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W.E. Johns Ë 1 REVIEW

G His face was pale In the uneasy atmosphere of Europe between the two World Wars Biggles Algy and Ginger are persuaded to defend a small middle European country from an aggressive neighbour backed up by an unnamed Big Powe. The blatant message of what those effete foreigners and women in positions of authority need is a Biggles is well blatant Biggles idea of diplomacy is like John Sheppard and Rodney McKay doing diplomacy without Teyla and Elizabeth or even Ronon for a sanity restoring sobering or restraining influence

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Biggles Goes to War

Halt against a wall on the far side Biggles glanced at the sky It was just turning pink with the first flush of dawn 'If Ginger is going to do the rescue act he hasn't got much time left' He observed calmly Algy said nothin. it s a reread project

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The escort fell in on either side of the prisoners and at a word of command the party moved forward Down the corridor it marched and through an open door into a grim looking courtyard Across this it proceeded and came to a. For my birthday my wife gave me three vintage hardcover Biggles books Biggles Goes to War Biggles and the Black Raider and Biggles Follows OnThis was a very thoughtful gift because Biggles is a guilty pleasure but one which has become less guilty over time I loved the stories when I was a kid what with Sopwith Camels beetling about the skies of war torn France Biggles of the Camel Suadron radium death rays in the Himalayas Biggles Hits the Trail and when I was a bit older the air detective series which had an unsettling post war darkness to them which I liked as Biggles and his pals dealt with enemy fighters who had turned their wartime skills to international crimeBiggles Goes to War is pretty good A rattling good yarn although touchingly na ve with some out dated attitudes and perceptions which invite comment and perhaps some amateur psychology A small mythical European principality is being monstered by a bullying neighbour Biggles and his loyal comrades come to their aid by shooting down enemy aircraft blowing up a bridge rescuing a captured diplomat and generally interfering in the politics of the warring states The development of the plot is simple following the standard Captain WE Johns adventure template Biggles and his slightly bored comrades receive a mysterious but dignified and courteous visitor to their rooms the boy s domestic circumstances are never dwelt upon and are much mocked by satiristsThe mysterious but distinguished visitor explains that his homeland Maltovia is being heavied by Lovitzna abetted and backed by an unnamed European power clearly Germany as becomes clear when Biggles and company come across the latest Fokker aircraft sporting Lovitznian coloursShortly after the visit of the courteous gentleman who s plea for help Biggles has politely declined a disreputable rude man barges in on them he turns out to be from Lovitzna Biggles reverses his earlier decision and vows to help the Maltovians He does so largely because of the respective manners of the two visitors and of course his innate sense of fair playBiggles permitted a faint smile to cross his face We are not doing this for moneyIf you want the truth we are doing it because there is in us as there is in most Englishmen a love of justice a sense of right and wrong and sympathy for the underdog p30Essentially Biggles then creates the Maltovian air force flying three Launcester Lance aircraft to the small nation They encounter supporters loyal to the cause but also duplicitous traitors conniving with the enemy So the battle becomes one of wits just as much as daring action The band of intrepid Britishers is much encouraged by a clandestine visit from the head of state Princess Mariana who also happens to be young and beautiful The airmen recognize her innate breeding and poise It is worth noting here that when Biggles suggests before meeting the young woman that a man might be suited to governing one of the key locals bristles and says they are uite happy with their princess Along the way there is subterfuge battles in the forest encounters with wolves a raid on enemy headuarters and a climactic dash in an aircraft of course to save a Biggles and Algy from a firing suad For me the daring do is pleasing enough but it is the doubts apprehensions and anticipated difficulties in our hero s head that make the story worthwhile They transcend its original purpose of spinning a yarn for the boys of pre war Britain although the book was not published until after the war had startedSoon after taking off for Maltovia Biggles reflects upon the fact that Ginger s fate is in his hands and he worries should misfortune befall the lad like being captured and shot for example Biggles then thinks about what reward they will receive for their effortsThey stood to lose their lives and against that to gain nothing at least their pay as Maltovian officers a matter of a few shillings a day really amounted to nothing It was always the way when one was fighting for a cause he thought moodily Still it was too late to turn back now p33Biggles demeanour changes when he goes into battle On hearing an enemy aircraft open fire a new expression crept over Biggle s face The habitual uiet almost placid look disappeared to be replaced by hard grim lines that drew his lips tight together with the corners turned down A frosty light glinted in his eyesp50Battle is joined And while Biggles is not without wit he is fundamentally serious and hard headed yet idealistic at the same time Without any compunction about Algy shooting one of the county s senior officers a traitor and it was in self defence Biggles sets out a scenario to help the Maltovians solve their internal divisions It involves forming a Ministry of Defence which will then be the instructing organ for the renegade General they have encountered and seek to control He says that s how it s done in Great Britain and if it is good enough for Great Britain it ought to be good enough for Maltovia p104Easy as that Biggles character After I read Biggles Goes to War I pondered it and other Biggles books I thought about Biggles Hits the Trial which I have also recently re read for the umpteenth time reviewed on GR Given it still has the power to thrill and entertain I wondered why it and the Biggles canon has such lasting appeal That particular story is sensational imaginative and scary The tale is well paced unfolds in a tantalising way is a flight literally into the unknown with exotic locales strange people and perilous adventure with the fortunes of our heroes ebbing and flowing right up until the crashing climax In general Biggles stories are exciting with palpable danger and great peril The good guys have principles high standards of fair play and excellent manners and the formidable bad guys are properly nefarious The stories have lots of action and good pace there s little mucking about But they have hiatuses too there is usually a good balance The morality is old school the politics often simplistic and sometimes na ve John s knowledge and understanding of aircraft and aviation is authentic especially the experience of flying and especially aerial combat better on the earlier days however his grasp of geography geology social change and different cultures is to say the least variable often uaint and sometimes just dodgy his understanding of Australian society and culture was poor Biggles in Australia His treatment of non whites sometimes leaves a lot to be desired and some have said him sexist although the example cited I was talking about Biggles Goes to War suggests an approach with some nuance So while there is evidence on both these accounts and others I find the shortcomings are generally forgivable or can at least be understood in the context of the times Johns wrote and his own background As we have established I think the main element which attracts me to the series is the character and persona of Major James Bigglesworth Biggles is the only person in the entire canon with a fully fleshed out personality Algy Lacey the Hon Algernon is a completely reliable competent old comrade whose function it is to carry out useful important tasks maintaining the station rescuing the dependable pilot somewhat dyspeptic To be fair Algy gets some scenes on his own or where he is the focus as does Ginger Hebblethwaite where did Johns get these names Biggles and Algy s prot g what an old fashioned concept Ginger is young impetuous not all that obedient where obeying orders is concerned and specialises in roles where running around and other youthful ualities are reuired He is also modern although this is a relative concept In Biggles Hits the Trail Ginger is the only member of the party not slowed down when the evil radium people start electrifying the ground Ginger it turns out is wearing modern crepe rubber soled shoes and is therefore insulated against the current The others the older guys are wearing leather flying boots He often says to himself in these circumstances What would Biggles do But Biggles is the man He is honourable resourceful a leader and a man of action but also knows when action is not possible and resigns himself to his fate we ve been through many scrapes Algy but I can t think my way out of this one and that s a fact whereupon he and Algy are usually rescued by Ginger in the nick of time He is a believer in nobility fair play and the value of democratic institutions British of course and the worth of international organisations and the capacity to restore order where necessaryA guilty pleasure but much less so nowadays


