by Captain W. E. Johns


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



VI.   BIGGLES ‘ON THE SPOT’  (Pages 99 – 112/Pages 96 – 108)


This story was published in “The Modern Boy’s Book of Adventure Stories” in 1936


Major Mullen asks Biggles if it was him who “shot up the Boche Aerodrome at Savy two mornings ago”.  Biggles says it was.  According to Wolffs, the German press agency, Biggles has killed Hauptmann von Kleiner, who was shot in the head whilst in bed.  “Wolffs say that von Kleiner was an exceptionally popular officer, and every man has sworn an oath to get you, dead or alive, or lose his life in the attempt”.  They have spotted Biggles’ blue painted cowling.  Biggles is dismissive of the threats.  Mullen says “It’s as good as a death sentence.  Headquarters know it, and they have ordered me to send you to Home Establishment for an indefinite period”.  Mullen says he may be able to influence a posting to another Squadron on the front.  Biggles is defiant and says he won’t go.  “The C.O. knew the symptoms; he had seen lacerated nerves before, a system cracking under the strain of daily combats in the air”.  The conversation ends when Wat Tyler, the recording officer warns of a Hun attack and their aerodrome is attacked and shot up.  Biggles gets into the air and shoots down a blue Albatross.  Biggles lands to find an officer has been killed, a Sergeant badly hit and not expected to live and the Flight Sergeant tells Biggles that two of his boys have gone.  The aerodrome is bombed that night and again in the early hours of the morning.  Biggles gets up early and goes to his Camel only to find all nine Sopwith Camels lined up ready to go.  All have had their engine cowling painted bright sky-blue so they are identical.  Mahoney says he knew Biggles was going to attack the von Kleiner crowd again and they are all coming with him.  Biggles says “this vendetta idea has got to be squashed right away if I’m to remain with the Squadron”.  Biggles says four machines will do the strafing, himself, Lacey, Carter and Hobbs.  Mahoney and Blythe will stay at two thousand feet and “MacLaren and the remaining machines will stay up topside in reserve”.  When they get to the “Boche aerodrome” they find twenty-three Albatrosses waiting on the tarmac with their propellers ticking over.  “Two and a half to one” murmurs Biggles.  As the attack begins two German planes collide on the ground and a third piles into them.  Carter is shot down.  All planes become involved in a huge dog-fight and Biggles sees a formation of Fokker triplanes tearing up from the East.  Biggles and Algy fly into this formation in order to disrupt them, but both are out of ammunition.  Then a number of S.E.5’s arrive and pour down on the “Tripehounds”.  Returning to his own aerodrome, Biggles sees six machines following.  Hobbs and Carter are lost.  Hobbs is O.K. as he has been seen to wave but Carter went down a flamer.  “Pity!  Still, it couldn’t be helped – one can’t fight battles without casualties” says Biggles.  Biggles is approached by Major Mullen, accompanied by Colonel Raymond and a Brigadier-General Hansford.  The Brigadier-General wants to speak to Biggles about “the Jagdstaffel Kleiner, which is stationed at Svay (this typing error appears in the original text.  It was Savy at the start of the story and it should be Savy(!)”).  Was stationed, sir, would be nearer the mark, I think” said Biggles respectfully, with the ghost of a smile.  Biggles suggests a two-seater is sent over to take a photograph of the place.  The Brigadier-General cancels Biggles’ posting.  Biggles says to Mahoney it was a bit of luck that the S.E.s rolled up.  Mahoney says he took the precaution of ringing up Wilkinson and asking him to bring his S.E.s along.