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
- Algy Lacey
- Ginger Hebblethwaite
- Bertie Lissie
Friends and alliesEdit
- Lord Rutterton
- Lucas Wetherton
- Colonel George Grimster
- Captain Roderick Mayne
- Professor Felix Lampeter
- Doctor Otto Kern
- Squadron Leader Kerr-Watson
- General John Gorton
- Vernon Victor Vale - or Tom Gale, in reality
- Major Cardwell
- Colonel Alexis Petroffsky
Johns' choice of aircraft for this book presents unique problems. Perhaps he wanted to inject some realism to the story by using authentic and plausible models. But, as sometimes happens, his choices are neither wholly fictitious nor wholly real but somewhere in between, like he had not done his research with great care.
The Ranger has a plausible real-life counterpart so you might expect the same of the Birada, but no. The Birada is something of a puzzle. See discussions under the relevant articles.
- Birada trainer floatplane
- Ranger flying boat
- Unknown black fighter - launched by catapault and piloted by Lieutenant Vasilloff who shot the Birada down.
Other Research NotesEdit
References to the pastEdit
(see also table at Timeline of the Biggles Stories)
- Some very precise dates are given in the story which help to fix the general timeline:
- Professor Felix Lampeter disappeared on March 7th
- Doctor Otto Kern disappeared on April 22nd
- Shortly after this Vernon Victor Vale was inserted and disappeared
- It was five months for Vale's message to reach the British embassy at Nanking i.e. October
- Another fortnight elapses before the meeting at Scotland Yard
- In chapter III, it is stated that yet another month elapses before Biggles and co. arrive in Manchuria
- Therefore we can assume that the rescue operation takes place sometime in late October or November--it would have been bitterly cold but this is not mentioned in the book
- As for the year, it will have to be 1948 or earlier for these reasons:
- Nanking fell to the Communist Chinese troops on April 23rd 1949. There could have been no British embassy there in October 1949, so it will have to be 1947 or 1948.
- The book was first serialised from January to June 1949.
- On balance, Oct-Nov 1947 rather than 1948. By Oct 1948, things were going very badly in the Chinese Civil War for the Nationalist (Republic of China) side. The Communists had gained almost complete control of northeastern China. It would not have been possible for Biggles to mount the kind of operation he did by this time.