered Biggles.  “We guessed they’d be up to some trick, and we weren’t wrong!  By changing the wrappers we’ve turned the tables on them, and they are getting the presents that were intended for us.  It took us until half-past four to finish the job”.  Suddenly a Wing Orderly Officer arrives and speaks to Major Raymond.  Raymond then announces that 266 Squadron has been bombed and “the mess and all adjacent buildings are blown to pieces, and it is only due to the fact that all the officers of the squadron were here that there were no casualties”.  Biggles beckons Wilks over.  “Here you are, laddie!” he said soberly.  “Here’s your watch.  You deserve it!”