The Characters of Captain W. E. Johns
1. The Biggles Books
The series of 96 volumes (98 if one includes the two recent limited editions), plus the story in Comrades in Arms, has four regular heroes, as follows:
Bigglesworth, James (BIGGLES) begins as a First World War Fighter pilot flying a Sopwith Camel. Between the wars he becomes an itinerant adventurer in many exotic locations before being recalled to service as a Squadron Leader during the Second World War. The post-war books record his exploits in the Special Air Police, beginning as Sergeant but quickly being promoted toDetective Air Inspector in Another Job for Biggles. Though officially a policeman, many of his assignments are more concerned with counter espionage and thwarting various Iron Curtain plots in many different areas of the world. Thus the exotic locations continue though, in time, an increasing number of his adventures are set on the home front.
Hebblethwaite (GINGER), whose first name is never divulged, is a homeless youth of fifteen or sixteen when Biggles comes across him in The Black Peril, from which point he is taken permanently under Biggles' wing. As the youngest member of the team, especially in the adventures between the wars, he is the character schoolboy readers would be most likely to relate to.
Lacey, The Honourable Algernon (ALGY) is Biggles' cousin who first appears in 'The Boob', one of the stories in the first Biggles book, The Camels are Coming, and is thus present for the whole of the series. He becomes Biggles' second in command during the Second World War tales and for the Air Police stories after.
Lissie, Lord Bertie (BERTIE) makes his bow in Spitfire Parade but he is just another member of the squadron until he plays a major role in Biggles Fails to Return. He becomes a regular member of the team in the post-war adventures, where his 'silly ass' pose often deceives the opposition.
Some other characters, who appear from time to time and have a role in the story that follows, are mentioned below.
AIR COMMODORE RAYMOND is an intelligence officer in the First and Second World War books and between the conflicts is Colonel Raymond of Scotland Yard, in which capacity he has more to do with Steeley Delaroy than with Biggles. On his return to police duty as an assistant-commissioner, he is instrumental in setting up the Air Police and assigning Biggles most of his missions. He performs a similar role in many of the Worrals books.
ANGUS MACKAIL is one of Biggles' Flight Commanders in the Second World War books, also making a brief appearance in Short Sorties. He is badly wounded in Biggles in the Orient but recovers to fall a victim to a crooked scheme in South America after the war from which he has to be rescued in Biggles Takes a Holiday.
EDDIE ROSS is a Policeman in the United States who works with Biggles in Biggles' Combined Operation and Biggles and the Poor Rich Boy.
INSPECTOR GASKIN often appears in Biggles' English adventures, notably in Biggles on the Home Front,
MAJOR CHARLES is a key figure in British Intelligence who appears briefly in several of the books from The Camels are Coming through to the Air Detective adventures such as Biggles Follows On.
MARCEL BRISSAC introduces himself as 'the French Air Police' in Biggles Works it Out and combines with Biggles in many stories thereafter, especially Biggles Cuts it Fine, Biggles and the Pirate Treasure, Biggles Foreign Legionnaire, Biggles' Chinese Puzzle, Biggles Takes Charge, Biggles on Mystery Island, Biggles' Combined Operation and Biggles and the Noble Lord.
MARIE JANIS is the woman Biggles falls in love with in 'Affaire de Coeur', from The Camels are Coming, when he believes her to be French. In fact she is a German spy, intent on the destruction of the British Air Base but British Intelligence, aware of the plot, ensures that it is her farmhouse that is bombed instead. Because she loves Biggles, though, she goes to the air base to try to lure him away and, in trying to save him, succeeds in saving herself. In Biggles Looks Back, at von Stalhein's instigation, Biggles rescues her from Czechoslovakia and she lives quietly in Hampshire from then on.
SMYTH is Biggles' flight-sergeant, a master mechanic, in the First World War tales and then becomes a regular member of the team for the first three inter-war books, Biggles Flies Again, The Cruise of the Condor and The Black Peril, after which he gives way to Ginger. He continues his aircraft maintenance role in such stories as Biggles & Co and Biggles Goes to War and resumes his flight-sergeant duties, during the Second World War. In the post-war stories there are references to him continuing this role, together with the occasional appearance such as in Biggles Works it Out, where, despite their long association, they continue to address each other formally as "Flight-Sergeant' and 'Sir.'
TUG Carrington is one of Biggles' Second World War pilots, who reinforces the regular team in Biggles Hunts Big Game.
