He joined the RFC in at the age of 17, having conveniently "lost" his birth certificate. Biggles represents a particularly "British" hero, combining professionalism with a gentlemanly air. Under the stress of combat he develops from a slightly hysterical youth prone to practical jokes to a calm, confident, competent leader. Added to the team in is the teenager Ginger Hebblethwaite. Biggles and his creator[ edit ] W.
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He joined the RFC in at the age of 17, having conveniently "lost" his birth certificate. Biggles represents a particularly "British" hero, combining professionalism with a gentlemanly air. Under the stress of combat he develops from a slightly hysterical youth prone to practical jokes to a calm, confident, competent leader.
Added to the team in is the teenager Ginger Hebblethwaite. Biggles and his creator[ edit ] W. Johns was himself a First World War pilot, although his own career did not parallel that of Biggles particularly closely. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in September , seconded to the Royal Flying Corps and posted back to England for flight training: Johns served as a flying instructor in England until August , when he transferred to the Western Front.
His observer, Lieutenant Amey, was killed in two of the stories in Biggles Learns to Fly observers flying with Biggles are killed or badly wounded but Johns survived to be taken prisoner of war.
Various models on which the Biggles character might have been based have been suggested, including rugby player and WWI flying ace Cyril Lowe , fighter pilot Albert Ball and air commodore Arthur Bigsworth. Biggles has an unusually lengthy career, flying a number of aircraft representative of the history of British military aviation, from Sopwith Camels during the First World War, Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires in the Second World War , right up to the Hawker Hunter jet fighter in a postwar adventure Biggles in the Terai.
In these later books geographic and historical accuracy is rather less evident and the sometimes rather grim detail of the first stories is moderated, in deference to the increasing popularity of the Biggles books with a younger audience than the older adolescents at whom they were initially targeted.
James was the younger of two sons, Charles being the elder by five years. The young James had little contact with European culture and commenced a lifelong affection for India, befriending the local Indian boys, exploring the countryside and learning to speak fluent Hindi. He retained a lifetime gift for languages and as an adult spoke French and German fluently, with a "fair command" of various other languages.
He spent holidays in England, under the custody of "Dickpa", an eccentric uncle and inventor who lived in rural Norfolk. First World War[ edit ] Biggles left school and initially joined the army as a subaltern in the Rifle Regiment in He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and learned to fly in the summer of , at No. He then attended No. His observer was another youth named Mark Way, a New Zealander. Biggles began flying the F. Algernon Montgomery Lacey. A study of the short stories featuring his First World War exploits, suggests that he claimed at least 32 kills and was shot down or crash-landed eight times.
The nearest "real" aircraft that fits W. Johns description of the "Vandal", is a Vickers Viking Mk 4. Ginger brings the energy and daring of youth to these and many of their later adventures.
Between the wars Biggles and his friends mix their own escapades with ventures on behalf of British Secret Service. The changed setting forced Johns to update his material with references to new flying slang and aeroplanes, unsuccessfully at first but later with more realism. Biggles returns to his rooms in Mount Street, Mayfair and assumes a role as head of the new Special Air Police division with Algy, Ginger and Bertie making up the flying squad.
The group takes on criminals who have taken to the air, both at home in Britain and around the globe, as well as battling opponents behind the Iron Curtain. Johns continued writing Biggles short stories and novels up until his death in ; in all, nearly Biggles books were published.
A final unfinished novel Biggles Does Some Homework shows Biggles at last preparing to retire and meeting his mixed-race replacement; Johns died while writing this novel. The 12 completed chapters were issued privately in Algy starts off in the books as an irresponsible youngster but later on as he ages he becomes more sarcastic and pessimistic. Ginger Hebblethwaite[ edit ] Ginger his real first name is never revealed first appears in The Black Peril as a teenage runaway found hiding in a railway shed.
Biggles immediately calls him Ginger because of his red hair. He proves his worth by rescuing Biggles from some enemy agents. He is a talented mechanic and his speech is peppered with youthful slang and Americanisms , learned from the cinema.
An eccentric former racing driver, who flies with a hunting horn and a monocle , Bertie joins Biggles in the Air Police in most of the post-war stories. He is a brave and talented fighter, an expert shot and he has a lot of handy knowledge on a range of unusual subjects. His parents being killed in the war, Tug is out for revenge and can be a very risky person to have around.
He scorns alcohol, much to the amusement of his fellow squadron members. In return for Biggles setting him up for a job as a London cabby, he occasionally helps Biggles and his gang on their missions after the Second World War.
As the Cold War begins, Stalhein enters the services of the Communist bloc , until his new masters imprison him on the island of Sakhalin , from where Biggles helps him to escape in Biggles Buries a Hatchet. It is from Stalhein that Biggles learns that Janis see "Female characters" below survived the Second World War and was imprisoned in Czechoslovakia , from where Biggles rescues her and goes on to support her in England.
