Biggles in Borneo by W. E. Johns was first published in 1943 by Oxford University Press. Since then there have been at least 10 subsequent editions. The events in the book take place around late 1942 as the Japanese were completing their conquest of much of Southeast Asia.
Biggles and his 666 squadron are sent to an isolated landing strip which the Japanese forces do not know about in the mountains of Borneo. There they operate as a secret strike force, doing as much damage to the enemy as they can before their location is discovered.
Insert (Fred Leander): W. E. Johns' concept here is quite interesting. In 1941/42 the British had no secret bases on Borneo, but the Dutch had - Samarinda II, north of Balikpapan. From there they attacked Japanese convoys on both sides of Borneo, the larger part of Borneo was under the Dutch East Indies colony. As the Dutch base was discovered by the Japanese the Dutch planes were withdrawn to Sumatra and Java but the ground troops remained, awaiting US reinforcements. However, these never showed up and the base was eventually captured by the Japanese.
Johns bettered this - he sent in some RAAF units instead.
See the plot subpage (click here) for:
- an extended summary of the narrative in the book (note: contains spoilers)
- map of the area of operations described in the book
Members of 666 SquadronEdit
- Bertie Lissie
- Angus MacKail
- 'Tex' O'hara
- Tug Carrington
- 'Taffy' Hughes
- Henry Harcourt
- 'Ferocity' Ferris
Allies and FriendsEdit
- Air Commodore Raymond - Biggles' boss.
- Captain Rex Larrymore - diamond prospector who proposed the idea of using Lucky Strike as a secret base.
- Suba - Chief of the Punan tribe near Lucky Strike and a friend of Rex.
- Kalut - Suba's hunting partner.
- Jackson - British diplomat based in Manila, escapee from Cotabato.
- Bill Gray - downed American navy pilot who escaped from Cotabato.
- Pat Flannagan - downed American navy gunner who escaped from Cotabato, Bill's gunner.
- General Barton - American army general. Allied Headquarters believed he had escaped when the Japanese took Mindanao. He had been recaptured and was in Cotabato prison before Biggles rescued him.
- Mary Stockton - daughter of a British diplomat.
- Doctor Harding - an American woman, a doctor specialising in tropical diseases.
- Fee Wong - a wealthy Chinese merchant Biggles rescued from Cotabato who proposes a daring sabotage scheme.
- Ah Wong - Fee Wong's brother.
- Wing Commander Crane - RAF intelligence officer who brings Fee Wong to see Biggles and encourages Biggles to try Fee Wong's scheme.
- Kayan - Fee Wong's foreman who plays a vital part in the attack on the barges by freeing up a logjam of teak logs.
- Captain Garnet - Captain of the HMAS Adelaide who lends Ginger his Fulmar fighters.
- General Yashnowada - the brutal Japanese commander of the prison at Cotabato.
- Mitsubishi B.96 - more commonly known as the Mitsubishi A5M Claude.
- Kawanishi floatplane - probably a Kawanishi E7K
- Cayman amphibian
- Nakajima fighter - probably a Nakajima Ki-27 Nate
- HMAS Adelaide - an aircraft carrier of the Royal Australian Navy - fictional. Australia did not have an aircraft carrier during World War 2.
- Air Ministry - Air Commodore Raymond's office. Actually this is one of the few times Biggles is actually at the Air Ministry.
- Island of Borneo
- British North Borneo (now Sabah, Malaysia) - on his first patrol Biggles flew northeast from Lucky Strike to the British North Borneo coast before proceeding west along the Sarawak coast.
- Brunei - overflown as part of Biggles' first patrol. Also, Yashnowada landed there with his troops before proceeding inland to attack Luck Strike.
- Sarawak (now Sarawak, Malaysia)
- 'Lucky Strike' - a remote dry lake bed in the highlands near Mount Mulu in Borneo
- Malaya (now Peninsula Malaysia)
- Telapur and the Limpur River - fictional locations. The Limpur River runs eastwards across the Malaya peninsula. Telapur was the location of Fee Wong's sawmill
- Darwin, Australia
- Singapore - Biggles did a photo-reconnaissance mission here
- Surabaya, Indonesia - Bertie did a photo-reconnaissance mission here
- The book describes the Kuching as located on the far side of a wide bay. In reality Kuching is upriver. Although it is a thriving river port, it would have been too small for an aircraft carrier and all the other ships Biggles saw. Brunei would have been a better location for the events described.
- In Chapter 7, Biggles asks Jackson, who speaks Japanese, to question the captured Japanese soldier to find out what happened to Algy and Ginger. However, in the next paragraph, it is Rex who speaks to the Japanese instead. Earlier Rex had said he only knew a few Japanese words.
- With a wing-span of more than a hundred feet, the Ginger's Liberator could not have landed on an aircraft carrier.
- How did the Saro Cloud make the long journey from Darwin to Lucky Strike? See discussion here.
- When Ginger is captured and brought to Cotabato, it is stated that this was his first time in a submarine. In fact he had been in a submarine on at least two other occasions. He was brought to Bergan Ait by submarine in Biggles in the Baltic at the beginning of the war. Later in Biggles Defies the Swastika he is captured and brought to see von Stalhein in a submarine.
Other Research NotesEdit
(see also table at Timeline of the Biggles Stories)
- The Philippines has been captured by the Japanese so this must be after May 1942.
- Has to be before November 1942 because Biggles would have been involved in the events of Biggles Fails to Return.
1. London: Oxford University Press, 1943. 185 pages with a colour frontispiece and 4 black/white illustrations by Stuart Tresilian. Turqouise boards, black letters, vignette of a Beaufighter above a palm tree and an aircraft carrier. 19 cm.
- Dustjacket in full color shows Beaufighters, two in the air, one on the ground. In a foreground a party of natives. Letters in white. Price on inside flap 5/-.
2. London: Oxford University Press, 1944. Reprint.
3. London: Oxford University Press, 1946. Reprint.
4. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1946. 1st Australian edition. 183 pages, no illustrations. Fawn boards, black letters, same vignette as 1st ed. 19 cm.
- Price on dustjacket inside flap 6/6.
5. London: Oxford University Press, 1949. Reprint.
6. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1950. 2nd Australian edition. 183 pages, no illustrations. Red boards, black letters, same vignette as 1st ed. 19 cm.
7. London: Oxford University Press, 1951. Reprint. 185 pages with a colour frontispiece and 4 black/white illustrations by Stuart Tresilian. Green boards, black letters, vignette of a Beaufighter above a palm tree and an aircraft carrier. No list of illustrations in the book. 19 cm.
- Dustjacket is now the "Flying Jacket" illustration. Price 5/-.
8. London: Oxford University Press, 1952. Reprint. 185 pages with a colour frontispiece and 4 black/white illustrations by Stuart Tresilian. Pale green boards, black letters, vignette of a Beaufighter above a palm tree and an aircraft carrier. There is a list of illustration just after the table of contents page. 19 cm.
- Dustjacket still the "Flying Jacket".
9. Leicester: Brockhampton, 1960. Green boards. Colour frontispiece.
- Dustjacket shows a beaufighter climbing up after attacking an aircraft carrier. Price on inside flap 8/6. Number 23 on spine.
10. London: White Lion, 1973. Blue boards with gold letters.
- Dustjacket shows a Beaufighter above jungles. Port wing continues on inside front flap. Price £1.25.