On Leave is a short story which first appeared as the 14th chapter of the very first Biggles book The Camels are Coming, published in September 1932. The story was subsequently republished in The Modern Boy Issue 270, 8th April 1933 where it was given the title The White Feather.

The story also appeared as the 10th short story of Biggles Pioneer Air Fighter published in 1954.


With a clever strategem, Major Mullen tricks Biggles into applying for 10 days of home leave. Biggles gets bored with the inactivity but then some enemy bombers attack Ramsgate, providing some welcome relief.


(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)





  • 266 Squadron, Maranique
  • Marquise
  • Lympne
  • London
    • Trocadero - the Long Bar
    • Alhambra - the American Bar
  • Felgate near Folkstone
  • Ramsgate


  • Deal
  • Sandwich
  • Bourget

Editorial ChangesEdit

In the original text, the name Harboard was, by a typographical error spelt "Harcourt" where the name occured in the last few paragrahs of the story. This error was corrected in the Pioneer Air Fighter version. However, from the Red Fox editions onwards, all of which aimed to reproduce the original text, the error was restored!

Other Research NotesEdit

Biographical detailsEdit

  • A lot of biographical details are to be found in this story.
    • He has a middle initial C. Hence James C. Bigglesworth. This initial is never mentioned anywhere else, not even in a set of official orders posted in The Last Show.
    • Biggles has a brother and his father is still alive in this story. But obviously he doesn't keep in touch. He finds the house closed. has to call a friend of the family to learn that father and brother are both "in the army" and "somewhere in France".
    • Biggles has been drinking. Mullen says, "Already you're drinking more than you used to." In The Balloonatics he told Raymond he doesn't drink.
    • He reads - in this case a Sabatini novel (probably Rafael Sabatini).[1]

References to the pastEdit

  • Batson went west "weeks ago".



(see also table at Timeline of the Biggles Stories)

  • Best estimate: late November to early December 1917. The timeframe can be determined from a number of pointers:
    • Batson is mentioned as having died "weeks ago".
    • Biggles's name is posted in official orders without his M.C. decoration (compare with the one in The Last Show where his M.C. is stated. In The Carrier Raymond tells Biggles his M.C. had been approved. This was in February 1918.
    • The weather is rainy, foggy and cold. There is a fire in Harboard's house.
    • Shooting season in Kent is typically beginning of October to end of January.
    • Algy does not appear but this is neither here nor there.
  • The above point to a time in late 1917 to early 1918, during the cold months from October to January which matches the shooting season.
  • But it can't be September or October 1917, although that would fit Batson dying "weeks ago". If Biggles had taken leave in October 1917, what would he be doing taking leave again in Biggles Flies East? The latter story can be fairly reliably placed in late October 1917.
  • Therefore we can assume he took this stretch of leave after the events in Flies East. That is reasonable because his leave in Flies East was aborted--shortly after his leave began, it was cancelled and he was placed under the orders of Air Intelligence.
  • So we are left with a period late November (after returning from Palestine) to January 1918. Any later and the shooting season is over and Biggles would have got his M.C. Within this range, the preference is for late November to early December, if only to make sense of Batson having died "weeks ago".

Publication HistoryEdit

  • The Camels are Coming, John Hamilton, 1932
  • The Modern Boy, Issue 270, 8th Apr 1933 (as The White Feather)
  • Biggles in the Camels are Coming, Boys' Friend Library, 1938 (as The White Feather)
  • Biggles Pioneer Air Fighter, Thames, 1954 and reprints
  • Biggles: The Camels are Coming, Red Fox, 1993 and subsequent reprints and editions
  • The Camels are Coming, Norman Wright, 2010


  1. Wikipedia article on Rafael Sabatini

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