In later books, he reappeared as an air commodore. Female characters[ edit ] In the Biggles stories, female characters appear infrequently. Despite brief affairs, Biggles and his chums remain steadfastly single. Biggles suffers a disappointment in the First World War, when he falls in love with German spy Marie Janis in the short story Affaire de Coeur set in Stella Carstairs, the daughter of the man Biggles helps, turns up.
In Biggles Flies Again , Algy becomes close to Consuelo, the daughter of the President of Bolivia, but is dissuaded from continuing the relationship by Biggles, " In the s, a popular Australian radio version of Biggles, The Air Adventures of Biggles,  was made under licence.
Another female character appears in the form of Worrals Flight Officer Joan Worralson , eponymous heroine of a related series of books featuring this resourceful and "plucky" member of the WAAF. A further Johns creation, the commando Captain Lorrington "Gimlet" King , also features in a series of books that intersect with Biggles at times. Criticism and controversies[ edit ] Time[ edit ] The settings of the Biggles books are spread over more than 50 years; this produces a number of credibility difficulties, especially for older readers.
Though Biggles and his friends age in the books, they do so much more slowly and inconsistently than is historically credible. For instance, Biggles with some of his First World War "chums" , who by now should be well into their forties, are still relatively junior squadron officers flying Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.
In the stories set after the end of the Second World War Biggles and Algy, in particular, are, by the rules of arithmetic, passing into their fifties and early sixties, while retaining levels of activity and lifestyle more typical of people at least thirty years younger.
Even within a group of stories set in the same time frame there are some chronological inconsistencies: Algy, for instance, seems to be younger than Biggles to a degree that is impossible, at least by the ordinary calendar.
Biggles seems to receive the same promotion more than once. It is doubtful whether a careful rearrangement of the various First World War stories could result in a coherent sequence. When W. Johns started the Biggles series, he can hardly have anticipated that he would be called on to write so many Biggles stories to short editorial deadlines , so that such inconsistencies are perhaps inevitable.
The author succeeds reasonably well in chronicling developments in aviation technology, but social and cultural changes are much more difficult. The cultural and social world of Biggles whether in the s or some earlier period does not persist completely unchanged through the whole series — for instance, in an early book, the evidence points to an English nobleman as the perpetrator but Biggles dismisses this out of hand as the gentry would never commit a crime; in a later novel, one of the gentry is the villain.
Nonetheless, the social context of the books, viewed in chronological order, does become increasingly old-fashioned, even anachronistic, especially in those works set after the Second World War. Racism[ edit ] Since the Biggles books were first published, attitudes to race and ethnicity have changed. In Biggles Goes to School, on one occasion when told to write lines in Latin, he remarks that he would rather do so in Hindi.
On another occasion the adult Biggles asserts to Air Commodore Raymond that "while men are decent to me I try to be decent to them, regardless of race, colour, politics, creed or anything else". It has been pointed out that the positive characteristics of these characters tend to be such features as relatively light complexions, Western education and general usefulness to the white hero and his friends and allies.
Non-whites taken en masse also tend to be systematically demonised. With the evil "Chungs" of Biggles Hits the Trail and the sub-human Aboriginals of Biggles in Australia, in particular, Johns succumbs to the tendency, typical of his time, to apply unpleasant stereotyping to non-white opponents of his hero. The racism in these books and others in the Biggles canon is typical of a genre of fiction for young people that was once common. In both books, Biggles establishes a secret airfield behind Japanese lines, which is discovered and attacked by the Japanese before he can achieve his objectives.
Algy is captured by the Japanese and threatened with execution by a brutal Japanese commandant; rubber as an important strategic material figures largely.
The protagonists are also closely paralleled in both novels, although in Biggles Delivers the Goods Li Chi originally from a short story in Biggles Flies Again reappears to take the place of a white character from the earlier version; the headhunters, while still milked for "exotic colour", are much more sympathetically treated.
Death is a frequent theme, sometimes treated in quite a grim fashion. Other "adult themes" are also touched on: more than once Biggles sets out on a mission in a "red mist", inspired by the death of a comrade.
The emotional strain of combat is also realistically described, as Biggles becomes a "highly-strung" fidgeting pale youth, lacking his usual sense of humour. In these stories, in particular, alcohol is mentioned occasionally and cigarettes are much in evidence. The early First World War books were reprinted in the s, when the Biggles books had acquired a younger readership and were bowdlerised.
In the short story The Balloonatics, as republished in Biggles of the Special Air Police, the prize for capturing a German observation balloon was altered from a case of Scotch whisky to a case of lemonade.
Biggles Does Some Homework by Johns
Two are fully authorised they are the two on the right hand side — published by Norman Wright and the other two are unauthorised publications. One of these unauthorised publications is limited to 30 books and does not try to pass itself off as the genuine authorised book. This is a complete and utter criminal fraud that is intended to deceive a genuine buyer! The fake first edition paperback is an attempt to cash in on the high prices that the real first edition is worth.
Biggles Does Some Homework