CAPTAIN CHARLES MAURICE DOWN
Charles Maurice Down was a senior member of staff at Amalgamated press dealing with their juvenile department. The editor of “Modern Boy” was Charles Boff and Charles Down was his superior. W. E. Johns would have known Down as he had been submitting artwork to “Modern Boy” and then articles as their ‘Air Expert’.
When Johns was the editor of “Popular Flying” magazine, he commissioned Down to write an article in the series “My Most Thrilling Flight” and this article appeared in the April 1935 edition (see below). It was never collected in the June 1936 book “Thrilling Flights”, presumably because it was about balloon, rather than aircraft, flight.
I speculate that Down may very well have been the person who decided to allow W. E. Johns’ Biggles stories from “Popular Flying”, originally published in “Popular Flying” magazine, and subsequently gathered and expanded with other stories in “The Camels are Coming” to be published in “Modern Boy”. Certainly, these Biggles stories were first published in “Modern Boy” in issue 257, dated 7th January 1933. Now, I have a first edition of “The Camels are Coming” dedicated to “C. M. Down” by W. E. Johns. This book, the first ever Biggles book, was published on 7th September 1932. If Johns gave a copy of the book to C. M. Down, it may very well have been my very book that Down read and decided that – with suitable amendments – the Biggles stories could appear in “Modern Boy”. Of course, the Biggles stories were initially written for an adult audience and contain swearing and the drinking of hard liquor; All these references are removed when the Biggles stories appeared in “Modern Boy”.
POPULAR FLYING – APRIL 1935
In my first edition copy of “The Camels are Coming” – dedicated to C. M. Down by W. E. Johns, on Page 158 there is a handwritten pencil note.
It is against the passage in “The Boob” where Biggles gives a newly arrived Algy advice on how to stay alive as a pilot.
There are pencil lines down the side of the text and the words “The art of war flying in a nutshell” are written.
Was this written by C. M. Down in the book when he read it? Or had W. E. Johns written this before giving it to him?
Or was it merely written in by a later owner?