BIGGLES – AIR ACE
by Captain W. E. Johns
(Page references are for the paperback first edition, followed by the hardback second).
VIII. BIGGLES TAKES THE BAIT! (Pages 130 – 147/Pages 125 – 141)
This story was originally published in “The Modern Boy’s Annual for 1938”
“Captain James Bigglesworth, of 266 Squadron, R.F.C., known to his friends as Biggles, was peeved. He was peeved about several things ………. but when a pilot comes home, having put in seven hours’ war flying for no visible result, only to find that everyone not on patrol has gone off for a jamboree, he may be pardoned for thinking that life is hard”. Sitting all alone, Biggles watches a Sopwith Camel Scout arrive. The pilot seems to be in a bad temper. “Anyone about in this dead-and-alive hole?” he inquired. “Take a look,” returned Biggles, without moving. “I expect your eyes are as good as mine”. The man takes off his leather jacket and reveals an R.F.C. uniform with a Major’s badge of rank and Biggles shows a bit more respect to the officer. Talking with him, the Major says he is on his way to Neufchatel from the Air Board at Hendon with important dispatches. The Major asks if this is 266 Squadron and if they have a fellow named Bigglesworth there. Biggles says they have but doesn’t reveal his identity. The Major says he has heard that the Huns are out to get him and have put a price on his head. The Major says he will fly due East to Neufchatel and Biggles warns him that will take him over the Hun salient, which is risky if he has important dispatches. When the Major takes off, Biggles rushes to get his Camel ready to go after him. His intention is to provide a secret escort in case the Major gets into trouble. Whilst flying across the German held ground, the Major is about to be attacked by a formation of Fokkers (we are not initially told how many but from later facts given in the story we can deduce there must be five) and Biggles can see that he is blissfully unaware of that. Biggles fires his Very pistol to draw the Major’s attention and points at the danger. The Major just looks at Biggles. “Biggles nearly choked in his impotent fury. Clearly the man was a fool, and it was a waste of time to try to make him understand anything. Not that he had any time to waste, for the leading Fokker was now within range and might be expected to start shooting at any instant. Biggles turned to meet it, realising that his only chance of saving the dispatches was to take the Fokkers (the Norman Wright version has this as “Fokker” in the singular but the text of the original version says “Fokkers” plural) on single-handed”. Biggles battles the Fokkers and manages to shoot one down. Biggles gets on the tail of another Fokker. “Biggles was flying with his eyes not only on the other machine but on its controls, which is the ultimate perfection of air combat. A movement of aileron, tail or elevator told him which way the black-crossed machine was going to turn actually before the movement began. The time interval was only a split second, but it was enough; Biggles’ controls had made the same movement and his nose was pointing ever at the other’s tail”. Biggles shoots that Fokker down as well and it crashes into a comrade on the way down, taking that other Fokker with it. The destruction of these three planes leave only two Fokkers left. Looking for the other Camel, Biggles sees that its propeller has stopped and it is going to land. The Major lands in a field of stubble a few miles behind the German support trenches. Biggles lands to get the dispatches only to find himself staring down the muzzle of a Mauser automatic pistol. The “Major” introduces himself as Hauptmann Erich von Scrat. He knows who Biggles is. The whole ruse has been a clever trap to get Biggles to land in German territory. One of the two remaining Fokkers comes in and lands as well. Biggles notices that the German’s pistol is on “safe” and that might give him a second or so in pulling and firing his own Very pistol. The German will pull the trigger, realise the safety is on and then have to turn if off before pulling the trigger again. Biggles tells the German his gun won’t work and as the German drops his eyes, Biggles is able to strike the German’s weapon aside, draw his Very pistol with his left hand, pass it over to his right hand and shoot the German with it, in the shoulder. Picking up the man’s dropped gun, Biggles turns on the approaching Fokker pilot, who has just landed. Biggles forces the pilot to help him start his Camel by getting him to swing the propeller and Biggles is then able to take off and fly back to his own aerodrome. On arrival, Algy asks where he has been. “Oh, just having a tootle round,” answered Biggles. “Any tea left in that pot?”
IX. THE CASE OF THE SOMERSET FARMER (Pages 148 - 156/Pages 142 – 149)
This ‘Air Police’ story was originally published in “The Daily Mail’s Boy’s Annual 1963”. A story summary will appear in a guide to the ‘Air Police’ stories if one is done.
X. SIMPLE ARITHMETIC (Pages 157 – 162/Pages 150 – 155)
This ‘Air Police’ story was originally published in “The Boy’s Own Paper” dated December 1955. A story summary will appear in a guide to the ‘Air Police’ stories if one is done.