COMRADES IN ARMS
Book First Published on 8th December 1947* - 227 pages
* This information is taken from a letter from A. P. Watt & Son to W. E. Johns in my collection
Original price 6 shillings 0 d (72 pennies)
This contains six short stories. Three of the stories are Gimlet, Worrals and Biggles stories respectively, then there are three other war stories.
The first edition dust jacket showing the original price of 6 shillings
AN ORIENTAL ASSIGNMENT
A "King" of the Commandos story.
This story runs from pages 7 to 61. Gimlet, Cub, Copper and Trapper are asked to go to French Indo-China (now Vietnam) in this war time story. The reason is to collect an unusual form of Hevea braziliensis or rubber tree. Sir Lionel Radnor had cultivated a strain of sufficient hardiness to be grown in a temperate climate. He destroyed the lot apart from 20 seeds, which he hid. Later, he was captured and tortured by the Japanese until he died. Word has reached British Intelligence via Radnor's chief native assistant, Charla Song, as to where the seeds are hidden. They have been hidden in a hollow elephant in the Oriente Hotel in Saigon, but that is now being used by Japanese Officers. Gimlet and his men fly out with Biggles and Ginger (so this is technically a Biggles story as well) who will return to pick them up in two days. Making their way to the Oriente Hotel proves easy but the seeds are not in the hollow elephant. Contacted by a Chinese relative of Charla Song's, Chang Chu, our heroes learn that Charla had moved the seeds and re-hidden them. He too had been tortured and executed by the Japanese. In Charla's demolished house, a Chinese proverb - "By still water in a garden is happiness found" leads Cub to twenty planted rubber tree saplings. These are the missing and priceless seeds! Chased by the Japanese, Gimlet and his commandos, accompanied by Chang Chu escape to rendezvous with Biggles, Ginger and Algy (both Biggles and Ginger get a few lines on the last pages of the book) and to a lengthy flight home.
(This story was originally published in three parts as "Seeds of Trouble" in "Boy's Own" Magazine dated July 1945, August 1945 and September 1945)
ON THE HOME FRONT
A "Worrals" of the W.A.A.F. story.
41 pages – from page 63 to 103 inclusive.
The story is in five parts, each headed with a Roman Numeral
I. Squadron Officer Joan Worralson arrives at No. 21 Balloon Wing with Flight Officer Betty Lovell on the instructions of Air Commodore Raymond of the Intelligence branch. They have been sent to investigate the complaint of an aircraftwoman named Norma Day. Norma’s friend, Doris Marchant, has been found drowned and Norma rejects the Coroner’s verdict of “found drowned”. Norma says Doris didn’t drown herself and she was a good swimmer, so she wouldn’t have accidently drowned - it was murder. Norma tells a story about how, she and her friend were on duty manning their barrage balloon, when, on two occasions, it appeared to be hit by a smaller balloon carrying something. On the day of her death, Doris had gone off to investigate but Norma had been unable to go with her. Doris had not returned and her body was found in the River Ouse, just where a stream called the Niddy flows into it. Norma shows Worrals on a map where their barrage balloon is stationed and where Doris’s body was found. Worrals decides to do some aerial recognisance.
II. In less than half an hour, flying at one thousand feet, Worrals and Frecks survey the ground on a westerly course from the barrage balloon. This is the direction where any mystery balloon would have come from. Finding the stream known as the Niddy, Worrals notes that it runs past an old Elizabethan mansion. The map tells them this is Gresham Grange. Frecks sees a man on the roof of the place. Back at the airfield, Worrals rings the Inspector at Burnham Police Station and makes enquiries about Gresham Grange. The police say it is empty. Apparently the building has a sliding roof as a previous owner had an observatory installed. Worrals is suspicious of Gresham Grange and decides to go and have a look around it that night. She decides to get permission to take Norma Day with her, so she can act as a look out and get help if Worrals and Frecks get into any trouble.
III. It was nearly 9.00 pm when Worrals, Frecks and Norma set off. Stopping the car outside the wall to the estate, Worrals gives Norma her instructions. If she sees Worrals fire her flare gun, or if they are not back in two hours, she is to go to Wing Headquarters and see the Wing Commander who will get in touch with their Chief at the Air Ministry. Worrals has spoken to them all on the phone in advance, so they know what the girls are doing. Worrals and Frecks climb the wall and then follow the River Ouse and then the Niddy. Frecks says that what happened to Doris might happen to them. “That is what I’m hoping will happen – that is, up to a point,” replied Worrals coolly. “The end should work out differently though. Doris was alone, and unarmed. She wasn’t ready for trouble. We are”. An air raid siren goes off in the distance and shortly after a German plane passes over the old house. It returns and then Worrals and Frecks see a balloon released from the top of the house. It is soon lost to view in an Easterly direction. “Travelling on a west wind that balloon will in due course arrive over Holland or Germany,” said Worrals in a low voice. Worrals sends Frecks back to Norma to tell her to go and alert the authorities.
