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Biggles Follows On by W. E. Johns was first serialised in 6 monthly instalments in Boys Own Paper between April 1952 to September 1952. The book was published in 1952 by Hodder & Stoughton. It was the 43rd Biggles book to be published. There have been five subsequent editions in the English language, with the most recent being the 1980 paperback edition by Armada. The events in the book are set during the Korean War at the height of the Cold War. Biggles goes halfway around the world, first into Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain and then into China near the North Korean border.

SynopsisEdit

Von Stalhein is spotted in Britain trying to entice guardsmen to desert and join an "international brigade". But where are these people going and what are they meant to do? Biggles suspects there is a bigger plot behind this. He inserts Guardsman Ross as a plant into Von Stalhein's scheme, promising to stay close behind. The trail is not easy and takes Biggles halfway around the world, through Prague and Berlin into the remote northeast of China near the North Korean border. To get Guardsman Ross out will be a complex operation involving all the air police and also Biggles' old friend, "Gimlet" King and his band of trusty commandoes.

PlotEdit

Note: The sections below contain spoilers. In particular, the plot subpage (click here) has an extended summary of the narrative in the book

CharactersEdit

The Special Air PoliceEdit

  • Air Commodore Raymond
  • Biggles
  • Algy Lacey
  • Bertie Lissie
  • Ginger Hebblethwaite

Allies and FriendsEdit

  • Inspector Gaskin - C department, Scotland Yard. His surveillance teams tracked Von Stalhein in London and Caterham.
  • Guardsman Ian Ross - London-born Scot, age 18, 4 months in service. Biggles sends him to infiltrate Von Stalhein's network
  • Captain Kingham - acting adjutant at the Guards Depot, Caterham
  • Marcel Brissac - Biggles French counterpart. Assists Biggles at Le Bourget.
  • Smith - British agent in Prague. An Englishman, he runs a safehouse under the identity of a tailor named Johann Smasrik. Helps Biggles and Ginger escape from Prague.
  • Major Boyd - Probably a British intelligence officer in Berlin. Lends Biggles a guide to take him in and out of the Russian zone of Berlin without going through checkpoints.
  • Major Charles - senior British Intelligence officer. Sanctions Biggles' proposal to rescue Ross from Kratsen.
  • Captain Lorrington King - also known as "Gimlet". A former officer of the Royal Marine Commandoes. A frequent partner of Biggles' in many special operations. Assists Biggles in his rescue mission.
  • Members of the King's Kittens, Gimlet's old commando troop. Accompanies Gimlet on the rescue mission.
    • "Cub" Peters
    • "Copper" Colson
    • "Trapper" Troublay

OthersEdit

AircraftEdit

  • Vickers Viking - the type used by British European Airways for their London-Paris flights during the early 1950s. Ross and Ginger fly on it from London to Paris. (inferred)
  • Douglas DC-3 - the type of Douglas used by Czech Airlines (Biggles calls it Czech Airline). Ross and Ginger fly on it from Paris to Prague. (inferred)
  • Yak fighter - Algy and Bertie avoids an interception from a Yak fighter on his way to collect Biggles and Ginger. This is probably a Yak-3.
  • Percival Proctor - Algy and Bertie uses a Proctor to collect Biggles and Ginger from a farm field on the outskirts of Prague.
  • Scorpion - Biggles uses this on his mission to retrieve Wung Ling from his reconnaissance of Kratsen and then, on the next sortie, to rescue Ross from Kratsen. From the detailed description in the text, it is quite clear that here Johns means the Short Seaford.

PlacesEdit

VisitedEdit

  • London
    • Grosvenor Hotel - actual hotel near Victoria Station. Ginger spots Von Stalhein using it at the beginning of the story. Von Stalhein has a suite here.
    • Airways House - When Ginger spotted Von Stalhein, he was coming out of "Airways House". By that he probably meant the Empire Terminal of Imperial Airways, then B.O.A.C. and even later still, British Airways. This air terminal is just down the road from the Grosvenor.
    • Northolt Airport - likely departure airport for Ross' flight from London to Paris.
  • Caterham, Surrey
    • Stand Easy cafe
    • Guards Depot
  • Paris
    • Le Bourget Airport
  • Prague
    • Ruzyne Airport - Johns calls it Ruzyn Airfield. Ross and Biggles' point of entry into Prague.
    • Schweiz Hotel on the Moldaustrasse - fictional hotel in Prague used by Stresser and Ross, and also by Biggles and Ginger.
    • Tailor shop belonging to Johnann Smasrik - British Intelligence safehouse in Prague. Biggles and Ginger shelter here.
    • Farm field 12 miles from Prague - Algy picks Biggles and Ginger up from here. Initially Biggles finds field installed with trap wires but he cuts them in time for Algy's landing.
  • Frankfurt - transit stop after escape from Prague.
  • Berlin
    • British headquarters - Biggles meets Major Boyd and picks up a guide here.
    • Hotel Prinz Karl on the Zindenplatzer - fictional hotel and street. Ross was brought here. Biggles looks for Ross but meets Von Stalhein instead.
    • Bierhaus - a few doors from the Hotel Prinz Karl. Biggles' guide waits here. Biggles returns to pick up his guide dressed in a Russian officer's uniform and gives him a fright!
    • Airport Hotel, Berlin. Biggles and crew stay here while in Berlin. It is fair to assume that Biggles would land in the British sector of West Berlin, therefore this would be RAF Gatow.
  • Kungching marine aircraft base, South Korea - fictional base for marine aircraft of the United Nations forces during the Korean War. Launchpad for Biggles' rescue mission to Kratsen.
  • Kratsen, Manchuria, China - camp where Ross was imprisoned. Biggles and Gimlet's men strike this base, rescuing the prisoners and destroying the facilities.

