|First Biggles Collection, 1932|
Captain James "Biggles" Bigglesworth is one of the great literary creations from the First World War. His air adventures are well known in the United Kingdom and other countries but much less known here in the States. Written by "Captain" W. E. (William Earl) Johns, the Biggles series consists of 96 books published between 1932 and 1970 with an additional six omnibus editions published within this period, plus two further books published in the late 1990s.
Johns was born in 1893 and served in the war initially at Gallipoli and on the Macedonian Front. After being commissioned and volunteering for the Royal Flying Corps, he served in France first as a machine gunner and from 1918 as a fighter pilot. Shot down over Mannheim, he was captured, escaped, caught again, and given a death sentence. Only the sudden end of the war saved his life.
Johns remained with the Royal Air Force until 1927 as a flight instructor and later as a recruiting officer. His final rank was flying officer. When he became a successful author he promoted himself to captain. Biggles first appeared in the story "The White Fokker," published in the first issue of Popular Flying magazine, in 1932. The first collection of Biggles stories, The Camels Are Coming, was published that same year. Biggles has appeared in films over the years, the latest attempt being a science fiction flick, Biggles — Adventures in Time in 1986.
|W.E. Johns, RAF Flight Instructor After the War|
|Graham Chapman as Biggles|
Fans of Monty Python's Flying Circus will recall the parodies "Biggles Dictates a Letter" and "Cardinal Biggles," complete with flying helmet and goggles, assisting in the interrogations in the "Spanish Inquisition" sketch.
Sources: Andrew Melomet's review of Biggles – Adventures in Time in the September 2009 St. Mihiel Trip-Wire and Wikipedia.