IV. Worrals explores further whilst Frecks is gone and discovers that the stream has been confined in banks of brickwork so that it took the form of a canal. Frecks returns and the two girls see a car come quietly round the far end of the house, apparently from the garage. In due course, four men are seen by the car and they speak in German. Worrals runs forward and shoots out the tyres to stop the men leaving and at the same time Frecks fires the flare signal into the night sky. A gun battle with the men then ensues and the girls are forced to retreat from the bushes to the river behind them. Attempting to cross the river, Frecks is apparently hit and both girls are carried away by the current down the stream. They lose their guns in the icy cold water. Worrals tries to get to the brick sides but she is thrown back into the current. “Even at that dire moment the thought flashed into her mind that this was what must have happened to Doris Marchant”. Further down the stream, Worrals is able to get Frecks to a small bit of beach that she had noticed earlier. Frecks is not badly hurt. A man comes running from the direction of the house and sees the stranded girls. He stands with an automatic in his hand ready to shoot them and Worrals throws sand in his face. Norma arrives on the scene and takes a running jump into the back of the man, sending him headlong into the river. When the man tries to drag himself out of the river on the opposite bank, Norma snatches up his gun and shoots him. Several men come running towards the girls and Worrals says “Great Scott! It’s the big chief himself” as Air Commodore Raymond arrives. Raymond says they have picked up three dead Nazis and two live ones. “There’s another in the river here,” said Worrals.
V. The following morning, Frecks has a strip of surgical plaster on her cheek. Air Commodore Raymond says the men were spies and the difficulty with spying is not getting useful information, but getting it out of the country without the method being spotted. The Germans were using balloons with radio units in that could be picked up by enemy radar. An aircraft could then shoot it down and retrieve the message. Worrals says that all credit has to go to Doris and Norma. It turns out that the man Norma shot was the person who killed Doris. “We know that because the Nazi who is doing the talking has told us all about it, to escape personal responsibility” says Raymond. Worrals, Frecks and Norma get a lift in the Air Commodore’s car as Worrals and Frecks are going to take Norma out for lunch in town.
(I believe this Worrals story was never published elsewhere. If anybody knows differently then please E-MAIL ME)
THUNDER OVER GERMANY
A "Biggles" adventure.
This story runs from pages 105 to 135. Air Commodore Raymond brings a 16-year-old Air Training Corps cadet called Peter Masters to see Biggles. Peter knows the location of a huge German petrol store in the Black Forest as he used to live in Germany when his father was in the Diplomatic Service. Taking three Mosquito Aircraft and Peter with him, to act as guide, Biggles leads Flight Lieutenants Algy Lacy and Bertie Lissie and Flying Officers Ginger Hebblethwaite and Tug Carrington on a bombing raid. The dump is successfully bombed. Biggles estimates that it contained a million gallons of oil. Attacked on the return journey by a Focke-Wulf 190 and then 18 Messerschmitts, Biggles and his colleagues have to use all their flying skills to get home safely. As they reach the English Channel they meet a huge force of German aircraft but Biggles still has a surprise in store.
(This story was subsequently published in the Daily Mail Newspaper in 1950 – from 18th March 1950 to 13th May 1950)
THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME
A story of U-boat warfare.
17 year old Jack Carrington lives on the island of Trinidad. When exploring the remote Porpoise Island for coconuts, Jack comes across a hidden German U-boat refuelling. Seen by the Germans, Jack flees under fire and dives off a cliff. He hides in an underwater cave he discovers. Later, he ties a punctured can of oil to the submarine, in order for the leaking oil to leave a trace in the sea as a method of locating it and then gets back to a Fleet Air Arm marine aircraft base to report his findings. They send out ships and aircraft and sink the submarine. Returning to Porpoise Island and the hidden cave, Jack finds the skeleton of a dead pirate and just over a hundred gold coins.
A NIGHT OUT
A story of a sabotage raid.
Pilot Officer Kazi Mahomet meets up again with his old childhood friend, Flying Officer Lance Lorimer. Both of their fathers had fought side by side, and died fighting for their regiment in India. Lance now carries out sabotage operations in Germany and Kazi gets to go with him. They fly to Germany, land and then blow up a Railway Bridge just as an ammunition train goes through. They then have to fight off the Germans to get back to their plane and fly back to England out running German planes. Ditching in the sea just off the English coast with a holed fuel tank, Lance and Kazi are picked up by the Navy. As they are close to the coast they are able to tow in and save their plane before it sinks.
A ROUTINE JOB
A story of the commandos.
When 15 year old Hubert Fairfax is rescued from a canoe on the Mediterranean Sea he has an interesting story to tell. His father had been working in Rome at the outbreak of the Second World War and had been arrested and interned. Hubert, who spoke fluent English and Italian, has been forced to join a Fascist propaganda department but used the opportunity to gather useful intelligence. Learning of a new secret submarine base being built by the Germans at Casagrande, Hubert had stolen the plans for the base and set off for Malta to bring the important information to the attention of the British. Hubert is asked by Colonel "Buster" Brown, of "Buster's Bulldogs" to act as scout on a commando raid on the submarine base. Hubert suggests that they could also use the raid to liberate his father and other internees from Castelvero, just 4 miles away from the base. The extra men could then be armed to help in the attack. The plan is for a two pronged assault, Hubert, going with a dozen commandos to free the internees and then attack the submarine base from the rear. Whilst the Germans are distracted, the main commando force will then attack from the sea. This happens, the base is destroyed and Hubert is reunited with his father.
The dust cover of the book shows pictures of Biggles, Worrals and Gimlet.
Comrades in Arms
Publication Details - published by Hodder and Stoughton
Click on the Frontispiece to enlarge it
French edition 1948