Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby StoneRoad » 02 Sep 2018, 21:46

(A version according to StoneRoad’s muse, whose visit was greatly delayed, waiting almost until the last minute, in fact).

Biggles sat back in his favourite chair in the mess at Rawlham, with a slight smile on his face. He was listening to Ginger concluding his recounting of one of their adventures from their time as charter pilots. This particular trip involved the importation of some exotic vegetation, which had included some new varieties of the Bird of Paradise plant which had gone, eventually, to Kew Gardens.

In the distance, a telephone rang in the squadron office and Toddy excused himself to answer it. He came back in after a few minutes and whispered to Biggles “we will have an important visitor shortly, I ‘ve arranged for more coffee and biscuits to be at hand in your office” Biggles stood up to leave with him “Carry on, Ginger - It’s all right, I know how the story finished !”

Biggles and Toddy went quickly to the squadron office, Biggles glancing up at the sky as they walked along the path. As predicted, the early evening weather was fine for the moment. But the met report promised rain later that night, so no bomber’s moon, so Jerry should be quiet.

A staff car drove in from the gate and drew up outside the office, and two visitors alighted. The driver got back behind the wheel and headed for the small hanger used as the motor pool. Toddy met the visitors as they entered the building and conducted them into the Squadron Leader’s office; Biggles rose from his chair to greet them.

The Air Commodore smiled, and quickly shook hands, before sitting down “I can’t stay long, but I want you to give this gentleman all the help he needs” indicating his companion. Toddy offered coffee and biscuits all round and then retired to the other room.

“This is not the usual life and death situation, Bigglesworth” Raymond began,” but it is still very important to the war effort. A new Spitfire will be arriving late tonight, I want you to familiarise yourself with the additional features as soon as you can. ” He introduced his companion, “This is Mr “Jones” , from Farnborough, who can give you some help with them”.

At Biggles enquiring look, the second visitor explained. “The new aircraft has an improved engine – with a somewhat higher top speed, it is also equipped with photographic gear; and a second smaller cockpit for an observer, I know the prone position gets uncomfortable, but we need some further aerial tests before carrying out certain operations, primarily over France and Belgium”

“That’s all very well, but if you intend crossing the Channel, then I must ask if this new version armed” Biggles queried his visitors.
“Yes, but to save weight there is limited ammunition” Raymond replied.
“hmmm, What about an escort plane? “
” And any escort would have a major task to keep up, but I suppose one could be put into place to run interference from a rendezvous point.”
“All right, challenge accepted ! Although I am assuming the plane flies well enough to do the job, and as long as I can arrange for my squadron to act as escorts in the way I want”

Raymond handed Biggles a sealed envelope “This lists the targets you need to photograph over the next few days, you can have tomorrow to familiarise yourself with the new plane, and “Jones” here will be temporarily attached to 666 as your advisor on the plane and unless you have any objection, will act as the observer”
Raymond stood up to leave “I had better get that car organised and head off back to London, although I expect the ATA to deliver the special edition Spitfire within half an hour” Just as he finished speaking, Toddy’s phone rang, there was a few moments of quiet conversation, then Toddy rapped on the door, before opening it to say “There’s a special plane on the way here, it should be arriving in 12 to 15 minutes, the ATA OC asks if you can give the pilot a lift, if not she’s to go to the railway station for the night train, she has 24 hours leave.” Raymond decided to wait a little longer – in any case, it appeared that his driver was attending to a minor mechanical repair on the car, so he could not leave for a while.

Ten minutes later, everyone was outside watching the new plane on it’s final approach to the airfield. Opinion on the visible changes to the shape was mixed. The pilot made a neat landing, and taxied towards the hangers were Smyth was waiting. She got out and jumped down “Any chance of a cuppa and a washroom visit ?” Smyth grinned at a familiar face and sent Fliss over to the Mess. Biggles greeted her and sent her inside, in the sure knowledge that Bertie would spare no efforts to get her fed and watered before she had to leave, which Biggles knew would include the treat of some American chocolates that he had acquired especially for her.

Biggles went across to the hanger and examined the new plane; In passing, Fliss had handed him a packet of papers, including the plane’s ‘habits sheet’ and he looked through that information as well. Smyth was also deep in thought after his examination, but happily accepted the new addition to the fleet. He arranged for refuelling, arming and so on. Raymond and “Jones” walked over, followed by several others, including Algy, the rest had remained to help Bertie entertain Fliss.

After the refuelling and so on had been completed, Biggles decided to have a short test flight, with Algy as escort. This passed off without incident, although Algy had to fly with more throttle to keep up. After landing, Biggles went across to Raymond and said that he did accept that the new plane flew well, but he wanted to test it acrobatically and then with the extra weight of a passenger. This he planned to do in the morning, then he would look at the list of places Raymond wanted photographing and do his sortie planning. Raymond said that he had seen enough and if his driver was ready, he would get away before it was too dark. “I presume Fliss is staying for the night train and starting her 24 hour leave. You had better talk to the OC-ATA if she isn’t coming with me, she has test flown that Spit a lot, so we can say she is advising you, if Lord Lissie doesn’t mind.”

The evening passed off remarkably quietly, the mess being on it’s best behaviour with two visitors present. Biggles and Algy had an early night – the rest of the squadron was on standby for the next few days, rather than at readiness, so no problem there. The evening’s entertainment - set up at short notice, and which included a re-written Punch and Judy puppet show – had everybody laughing and joining in singing to Algy’s piano-playing.