10 thoughts on “Biggles Goes to War

  1. says:

    For my birthday my wife gave me three vintage hardcover Biggles books Biggles Goes to War Biggles and the Black Raider and Biggles Follows OnThis was a very thoughtful gift because Biggles is a guilty pleasure but one which

  2. says:

    Perhaps slightly romantic view but it depicts the sentiment of the interbellum period where the tension of an upcoming is clearly shownOfcourse the idea of such a small group of people forming an airforce against a stronger unscrupulous adversary is humourously absurdStill I would recommend it for anyone liking this genre

  3. says:

    I have read some Biggles books before and enjoy them as a uick sneaky read because they remind me so much of the adventure stories I used to read as a kid Hardy Boys Nancy Drew and such likeAnd this is why the Bigg

  4. says:

    it's a reread project

  5. says:

    Another thriller by Capt WE Johns with uite humorous incidents included

  6. says:

    Haven't read one of these books in years great to get back into them A good story that as usual keeps the suspense right u

  7. says:

    As with all Biggles books some of the charm is the simplicity There is black and white and no grey You are rarely

  8. says:

    The blatant message of 'what those effete foreigners and women in positions of authority need is a Biggles' is well blatant Biggles' idea of diplomacy is like John Sheppard and Rodney McKay doing diplomacy without Teyla and Elizabeth or even Ronon for a sanity restoring sobering or restraining influence

  9. says:

    After time of exotic adventures Biggles puts on a war uniform again not the bitish one this time though and flies into a web of int

  10. says:

    One of my favourite Biggles books because of its unusual setting and premise I get the impression WE Johns wanted to go back to his roots and tell a war fighting story He didn't know that in just a couple years B

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