Drummond, who played Bertie in the 1960s, talked about making the TV
series on 5th June at the CAA (the Club for Acts and Actors) in London
at a meeting of the Max Wall Society. David admitted he had never read
Biggles, he was much more of a Just William fan. David is an engaging
speaker and he remembered quite a lot after 50 years - actors often
The promised set of all the episodes Network have promised us is still
not available. David showed us three episodes, the first two of “Biggles
on the Home Front” and the last one of “Biggles on Mystery
island”. David obtained these episodes from ITV. He was told they
had every episode in their archives, but when asked to find them, this
was sadly not the case. We must hope that Network was not relying on
them for copies of the series.
The main cast was Nevil Whiting (Biggles), David Drummond (Bertie),
John Leyton (Ginger) and Carl Duering as von Stalhein. David had
been in a commercial in which he played a submarine commander, and he
was remembered from that when they were casting the series. At the time
he was appearing in a play that was not very successful so there was
no worry about contracts, he became available for the series. There
was some discussion about Algy and Bertie, and it was decided to combine
the two roles, possibly because there was not sufficient funds for a
fourth actor in the team.
They were told to go to Bermans and equip themselves with flying jackets
and boots, which David rather enjoyed. The director first wanted Bertie
to carry a hamster. David managed to get this changed to allow him to
carry a walking stick, of which he had quite a collection.
Director Matthew Boddy decided the actors should have a flying lesson.
They went up with David in the second pilot’s seat and John Leyton
in the back. At the point where David was to take over, he was told
“Don’t go up.” But he thought that was actually the
safest thing to do! When they got down, John was green, they had gone
up so sharply he thought they were going to loop the loop!
Nevil Whiting played the lead in a number of musicals. The youngest
member of the team, John Leyton, received a lot of fan mail during the
series. It was after this that someone suggested to Leyton that he might
try his luck as a pop singer because he looked like one! The second
song he recorded, “Johnny, Remember Me”, became a big hit,
and Leyton still tours as a singer to this day. David continued acting,
and has a specialist bookshop in Cecil Court, in London.
The series had some interesting actors in the supporting roles. Oliver
Reed and Terrence Alexander were both in the first series. Reed played
baddie Gus Norman in “Biggles on the Home Front”. Reed was
already a hell raiser and was in a fracas in Oxford Street, Manchester,
just before they started filming so they thought they were lucky to
get him in one piece! David says he was asked to speak with his friend
Max Wall to see if he would play Ragpicker but “No" said
David in his lovely ‘Max Wall' voice so the part was taken by
John Gabriel. John Laurie was also in "Flies North”. The
team were expected to be role models. In one of the episodes we saw
Biggles was offered a cigarette and responded “No thanks, I don't
use them." I wonder what Johns thought of that!
Granada sold the series to Australia, where it was repeated, was shown
again on late night TV, and is probably better known than in the UK.
The composer was Tony Spier who also wrote the "Coronation Street”
theme. The script writer was Tony Warren, whose heart was not in it,
said David. Warren had the idea for another series called “Florizel
Street”, which was later to become a big hit when renamed “Coronation
According to Network, the series will be available on 31st December