“Biggles! Put down that cat!” Group Captain Wilkinson stormed into the officer’s mess with a looked that could curdle ennui.
“It may be a spy!” Biggles stared closely into the cat’s eyes as it struggled to escape. “I caught it listening to me!”
“Put it down, I have a mission for you,” Wilkinson threw a briefcase on the table and sat down with a thump.
“Can I take the cat? Could be a double agent?”
“No,” snapped Wilkinson, “now sit down before I shoot you and the cat.”
The cat flew out the window the instant it was let go. “There see!” Biggles pointed. “Escaping custody proves it is guilty.”
“Shut up Biggles, this is important.”
“So, am I - I’m the famous Biggles!”
“Which is why I’m risking you and not someone I might miss.” Wilkinson slid a map across the desk and drew a circle around the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on the Persian Gulf. “You are to be equipped with only a Yakovlev UT-2 monoplane and a Russian camera. We need you to fly over Iran and take photos and destroy the nuclear plant. Either way, the plant will be destroyed.”
Biggles looked quizzically at the ceiling.
“Bother,” he whistled, “but blow me down with a bunch of trifoliate gorse berries, but how am I supposed to destroy a nuclear plant with just a camera.”
“This is part of the plan, since the town of Bushehr has over 100,000 troops stationed around it, armed with Russian ground to air missiles, state of the art phase array radar and a terrain so rugged camels commit ritual suicide rather than traverse it. You will almost certainly fail.”
Biggles rolled his eyes and looked wistfully at the window the cat had left through.
“Still not following you, old strumpet.”
“You are to be equipped with a Russian Lubitel 166 Universal single reflex camera. In advent of your certain capture or death, the spy mission will be blamed on the Russians and almost certainly start a small war between our good friends the Russians and our not so good enemies the Iranians. In the ensuing fog of war we are allowing our extremely good friends the Israelis to fly in and bomb the crap out the place and the world will be saved.”
“Saved by Biggles, I mean,” smirked the Group Captain.
“I’ll do it!” Biggles jumped up, “after all saving the world is what I do! Hang on, didn’t I do this two chapters ago?”
“Yes, which is why the Iranians will not expect us to try the same plot twice!”
The Yakovlev UT-2 turned out to be an open two-seater, cockpit trainer left over from the Great Patriotic War, with all the handling characteristics of an Abyssinian goat in a windstorm. Biggles had tied the cat into the passenger seat and decided to call it ‘Copilot Biggles’ after himself; rationalizing if you are going to call a cat something - Biggles is as good a name as any.
“Pilot Biggles to Copilot Biggles, do you read copilot?” Biggles said into the mouthpiece once they had reached 10,000 feet.
“Meow!” the cat shrieked in terror as it struggled to free itself from the complex of webbing Biggles had used to tie it in.
“Meow it is, old bean,” Biggles smoked a pipe and flew the airplane with his feet. He wasn’t the famous Biggles for nothing. “What’s our E.T.A.?”
“That soon, still time enough for a spot of tea, do you want Irish Breakfast or Earl Grey? I expect you’ll want milk.”
The cup of tea blew straight out of the cup and covered the moggy in Irish Breakfast. The sound of the aircraft, the rush of the wind, and the presence of captain James Bigglesworth was too much for it and it relieved itself at every opportunity. The ground crew was going to have a fit when they saw the cockpit.
They soon flew into a sandstorm that not only filled the intake valves, it also covered the instruments and swamped the cockpit with sand up to the ankles. Under any other pilot, the plane would have gone down faster than an archdeacon on the under-fifteen rugby team, but Biggles managed to achieve the impossible by redirecting the exhaust pipe to the front of the intake and blew all the sand out - quicker than the above mentioned archdeacon discovering the Parents and Friends Association was due in the Gym in five minutes.
Meanwhile the cat had wriggled itself free and was climbing out on the wing, to get as far away as possible from the madman in the cockpit. Biggles was having none of this, put the plane on autopilot, an instrument the plane didn’t possess and joined the cat on the wing for a spot of catch-the-frenzied-moggy, before finally dragging it back to the cockpit and tying it back in again. Just in time to stop the plane nose-diving into the side of a mountain.
Three minutes later the Ack-Ack over Bushehr opened up with all the fury of Madeline College all girls hockey team, as 100,000 Iranian troops let fire with enough ground to air missiles to bring down a category nine hurricane.
“I say Copilot Biggles!” Biggles whistled through his moustache, “the blighters are expecting us.” As he ducked and weaved through the maelstrom of gyrating missiles with all the aplomb of Bradman discovering a dozen Bengal tigers hurtling down the pitch.
That Biggles was able to avoid be hit while flying a fifty year old plane, says as much about the inadequate training the Iranians gave their troops as it did about how amazing was the famous Biggles. It couldn’t last long, and it didn’t, as the plane suddenly gave up the ghost and pointed directly to the ground; a move the Iranian guards were not expecting as the plane came screaming towards them, accompanied by the caterwauling of both Biggles and his co-pilot. At the last moment, Biggles pulled a 90 degree turn out of the exhaust pipe and landed on the roof of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.