MentionedEdit

  • Fashtun - North Korean village near the Russian border. The North Koreans maintain a base here to train British army and other deserters as infiltrators. Raided by British marine commandos at the end of the story.

Research NotesEdit

Touch of realismEdit

  • As Johns mentions in Chapter IV, the aircraft registration codes for Czech aircraft do indeed begin with the letters OK. The IATA code for Czech airlines is also OK.

IncongruitiesEdit

  • At the end of Chapter XI, after taking off from off the coast of Kratsen, Biggles swung his Scorpion onto a southwesterly course for his base in South Korea. In reality, nowhere on the Manchuria coast on the Yellow Sea requires a southwesterly course for South Korea. However a southwesterly course might be needed as a dogleg to avoid getting too close to North Korea.

ChronologyEdit

  • This book is set during the Korean War and was published in 1952. The events are therefore set any time between 1950 and 1952 when the Korean War was in progress.

EditionsEdit

Serialised in 6 monthly instalments in Boys Own Paper Volume 74, issues 7 to 12, between April 1952 and September 1952.


Biggles Follows On-1952

Cover of the 1st edition depicts the rooftop escape described in Chapter VII.

1. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1952. 158 pages, 8 monochrome illustrations by Stead. Red boards with a vignette of a man talking on a telephone.

  • Dust jacket in full colour has an atmospheric scene showing Biggles and Ginger escaping via the rooftops of Prague. It was just the right sort of artwork to evoke images of Cold War espionage and intrigue that filled the early chapters of the book.
  • the first edition is not particularly rare and examples with dust jackets can be found on ebay for less than £30.


2. London: Scottie Books, Transworld Publishers, 1955. 160 pages, no illustrations.

  • Cover depicts a man in a flying jacket--probably Biggles. In the background there are large buildings, a car is rushing past a man in military uniform with a drawn pistol. This is probably a depiction of events in Chapter V, in Prague.
  • This edition is almost as rare as the 1st edition and is often to be found at the same price bracket.
  • There is reportedly a reprint in the same year but if the two cannot be told apart, it will be considered the same edition.


3. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1959. 2nd impression. Red boards, same dust jacket as 1st edition.


Biggles Follows On-1972

Cover art of the 1972 edition with the incongruous Corsair.

4. London: Armada Books, 1972. 127 pages, paperback, 18 cm.

  • This edition has one of the most interesting covers in the Biggles series. The illustrator probably intended to depict Biggles dropping Wung Ling by parachute on his reconnaissance. But why is Biggles using a Corsair? Corsairs were used in the Korean War but not by the R.A.F. Nonetheless, the cover art was just the sort that would entice a young schoolboy to pick up a copy, offering or suggesting, as it did, that there was some air combat in store. Well, they would have been disappointed, but would be adequately compensated with a stirring espionage story.
  • On the back cover is a small drawing of a group of commandoes (probably Gimlet and his men) paddling in a dinghy with the Scorpion in the background.


5. London: Armada Books, undated but probably 1976. Paperback.


Biggles Follows On-1980

The Armada 1980 edition. The cover art offers a grand tour of the events in the book.

6. London: Armada Books, 1980. Paperback.

  • The 1980 edition has multiple images on its cover. In the centre, Wung Ling is descending by parachute, having been dropped by a rather nondescript gull-winged aircraft. Was the illustrator still thinking of a Corsair? At bottom left is the Chapter V car getaway scene also found in on the Scottie Books edition. Bottom centre shows Biggles and Ginger at the barbed wire surrounding the camp at Kratsen. Bottom right is a depiction of the rooftop escape scene set in Prague.

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