Biggles Sweeps the Desert by W. E. Johns was first published in Oct 1942 by Hodder and Stoughton. There have been at least 5 subsequent editions in the English language with the latest one by Red Fox under the title Biggles Defends the Desert. The title page of the 1st ed. gives the subtitle: "A 'Biggles' Squadron Story". The events in the book take place around 1941 or 1942 in the North African desert.
In April 1967, as part of its Biggles series, French publisher Aredit published a comic strip adaptation entitled Biggles au pays de la soif (Biggles in the land of thirst). Earlier on, Les Presses de la Cité had translated the Johns novel and published it as Biggles dans le désert. But Aredit had to use a different title because of what appears to be a blunder. In the previous issue of their Biggles comic strip series, in Jan 1966, they had already used the title Biggles dans le désert. That issue contained three Biggles stories none of which dealt with deserts!
Something or someone is interfering with the vital British air supply route between West Africa and Egypt. Aircraft have been disappearing with no explanation. Biggles and his squadron are sent to investigate.
See the plot subpage (click here) for an extended summary of the narrative in the book (note: contains spoilers)
Members of 666 SquadronEdit
- Bertie Lissie
- Angus MacKail
- 'Tex' O'hara
- Tug Carrington
- 'Taffy' Hughes
- Henry Harcourt
- 'Ferocity' Ferris
- Flight Sergeant Smyth - Spelt "Smythe" in this book
- Corporal Roy Smyth - Smyth's son, last seen in Biggles in the Baltic
- Supermarine Spitfire
- Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
- Boulton Paul Defiant
- De Havilland Dragon Rapide - G-VDH
- De Havilland Dragon - GB-ZXL
- Messerschmitt Me 109
- Messerschmitt Me 110
- Junkers Ju 52
- Westland Lysander
(see also table at Aerial victories of Biggles and friends)
- Me-109 - Chapter 5.
- Me-110 - Chapter 12.
- Me-109 - Chapter 12.
- 3 x Ju 52 - paratroop aircraft, Chapter 16.
- Me-109F - piloted by von Zoyton, Chapter 17.
- Me-109 - Chapter 5. Algy was not sure if he hit it but the pilot baled out.
- Me-109 - Chapter 11.
- Me-109 - half a kill, shared with Tug Carrington, Chapter 5.
- Me-109 - does this count? Biggles was flying it. Chapter 7.
- Me-109 - Chapter 12. Probable.
- Me-109 - Chapter 12. Probable. Last seen trailing smoke.
- This book has the (fairly famous) incongruity where Hymann escapes in Ginger's Spitfire. Ginger gives chase in Henry's. But Henry had left his Spitfire at Karga. It should have been Algy's.
Mentions of the PastEdit
- Roy Smythe is mentioned as having done well in the events of Biggles in the Baltic
- When Taffy is about to drive the captured German armoured car, he declares that he had driven a tank. Ginger chides up for being a "buster". This refers to the story in Taffy Trundles In.
Other research notesEdit
- The early part of the story makes repeated reference to the fact that the enemy must have some kind of spy who can provide advance notice of British transport flights. This loose end in the plot is never resolved, and who the spy was is never revealed.
(see also table at Timeline of the Biggles Stories)
Of the choice between 1941 and 1942 as the date of the events in the book, 1941 is considered more likely for the following reasons:
- November 1942 is the upper limit for the chronology--by then Biggles was involved in the events in Biggles Fails to Return.
- In February 1942 to around June 1942, in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia, Biggles and his squadron would have been involved in the events of Biggles in Borneo.
- The Messerschmitt Me 109G version entered production in Feb 1942. By mid 1942, it was beginning to equip service squadrons in the desert. For Von Zoyton to have an Me 109F at this time would not have seemed like something so remarkable--by then almost everyone else had the F version.
- The Me 109F started appearing in late 1940. The F models began arriving in the desert in the autumn of 1941. If Von Zoyton was at the top of the heap and got one of the first, this would make it around late summer or early autumn 1941.
- Having said that, the Spitfire only started appearing in the desert in 1942. Before that, Hurricanes were the staple of the service squadrons there. But Biggles' squadron had been sent out on a special mission.