The Bristol Bombay was a British made bomber/transport which entered service in 1939. It was a twin-engine all metal high-wing design with a fixed undercarriage. The Bombay was quickly outclassed in the bomber role but continued in service as a troop transport, rendering sterling service especially in the Middle East theatre.
Bombays supplied Tobruk and evacuated the wounded during its long siege. A Bombay also evacuated the Greek Royal family from Crete to Egypt. The first SAS raid involved 5 Bombays landing the raiders in locations behind enemy lines. In one of the more notorious incidents in its service history, a Bombay carrying Lieutenant-General William Gott to meet Churchill and take up his appointment as Commanding General of the 8th Army was ambushed and shot down behind British lines by two Messerschmitt Me-109s. Gott survived the forced landing but was killed when the crashed aircraft was continuously strafed by the German fighters. Gott was the highest ranking British general to die in action and the command of the 8th Army went to Bernard Montgomery.
The Bombay and BigglesEdit
In Biggles Hunts Big Game, two Bombays carried a strong contingent of Egyptian police on a raid to Kudinga, intervening at just the right time when Biggles and his friends were at a stand off against the counterfeiting gange operating there.
Given its extensive service in the Middle East theatre, the use of Bombay lends a realistic local touch, except for a number of problems. First, Bombays were supposedly retired in 1944 and replaced by more modern aircraft.
Second, and more seriously, the great distances and the speed with which the events developed in the plot place unrealistic demands on the performance of the Bombay. Consider the events in the last day and a half of the story culminating in the police raid on Kudinga. The timeline below uses the cues given in the book and sets everything in Cairo time to avoid confusion with timezones.
- Biggles breaks into the offices of Stellar Skyways in Cairo at night and finds conclusive evidence of the couterfeiting operations. When he leaves, "the stars were paling in the east".
- He sends Algy off in the Mosquito to London to report to Air Commodore Raymond. Considering that the stars are "paling", let's be generous and say Algy leaves at 4 a.m.
- At first light, Tug Carrington picks up Mr White (Kravas) in the Parkington Pacemaker and heads for Kudinga. Biggles is hiding on board. Approx 6 a.m.
- Algy must be given at least 5 hours to do the 2000 mile trip to London, going flat out in the Mosquito. So he arrives about 9 a.m. Cairo time.
- Let's say he reports at once to Raymond, who takes action immediately. The Foreign Office sends a signal to Major Grattan to launch the raid on Kudinga. Approx. 10 a.m.
- Tug Carrington arrives at Kudinga just before noon (given in the text). 12 noon.
- Biggles rescues Ginger and Bertie at the power house. They hold off the gang and then at 1.30 p.m. (stated in the text), Biggles decides to pull out and head for the aircraft. Bertie remains as rear guard.
- They take 20 minutes to reach the gap in the power house fence, and another 15 minutes to reach the spot in the forest where the buffalo killed Kisumo and when Bertie was drenched in buffalo blood. 2.05 p.m.
- Bertie joins them shortly thereafter. Say 2.30 p.m.
- Ginger says it will take them 10 minutes (stated in the text) to reach the hangar from their present location. But estimates are always optimistic, especially in jungle terrain.
- On the way to the hangar, they encounter Kreeze and the other gang members, leading to a stand off. Approx 3 p.m.
- The stand off continues for a while but some gang members begin to work their way around to outflank Biggles' group. The situation is saved when they hear the sound of the Bombays. Say around 4 p.m.
So from the time Grattan gets the signal to the arrival of the Bombays is only 6 hours. With a maximum speed of 180 m.p.h., it could not have done the 1800 miles from Cairo (where Grattan was) to Kudinga in that time.
So is there any way to rescue Johns from this contradiction? The only plausible deus-ex-machina is if the Bombays did not come from Cairo. They could have launched from a near place such as Khartoum (about 750 miles away) or Juba, which is only about 288 miles away. This would have been fine if Johns had not included Grattan. Grattan's presence wasn't strictly necessary except for the fact that he would know Biggles, and coming from Cairo, he recognised Mr. White was Kravas. So how did Grattan get to Kudinga so fast? We need a second deus-ex-machina. Perhaps the R.A.F. flew him out to Juba in a fast aircraft like a Mosquito or Meteor and the Bombays launched from there to raid Kudinga. This is just about the only plausible way to make the timeline work.
- Crew: three-four
- Capacity: 24 armed troops or 10 stretchers
- Length: 69 ft 3 in (21.1 m)
- Wingspan: 95 ft 9 in (29.2 m)
- Height: 19 ft 11 in (6.1 m)
- Empty weight: 13,800 lb (6,260 kg)
- Loaded weight: 20,180 lb (9,173 kg)
- Engines: 2 × Bristol Pegasus XXII radial engines, 1,010 hp (755 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 167 knots (192 mph, 309 km/h) at 6,500 ft (2,000 m)
- Cruise speed: 139 knots (160 mph, 268 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
- Range: 1,940 nautical miles (2,230 mi, 3,560 km) with overload fuel
- Service ceiling: 24,850 ft (7,600 m)
- Guns: 2 × 0.303 Vickers K machine guns in powered nose and tail turrets
- Bombs: 2,000 lb (907 kg) as 8 × 250 lb (113 kg) bombs on underfuselage racks