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Report by Marie Scofield : March 2013

Telegraph Weekend, 27/10/12, ran an article about Stow Maries World War 1 Aerodrome in Essex, which had won an English Heritage Angel Award for restoration. It is probably the only WW1 aerodrome remaining in the world & was bought by the R.F.C. in 1916 for Home Defence, because of the Zeppelin bombing raids. After the war, the farmer re-bought the area & used the buildings for storage. In 2008, it was saved from those gremlins known as developers & is in the process of being restored. “The stories read like something out of Biggles” says Louise Gray & she comments on the atmosphere. Much restoration has been done, much remains to be done. (I have been there more than once & can highly recommend a visit – they have occasional flying days).

The Aeroplane, March 2012, wrote about the story boards created for the film “Biggles sweeps the skies” (never made). Some of these boards were acquired by Steve Slater, joint owner of the B.E.2c “Biggles Biplane” & the boards illustrate the biplane’s intended flying sequences. Flypast, Nov. 2012, featured the Sywell Air Show. One of the main attractions was a mock dogfight between the B.E.2c
& two Fokker Triplanes, showing what might have been, had the film been made.

The B.E.2c has attracted a lot of media attention. Aeroplane, Dec. 2012 & Light Aviation, Sept. 2012, both recorded that the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Phoenix Diploma for 2012 was awarded to Matthew Bonnington & Steve Slater for their restoration of the B.E.2c. Additionally, Steve Slater was given a write-up in Microlight Flying, Oct. 2012, when he had just taken over the job of helping airfields under threat, within the General Aviation Awareness Council. Flying Magazine, Summer, 2012 & Light Aircraft, Oct. 2012, both carried photos of the B.E.2c at different airshows.

Former De Havilland test pilot, Desmond Penrose, added the oldest flying D.H. design to his logbook, by flying the B.E.2c replica to celebrate the centennial of a British altitude record, set in August 1912 when Geoffrey de Havilland took the prototype B.E.2c up to 10,560 feet (in a tweed suit). Penrose, 82, flew slightly lower.

Liverpool Daily Post, 10/11/12, had an article headlined “Prices fly high for tales of Biggles”.  Christopher Proudlove spoke of his praying for rain, as a child, so that sports periods could be spent In the school library, reading Biggles. Roger Harris, a BFA reader, provided Christopher with information about collecting Biggles books & also a history of W.E.Johns.

Again, there are several mentions about people who read Biggles as children. The B.B.C. 3/12/12 had a programme “Dambusters declassified”. Guy Gibson, as a boy, was a fan of Biggles & apparently the programme showed dust wrappers of Biggles books. Reportedly, Roger Tisdale, one of the artists who did the drawings for the R.F.C. Centenary stamps had a “childhood filled with
Biggles”. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, who attended the Edinburgh Book Festival in August (Scotland on Sunday, 26/8/12), was also a childhood fan of W.E.Johns’ Biggles books, in particular the earlier ones which drew on Johns’ own W.W.1 experiences. Esther Rantzen, in the Daily Mail, 6/9/12, reminiscing about her late husband, Desmond Wilcox, said that she found his “favourite Biggles book”. In the same Daily Mail, Ben Griffiths, on flying a Spitfire, spoke of his childhood “diet of Biggles books”. The book “One Flight Too Many” by J. Taylor is the story of a Spitfire pilot in WW11. He spent his childhood pocket money on model aeroplanes,
Biggles books & comics based on stories of Great War pilots. “Diary of a Spitfire Pilot over the English Channel & Darwin” by Granville Allen Mawer, 2011, has a chapter by his son, who edited the diary for publication. The son spoke of his Christmas present books from his mother which were “Biggles, because your father loved them”.

Grantlee Kieza has written a biography “Bert Hinkler - the most daring man in the world”. Hinkler’s solo long distance flight England to Australia in 1928 established him in aviation history. The book was reviewed in Sport Pilot, Sept.2012, & the reviewer, Darcy Williams, quotes some rather exaggerated passages & thought that Mr Kieza “may have read a few too many Air Adventures of
Biggles”.

Track Watch, Oct. 2012, (a four wheel drive magazine), reported on the Hena 6 Navigator. The author commented that looking up locations of plots of Biggles books, led to his interest in navigation. He stated that “Biggles & his pals would have loved the navigational power & convenience of the Hena Navigator”.

Daily Telegraph, 11/10/12, had an obituary of Peter Tory, actor, journalist & pilot, hence his nickname of Biggles. Robert Maxwell, who owned the paper for which Tory then worked, misheard the nickname, &, never having read Biggles books, referred to Tory as “Boggles”.

Biggles faux leather & sheepskin Trapper Hat was advertised in The Original Gift Company catalogue.

BBC Radio 4 Extra repeated readings by Michael Palin of Biggles Flies North beginning January 4th.

Saga Magazine Puzzles, issue 2, 2012, had a clue “cousin of Biggles in the W.E.Johns’ books”.

On TV, an MSN Travel Video reported on vampire bats biting & killing humans in Peru, reminding us of a chapter of “Biggles Charter Pilot”.

Thank you very much to all who sent items & please keep looking.

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