JOHNS, Captain W.E.

(1893 - 1968)
"AIR COMBAT HAD BECOME THE ORDER OF THE DAY AND AIR DUELING WAS A FINE ART"

Born at the tail end of the 19th century, William Earl Johns enlisted into the Territorial Army in 1913, saw active service from 1914 to 1917, and fought in both Gallipoli and Egypt where he fell ill with malaria.  At which point he came to a decision which was to change his life: “it seemed to me that there was no point in dying standing up in squalor if one could do so sitting down in clean air”.  He requested a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps and gained his commission in September 1917.  After the war he remained in what was now the Royal Air Force, working in London as a recruiting officer where he famously rejected T.E. Lawrence when he tried to enlist under the name of John Hume Ross.  Johns resigned his commission in 1931 by which time he was supplementing his income with aviation illustrations which he was selling to various magazines.  As an accredited “aviation specialist” he was also asked to provide articles and columns, which in turn led to him trying his hand at fiction.  The quintessential English flying ace, Biggles, made his first appearance as a young flying officer in The Camels Are Coming, published in 1932. In the forward Johns wrote “Captain James Bigglesworth is a fictitious character, yet he could have been found in any FC mess during those great days of 1917 and 1918 when air combat had become the order of the day and air dueling was a fine art”.  Johns found that his experiences during WWI where he had been involved in numerous dog-fights, crashes and becoming a prisoner of war lent both technical accuracy and an air of reality to his adventure stories.

Johns wrote other stories, including a series about the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force featuring  Joan Worralson, better known as Worrals.  He is best remembered, however, for Biggles who become a household name, appearing in nearly 100 stories and, at his peak, being the most popular hero in juvenile fiction. 

 

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Worrals in the Wastelands

JOHNS, Captain W.E.

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Orchids for Biggles

JOHNS, Captain W.E.

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Biggles and the Poor Rich Boy

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Biggles and the Plot That Failed

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