Biggles Learns to Fly
This novel was originally published in 1935, and Biggles is a very familiar name to me as he was my mother’s favourite fictional hero. She grew up reading about his exploits and loved these books, but to me they sounded dull so I refused to read them. Now I was curious to know what had fascinated her.
The blurb says, “It’s the First World War and Biggles is just 17. The planes are primitive, combat tactics are non-existent … pilots … are reliant on the skill of their fellow crew, their wit and, above all else, bravery.” James Bigglesworth, aka Biggles, has to learn to be a good fighter pilot or die. And of course, as the hero, he becomes one of the best, despite having only 15 hours of training to begin with! He’s the perfect hero – likeable, modest, clever, loyal to his friends and resourceful. And so very young! I did wonder why his parents didn’t object to him enlisting aged only 17 (he lies about his age), but you have to admire his determination and courage.
Despite having no interest in planes or flying, I really enjoyed this book. It was a history lesson come alive – I was there in that horrible war, fighting the “Huns” with Biggles in “dog-fights” up in the sky. I learned the terminology (planes like “Pups” and Sopwith Camels), heard how he and his fellow officers spoke, endured the dreadful conditions and the mud. It all felt real because the author had gone through the same things as Biggles.
I’m not sure this kind of story will interest the average boy or girl of today. They’re used to killing aliens on their Playstations and old-fashioned airplanes may seem tame to them. However, if they’re at all interested in history or WWI, this book is a must. Highly recommended!