Hauptmann ERICH von STALHEIN is Biggles' most frequent adversary. He is first encountered in the First World War story, Biggles Flies East, resumes hostilities between the wars in Biggles & Co. and Biggles Secret Agent and is in opposition again in the Second World War stories, Biggles in the Baltic, Biggles Defies the Swastika and Biggles Sees it Through. In the post-war era he confronts Biggles again in Biggles Takes a Holiday and then, with increasing frequency, in Biggles Gets His Men, Biggles Works it Out, Biggles Follows On, Biggles in the Blue, Biggles Foreign Legionnaire, Biggles in Australia, No Rest For Biggles and Biggles Takes Charge. In these later books he is often working for Iron Curtain masters who, tired of his constant failures against Biggles, imprison him on Sakhalin Island, from which he is rescued in Biggles Buries the Hatchet. Thereafter he becomes an unlikely ally, appearing briefly in Biggles in Mexico and Biggles Takes a Hand, and playing a major role in the rescue of Marie Janis in Biggles Looks Back.
Hauptmann von ZOYTON is a German Second World War fighter ace who is Biggles' main adversary in Biggles Sweeps the Desert, where he responds in kind to a chivalrous gesture by Biggles. He re-appears as pilot to a gang of ruthless robbers in Sergeant Bigglesworth CID. but, although he escapes from custody at the end, presumably to be on hand for further adventures if required, he is not seen again.
WILKS (Captain, Squadron Leader then Group Captain Wilkinson) acts as Biggles' friendly rival in the First World War stories and Spitfire Parade. Between the wars, Biggles comes to his aid in Biggles Flies North and Wilks, in turn, offers valuable assistance in the first post-war adventure, Sergeant Bigglesworth CID. He also appears in the First World War story, 'The Hare and the Tortoise,' the final tale in Biggles Takes the Case.2. The Worrals Books
The series ran to 11 books (six wartime, 5 post-war), a story in Comrades in Arms and two short stories, recently published in the collection Winged Justice and Other Stories.
BILL ASHTON is a fighter pilot in the Second World War, who is also Worrals' boyfriend in her early adventures, Worrals of the WAAF, Worrals Flies Again, Worrals Carries On and Worrals on the Warpath. When he runs into danger in South Africa after the war, Worrals has to rescue him in Worrals in the Wilds but he is absent from the four subsequent adventures.
Lovell, Betty (FRECKS) is Worrals' close friend and ally in all her adventures.
Worralson, Joan (WORRALS) is an intrepid airwoman in the Second World War who proves equally effective in five post-war adventures. She regularly complains about male patronising and keenly asserts female equality wherever it seems necessary.3. The Gimlet Books The series ran to ten volumes (two wartime, eight post-war) plus a story in Comrades in Arms. The team also helps Biggles in Biggles Follows On.
Ashton, Captain the Honourable Frederick (Freddie) Ashton is a British agent working in France who helps Gimlet's team to return to England in King of the Commandos and appears on home soil in Gimlet Mops Up.
Collson, Corporal Albert Edward (COPPER) is an ex-policeman, hence his nickname, and a former heavyweight boxing champion, an accomplishment that is of great value in the stories. His Cockney origins are evident from his speech.
King, Captain Lorrington DSO, M.C. and Bar (GIMLET) is the leader of the commando group known as 'King's Kittens.' He is a stickler for discipline and a little more ruthless than Biggles at times. His home is Lorrington Castle in Devon but, in Gimlet Comes Home, he also inherits property in Scotland.
Peters, Nigel Norman (CUB) is discovered by the commandos in King of the Commandos as a fifteen year old helping the French Resistance, having been stranded after trying to find his father on the beaches at Dunkirk. As the youngest member of the team he fulfils much the same kind of role as Ginger does for the Biggles books. As such he frequently plays the major role in the stories, particularly in Gimlet's Oriental Quest and Gimlet Lends a Hand.
Troublay, Private (TRAPPER) is a French Canadian who spent many years as a trapper and prospector in the wilds of Canada, hence his nickname. As a result of this and the many contacts he had with native Canadians, he is an expert at following tracks and also with an assortment of weapons, particularly a bow and arrow.
4. The Steeley Books
Delaroy, Deeley Montfort (STEELEY) is so disgusted at the bad treatment demobbed servicemen receive at the end of the First World War that he becomes a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to help the poor. He is seen in this role in the first of the series, Sky High, but becomes an ally of the police in Murder by Air and The Murder at Castle Deeping. In the other books in the series, he rescues his future wife, Virginia Marven, from ruthless gangsters in Steeley Flies Again and helps to restore a deposed president in South America in Wings of Romance. The Five adventures are narrated by his old war-time comrade, Captain Eric (Tubby) Wilde and all but the fourth, The Murder at Castle Deeping, also contain a younger friend, Brian Ballantyne, an up-and-coming reporter. Steeley and Tubby also appeared in two novellas ('The Missing Page' and 'Nazis in the New Forest') but these were not published in book form till Steeley and the Missing Page & Other Stories in 2000.