After several test flights, starting early the next morning, Biggles decided to use Ginger as his observer, he was lighter and more used to the aerobatics than “Jones” who had developed air-sickness after his second flight with Biggles at the stick. The new combination was soon working smoothly. Once he was happy that Biggles was fully conversant with the new plane, “Jones” arranged to go back to his own base at Farnborough, as he had other projects to work on.

Biggles’ batman woke him just as dawn was breaking several days later, by now a familiar routine. After a quick wash and shave Biggles joined Algy and Ginger for the pre-action breakfast, the rest of the squadron would get their bacon later, as they were due to be “at one hour readiness” from 0600. By that time, Biggles should be on his way back from the latest place on Raymond’s little list and rendezvousing with Algy at the designated point on the return leg of the trip.

Today’s trip was the longest one requiring external drop tanks to increase the plane’s range, and the last target was the most important. A place called Peenemunde in the Baltic. Traditionally reconnaissance flights were done at dawn, but Biggles had decided to arrive over the target at the sort of time when the morning patrol would be over and the defence fighters would have gone back to base to refuel, and hopefully the ground forces would have been stood down from the dawn alert. It was also possible that some of the daily activities would be visible to them if they passed at this unusual time.

He took off with Ginger sitting in the second cockpit, acting as his navigator, and headed off on the sortie. Despite having to dodge a bad weather front, the new plane made good time – helped by a tailwind derived from the same front, passing all the waypoints and several secondary targets, where Ginger adopted the prone photographer’s position and expended some film on the places of interest. At long last, the main railway junction and some extensive sidings passed underneath them as they approached the coast near Peenemunde.

As expected, they had the sky to themselves for now as Biggles lined up so their route would take them over the secret experimental site they had come to observe. Suddenly a flaming object rose up from the far end of the island, the smoke trail turned towards the sea but then there was an explosion and fragments rained down into the sea.

Almost by chance, Ginger had caught the strange sight with the handheld camera, and the fixed camera had also recorded some aspects whilst getting coverage of most of the working site.

“What was that ?” Ginger asked as the plane twisted away. “I have no idea, but I definitely don’t like it” Biggles replied as he thrust the stick and throttle forward to gain as much speed as he could. After a few more minutes he straightened out for enough that Ginger could regain his cockpit seat. Biggles was determined to get home in one piece with this startling new information. Luckily, or perhaps by good planning, his route was uninterrupted by enemy aircraft.

They met up with Algy as planned, so he could act as a close escort and then the rest of the squadron arrived at the rendezvous over the North Sea and the whole squadron returned to Rawlham. Given the importance of the mission, and his low fuel level, Biggles took the unusual step of landing first, leaving Algy, as second in command, to land after everyone had made it down safely.

With the importance of the photographic films this trip had exposed, the more routine ones were handled by the lab at Rawlham, and forwarded by motorcycle courier to Raymond once developed. The ones showing the events at Peenemunde went directly to the Lab Raymond and Intelligence maintained in London, also by fast motorcycle, having been placed in a light-tight safety box.

A few hours later, after their first look at the photographs, Raymond and Major Charles came to Rawlham to debrief Biggles and Ginger over what they had seen. After the four of them had gone over everything in fine detail, Raymond was very pleased with all the photographs, but most especially, the ones from Peenemunde.
“Well, Bigglesworth, we set you a real challenge this time, but your resourcefulness has, once again pulled it off”
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby Foolscap » 02 Sep 2018, 21:53

Nicely done:-)
Teamwork at its best.
"If you're going to leave the beaten track the first thing is to make sure you've got your sense of humour with you."
--Biggles on Mystery Island.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 21:58

Excellent! I was hoping that you'd reach an internet friendly location in time to post. I'm glad your muse turned up in time.

I'm impressed with the way you've got the kudos words in: using Bird of Paradise flowers in particular is cunning. I love that Fliss is the delivery pilot, too! Some very nice touches here.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby Fairblue » 02 Sep 2018, 22:00

Nice to see this, Stoneroad. Like Kismet, I'm glad your muse finally put in an appearance.
The Decision to Survive - A good pilot is both born and made. The best would look upon his work as a combination of adventure and a serious mission. – Major General Sir Frederick Sykes
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby alderaanian » 03 Sep 2018, 02:53

I like this! Mission accomplished and no one gets hurt :)
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby Tracer » 03 Sep 2018, 08:48

A rattling good yarn and very much enjoyed by me :yay:
pilots who had done a long tour and had that thousand-yard stare W. E. Johns
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby id_ten_it » 03 Sep 2018, 09:01

I really like the details you've put in, especially the readiness states and lines of communication. What a thing for Ginger to photograph! How exciting! I wonder how long it took for the photographic analysts to make something of it?
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby StoneRoad » 03 Sep 2018, 20:09

id_ten_it wrote:<snip> I wonder how long it took for the photographic analysts to make something of it?<snip>


Oh, they'll have had a lovely time studying the photographs.
Takes a trained eye to "see" all the details ...

When I was a student, part of one course was looking at land-use related to the landscape, so we were looking at aerial images to see how many animals were in the fields, to calculate stocking levels and so on. (Counting Sheep, cows etc) We then tried to use stereo pairs to assess the shape of the land.
So, when I was at the Radar Museum, part of the displays included some examples showing the work of the Photographic Analysts. It was set up so you could have a go. I still couldn't "see" the stereo pairs. But the famous V1 & their launching ramps images were available to see - now that needed a good eye !
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off - By Stoneroad

Postby tiffinata » 06 Sep 2018, 23:23

Very good!
Aerial photographs have always fascinated me.
'....you cannot flout Nature with impunity. Treat Nature with respect, and she will tolerate you, even encourage you; but treat her with contempt, and your days are numbered.' Hits the Trail
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