It was the sort of move that only a Biggles could have achieved.
Instantly the anti-aircraft fire ceased as dozens of senior Iranian commanders stared anxiously at a plane perilously sitting on the Iranian nuclear power plant.
Biggles pulled the goggles onto his leather helmet and looked about to size up the situation. He was sitting on a giant concrete egg, the primary reactor of the power station and beneath him two megawatt thermonuclear reactors were slumbering. In every direction 100,000 Iranian soldiers were equipped with their Khaybar KH2002 assault rifles, or Saegheh 40 mm anti-personnel rockets, or most importantly Mersad Surface-to-air missiles and all were pointing them back at him. He also noticed that any move on his part meant the plane creaked ominously.
It was at this point the cat meowed.
“No Copilot Biggles!” Biggles yelled, “Now is not the time for kitty-litter!”
A bullhorn came sounding up the side of the dome.
“Who is that? Is this war?” the Iranian general yelled.
“I’m pilot Biggles and this is copilot Biggles.”
“Wait - which Biggles is the Biggles?”
“Both Biggles is the Biggles!”
“There is only one Biggles!”
“That’s me!” yelled Biggles getting irate.
“Then who is the other Biggles?”
A subdued whispering could be heard over the loudspeaker, until after some shoving and fierce punching, another general grabbed the handset. “Who is flying the plane?”
“I am! The famous Biggles!”
“And who’s the copilot?”
“The not so famous Biggles, well not yet, but after today who knows.”
“Is this an invasion?”
“Is this Iran?”
Biggles peeked over the side of the plane. “Then no not yet, but if you want to, you can surrender.”
Again there was fierce muttering from behind the bullhorn, followed by a squawk as someone pushed the wrong button.
“We are holding you hostage, until the West surrenders.”
Biggles stared furiously at the control avionics. “Fine pickle we’re in here Co-pilot Biggles.” He pursed his lips. “Speaking of food, time for a spot of tiffin. Do you have the marmalade?”
The cat continued rolling its eyes in fear and bit at the harness. Biggles searched around the cockpit for anything that resembled a tin of marmalade, then on reflection remembered he had no muffins to consume it with. He leaned over the side of the plane and yelled once more at his captors.
“I didn’t bring the muffins, have you got any?” he whistled through his moustache.
Once more there was a jostling around the tannoy and each general fought for supremacy over the only functional bit of kit in the Iranian army.
“If you surrender, we have a lot for muffins down here, and cucumber sandwiches as well.”
“Toasted or with crusts?” Biggles grinned.
“Ha! You’ll need to get up early than that to fool the famous Biggles. Cucumber sandwiches are neither toasted nor crusted. Show me your muffins!”
This oddly translated into Iranian as an inexcusable insult and one of the generals would have ordered the Bofors 40mm antiaircraft guns to open fire on Biggles on the nuclear reactor if the other generals had not wrestled him to the ground.
It was a classic Biggles Impossible Situation, the sort of unattainable adventure that only a Biggles could get himself into and then get himself out of without ending up in a box, and in this case there were two Biggles. The cat once more worked itself into a frenzy and escaped from its complex of webbings and dried cat vomit. Then it leaped out of the passengers seat and raced out to the wing where it hissed angrily and defecated over the side.
“That’s it copilot Biggles,” Biggles grinned, “you show them.” Then he shrieked as the plane started tipping ever so slightly under the weight of the cat. “Stop showing them old bean! I can’t trim the airspeed! Oh wait there is no airspeed!”
The ancient plane slowly inclined on top of the enormous dome, and everyone held their breath, until the cat –like all cats– ran up to the highest point around which was the other wing. Immediately the plane started tipping in the other direction.
All the Iranian commandos oohed and aahed as the plane seesawed back and forth, they all started leaning from one side to the other matching the cadence of the craft.
The cat started slipping on the fabric of the plane and accordingly leapt onto the only thing with any purchase, which turned out to be the leather helmet on Biggles’s head.
“Waaaaaaaah!” he screamed as needle sharp claws bit into his scalp. Biggles threw out his hands in sharp pain; one of them collided with the start button just as the plane started slipping down the side of dome.
“Waaaaaaaah!” screamed 100,000 Iranians as the screech of the airframe dragged itself down the concrete like the world’s largest nails on the world’s largest blackboard.
The engine started just as the plane slipped off the side of the nuclear plant and it picked up just enough airspeed to avoid smacking to the ground like a dollop of strawberry jam.
“Gory! Gory! What a terrible way to die!” Biggles grinned manically he raced above the heads of the Iranian generals.
“Hit the deck!” came the sole voice of the leading general as the plane’s propeller missed him by inches. Unfortunately, this was not only broadcast over the tannoy but also radioed to every platoon within a hundred miles, this had the overwhelming result that everyone was too busy spitting out sand to open fire, and Biggles had slipped across the Persian Gulf before anyone had the good sense to shoot him down.
Biggles was court-martialed for failing the mission and the cat was awarded the King George Cross for gallantry in the face of overwhelming stupidity.
Copyright reserved by Jim O’Brien ©