Biggles by Capt. W.E. Johns
So Just Who Was Biggles? Biggles first appeared in book form in 1932 when "The Camels Are Coming" was published by John Hamilton. His 96th, and last, appearance, as written by Captain W E Johns, was in Biggles Sees Too Much, published in 1970. During that time there was hardly an inch of the earth's surface or air space that he had not covered.
Christened James Bigglesworth, he was born in India, a son of the Assistant Commissioner of the United Provinces of India. As a boy he suffered indifferent health, and was afflicted by fever in India. However this did not appear to affect him too much, as he was able to shoot well by the age of 7, and managed adventures whereby he tackled crocodiles, bears and tigers, and was able to swing across a collapsed bridge.
In 1912 he was sent to his father's old school, Merton Hall, in the United Kingdom. The intention
was that he would go on to university and then return to India and sit for the Indian Civil Service examination.
In 1917 his cousin the Hon. Algernon Lacey joined his Squadron. Biggles was not best pleased at this, describing him as "a slice of warm-up death wrapped in velvet and ribbons". However his flying abilities changed Biggles's view, and he was a flying companion for the next 50 years.
Biggles was finally captured by the foe, but luckily it was on Armistice Day, so he was released on the same day.
At the end of the war he was described as " a slight, fair-haired, good-looking lad, still in his teens… his deep-set hazel eyes were never still and held out a glint of yellow fire that somehow seemed out of placein a pale face in whichthe strain of war, and sight of sudden death, had already graven little lines…"
Between the two world wars he formed a chartering operation with Algy, acquiring Ginger along the way. The outbreak of WW11 saw them back in uniform in 'Z' Squadron, and later in 666 Squadron, and after the war he joined the Special Air Police. Bertie (Lord Bertie Lissie, a monocled, upper crust pilot of the 'huntin', shootin' and fishin' brigade) now joined the team.
After many adventures in civil aviation, he gradually began to let his younger colleagues enjoy the action, whilst he masterminded their activities. As in the old adage, he never actually retired .. just faded away.
He may have ceased to have new adventures but his old ones are as popular as ever. First editions, with dust jackets, of his early adventures are rare and very expensive. Also very sought-after are the later titles from the 1960's as these had smaller print runs than earlier titles and were not reprinted. However there are many reprints of most of the titles, which can be picked up quite cheaply. Here at Stella & Rose's Books we always have a good selection in stock,.
Contributed by David Starling