Biggles' Combined Operation by W. E. Johns was first published in 1959 by Hodder and Stoughton. There have only been two subsequent editions, all 1959. The events in the book take place in the early-1960s in France and the Mediterranean.
Biggles is in Paris with Ginger attending an Interpol where he meets Eddie Ross, a headstrong American policeman. Eddie's strident speech at the conference about the need to tighten drug enforcement has attracted the attention of a drug smuggling gang. Together with their French colleague Marcel Brissac, and joined by Bertie, they turn the tables on the gang in a pursuit that takes them across the Mediterranean. Bertie takes centre stage in this mission, playing his role as an eccentric English nobleman to good effect.
Note: The sections below contain spoilers. In particular, the plot subpage (click here) has an extended summary of the narrative in the book
The Special Air PoliceEdit
- Air Commodore Raymond
- Bertie Lissie
Allies and FriendsEdit
- Marcel Brissac - Biggles' counterpart in the French police.
- Eddie Ross - American policeman, of the "Air Interpol Section".
- Noel Burton - an English drug addict at the "Laughing Horse" bar. Gives Biggles some useful information about the drug gang.
- Georges Macula - operative of the drug gang.
- Del Grikko - runs the "Laughing Horse" bar, apparently heads the drug gang in Paris.
- Alfondez - a runner who delivers the drugs to Del Grikko
- Lucien - not seen, only mentioned. Took over the task of watching Ross from Macula.
- Louis - Del Grikko's bodyguard
- Rastus - janitor/doorman at the "Laughing Horse" bar.
- Max Bronnitz - restauranteur in Paris, possible competitor in the drugs business the. Murdered by Alfondez.
- Stavroulos - Captain of the Saphos.
- Zander - Seaman onboard the Saphos.
- Ali - brother of Alfondez. Offers Bertie a job smuggling drugs. Takes Bertie to see Colonel Nicolinos.
- Colonel Nicolinos - The mastermind if the drug gang, based in a monastery on a Greek Island.
- Saphos -used by the drug gang to transfer drugs from the manufacturing plant in the Greek islands to Marseilles.
- A larger unnamed ship, twice the size of the Saphos, ferries opium from China and transfers it to the Saphos at Venesos. Is bound for Odessa next.
- H.M.S. Ark Royal - sighted by Biggles and his friends toward the end of the mission. A welcome sight and a vital source of fuel.
- Ajaccio Airport, Corsica
- Greek islands - Island of Venesos in the Northern Sporades.
- Abandoned monastery in the island
- nearby fishing village
- it's nice when Johns gets his geographical details correct. From the Rue de Rivoli where Biggles, Marcel and Ross found a cafe, it is half a mile through the Tuileries Gardens and across the Pont-Royal bridge to the Rue du Bac where the Hotel Pont-Royal is.
- Johns inserts a humourous touch when the Ark Royal is providing fuel for Biggles' Otter while at sea in the middle of the Mediterranean--along with the cans of fuel, a Chief Petty Officer, with a straight face, asks Biggles to sign for it! Is Johns taking a poke at the way the British maintain a stiff upper lip and the most meticulous bureaucracy in the most unusual circumstances?
- This is one of the Biggles books which have not been reissued since the year of publication in 1959. Perhaps publishers tended to shy away from plots involving drugs, believing it to be unsuitable for young readers. As a result, the first edition is fairly rare and valuable.
1. London: Hodder & Stoughton, July 1959. 158 pages with 6 colour plates by Stead. Red boards printed in black with a vignette of a flying boat over ruins. Book list prior to the title page lists to Biggles' Combined Operation. Number 54 on half title page and dustjacket spine.
- Dustjacket in full colour shows a Biggles with Marcel and Eddie Ross. In the background there are ruins to the left and a Short Sealand above. Title in yellow letters.
- Ebay price (2015) with dustjacket: about 50GBP. Without dustjacket: about 30GBP.
2. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1959. Similar to above, also 158 pages but with laminated boards.
3. London: Children's Book Club, 1959. 158 pages Yellow boards with black titles on the spine only. Other details similar: Six colour plates by Stead. Book list prior to the title page lists to Biggles' Combined Operation. Number 54 on half title page.
- Dustjacket yellow with black line art shows Biggles and friends in the cocpkit of an aircraft. One person is looking out of the side.
- Replica dustjackets of the first edition are available. See Facsimiledustjackets.com.