Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Biggles

Biggles (nickname for James Bigglesworth), a pilot and adventurer, is the title character and main hero of the Biggles series of youth-oriented adventure books written by W. E. Johns.

He first appeared in the story "The White Fokker", published in the first issue of Popular Flying magazine, in 1932. The first collection of Biggles stories, The Camels are Coming, was published that same year. The series was continued until the author's death in 1968, eventually spanning nearly a hundred volumes – including novels and short story collections – most, but not all, of the latter with a common setting and time frame.

Biggles first appears as a teenaged "scout" (fighter) pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during World War I. He has joined the RFC in 1916 at the young 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. He is occasionally given "special" (secret) missions by the shadowy figure of Colonel (initially "Major") Raymond (Wing Commander or Air Commodore in later books), who is already involved with the intelligence side of operations. Biggles is accompanied by his cousin Algernon ('Algy') Lacey and his mechanic Flight Sergeant Smyth, who are to accompany Biggles on his adventures after the war; added to the team in 1935 is the teenager Ginger Hebblethwaite.

W.E. Johns was himself a First World War pilot, although his own career did not parallel that of Biggles particularly closely. The author's initial war service was with the infantry – fighting at Gallipoli and on the Macedonian front. He was commissioned, and seconded into the RFC in September 1917 and posted back to England for flight training, serving in England as a flying instructor until August 1918 when he transferred to the Western Front. On 16 September 1918 his De Havilland DH4 was shot down on a bombing raid. 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. Johns remained with the RAF until 1927, although his final rank was only Flying Officer (equivalent to Lieutenant in the RFC) rather than the "Captain" of his pen name.

While the purpose of the Biggles stories was to entertain adolescent boys, in the First World War Biggles stories Johns paid attention to historical detail and helped recreate the primitive days of early air combat — when pilots often died in their first combat and before devices such as respirators and parachutes had become practical. Various models on which the Biggles character might have been based have been suggested – including Cyril Lowe and Albert Ball – in fact Johns himself stated that the character was a composite of many individuals in the RFC (including himself) but does not represent a single person.

The bulk of the Biggles books, however, are set post-World War I and after Johns' own flying career was over. Biggles has an unusually lengthy career, flying a number of aircraft representative of the history of British military aviation, from Sopwith Camels during World War I, Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires in World War II, 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 which they were initially targeted.

The books were highly successful, and were eventually translated into Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

List of Biggles books

The Camels Are Coming (1932)
The Cruise of the Condor (1933)
Biggles of the Camel Squadron (1934)
Biggles Flies Again (1934)
Biggles Learns to Fly (1935)
The Black Peril (1935)
Biggles Flies East (1935)
Biggles Hits the Trail (1935)
Biggles in France (1935)
Biggles & Co (1936)
Biggles in Africa (1936)
Biggles – Air Commodore (1937)
Biggles Flies West (1937)
Biggles Flies South (1938)
Biggles Goes to War (1938)
The Rescue Flight (1939)
Biggles in Spain (1939)
Biggles Flies North (1939)
Biggles – Secret Agent (1940)
Biggles in the Baltic (1940)
Biggles in the South Seas (1940)
Biggles Defies the Swastika (1941)
Biggles Sees It Through (1941)
Spitfire Parade (1941)
Biggles in the Jungle (1942)
Biggles Sweeps the Desert (1942)
Biggles – Charter Pilot (1943)
Biggles in Borneo (1943)
Biggles Fails to Return (1943)
Biggles in the Orient (1945)
Biggles Delivers the Goods (1946)
Sergeant Bigglesworth CID (1947)
Biggles' Second Case (1948)
Biggles Hunts Big Game (1948)
Biggles Takes a Holiday (1948)
Biggles Breaks the Silence (1949) [16]
Biggles Gets His Men (1950)
Another Job for Biggles (1951)
Biggles Goes to School (1951)
Biggles Works It Out (1952)
Biggles Takes the Case (1952)
Biggles Follows On (1952)
Biggles – Air Detective (1952)
Biggles and the Black Raider (1953)
Biggles in the Blue (1953)
Biggles in the Gobi (1953)
Biggles of the Special Air Police (1953)
Biggles Cuts It Fine (1954)
Biggles and the Pirate Treasure (1954)
Biggles Foreign Legionnaire (1954)
Biggles Pioneer Air Fighter (1954)
Biggles in Australia (1955)
Biggles' Chinese Puzzle (1955)
Biggles of 266 (1956)
No Rest for Biggles (1956)
Biggles Takes Charge (1956)
Biggles Makes Ends Meet (1957)
Biggles of the Interpol (1957)
Biggles on the Home Front (1957)
Biggles Presses On (1958)
Biggles on Mystery Island (1958)
Biggles Buries a Hatchet (1958)
Biggles in Mexico (1959)
Biggles' Combined Operation (1959)
Biggles at the World's End (1959)
Biggles and the Leopards of Zinn (1960)
Biggles Goes Home (1960)
Biggles and the Poor Rich Boy (1960)
Biggles Forms a Syndicate (1961)
Biggles and the Missing Millionaire (1961)
Biggles Goes Alone (1962)
Orchids for Biggles (1962)
Biggles Sets a Trap (1962)
Biggles Takes It Rough (1963)
Biggles Takes a Hand (1963)
Biggles' Special Case (1963)
Biggles and the Plane That Disappeared (1963)
Biggles Flies to Work (1963)
Biggles and the Lost Sovereigns (1964) [17]
Biggles and the Black Mask (1964)
Biggles Investigates (1964)
Biggles Looks Back (1965)
Biggles and the Plot That Failed (1965)
Biggles and the Blue Moon (1965)
Biggles Scores a Bull (1965)
Biggles in the Terai (1966)
Biggles and the Gun Runners (1966)
Biggles Sorts It Out (1967)
Biggles and the Dark Intruder (1967)
Biggles and the Penitent Thief (1967)
Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea (1967)
The Boy Biggles (1968)
Biggles in the Underworld (1968)
Biggles and the Little Green God (1969)
Biggles and the Noble Lord (1969)
Biggles Sees Too Much (1970)
Biggles Does Some Homework (1997)
Biggles Air Ace: The Uncollected Stories (1999)

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