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The Press Cuttings Collection   :  (for Internet Mentions see here)

Report : August 2009   by Marie Scofield

As usual, thank you to everyone who sent press cuttings and information.

  The most outstanding item in this period has been the crash of a microlight aircraft into trees on a Dundee golf course, generating the front page headline “Biggles saved my life says pilot after crash landing into tree” in The Press and Journal, 13/8/09. Vince Hagedorn in pancaked microlight in treeThe Scotsman, 13/8/09 had a similar headline on page three. Both papers had further information on 14/8/09. The story was first featured on the BBC News, in Scotland and on Look East, on 12/8/09. (I have not heard whether it was covered on the news on other regions.) The pilot, a Mr. Hagedorn, of Chelmsford, was flying over Scotland. His fuel was running low due to bad weather conditions, although he said that he had half an hour's flying time left, when his engine cut out. He saw the golf course but could not land on it because of people playing golf and also trees. He thought “What would Biggles Do?” and remembered a World War 1 story in which Biggles had his propeller shot up while over enemy lines. Biggles was over a wood and pancaked his Camel onto the trees to minimize the effect of the crash. Following his hero’s procedure, Mr. Hagedorn stalled his aircraft into the trees so that the aircraft seat took the weight of the impact. He received only minor injuries. The aircraft was wedged in the trees and the rescue services needed a 44 foot ladder to get Mr. Hagedorn down.

As well as photos of the crash The Scotsman included an illustration labelled Biggles, but actually showing Algy! Mrs. Hagedorn said that her husband was a Biggles fan because “Biggles incorporates a lot of the values that he thinks are now lost in society, loyalty and devotion to a cause and perseverance”.

The Evening Telegraph website, 14/8/09, quoted Internet message board comments on the crash. Initial reports had said that the pilot ran out of fuel and some messages criticised him for this but he responded by pointing out that he did not run out of fuel but his engine cut out. The Essex Chronicle, 20/8/09, had a photo of Mr. Hagedorn holding a copy of Biggles in France. (A BFA reader identified the story as “Down to earth” in Biggles in France.) The same article said that a distant relative on Mr. Hagedorn’s father’s side was Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, while a great-uncle on his mother’s side was a Battle of Britain pilot, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross. The article also included some information on Biggles. The Chelmsford Weekly News, 20/8/09, had a front page photo with the headline “Thanks Biggles”. This has been excellent publicity for Biggles and an example of the quality of W.E. Johns’ writing, which is still able to provide help to readers.

Biggles Flies North was read by Michael Palin on Radio 7, in eight episodes from 27th July to 5th August.

On the BBC programme “This World”, broadcast 28/6/09, Willard Foxton talked about his father who served in the British Army and the French Foreign Legion. Willard said that his father was often sent on missions that that could have come from a Biggles book or the Boy’s Own Paper.

North Norfolk News, 30/7/09, was advertised by a billboard reading “Biggles over Norfolk”. To raise money for charity, pilots, wearing swimming trunks, were to fly a 40 mile course in open cockpit aircraft . “What would Biggles have said?” inquired the paper. It has been suggested that the Catch a Cloud Flying School may become the Catch a Cold Flying School.

The BBC programme “Country File”, broadcast 17/5/09, covered the Keeble Air Show and showed an SE5a replica with the name Biggles on the nose. BBC 4 on 15/8/09 broadcast “By Jove Carruthers”. Mike Jupp sought instances of the use of the name Carruthers in fiction and found that men of this name were usually admirable, upstanding characters, fighting for our cause. One example was in Riddle in the Sands by Erskine Childers, a pre World War 1 thriller in which Carruthers of the Foreign Office, yachting in the Baltic, uncovered and foiled a German plot to invade England. Carruthers, a Government Official in Biggles in the Jungle was mentioned. He was shown to be competent but not as astute as Biggles.

Andrew Miles, writing on “Books which changed me” in Friars Chronicles included Biggles Flies East in his list of six books which had a major impact on his life.

The book A different kind of summer by Caron Todd is a romance containing an episode in which part of the hero’s roof is blown off and he mourns the damage to his library. The only book mentioned by name is Biggles of the Camel Squadron. The person who sent this paraphrased the poem about Sir Percy Blakeney. “We find him here, we find him there, we find Biggles everywhere”. Another book Thunder and Lightning published by H.M.S.O. is an account of the R.A.F. in the 1991 Gulf War. The Victor tanker detachment had a teddy bear mascot, Biggles the Bear, wearing helmet, goggles and a flying jacket. His rations were small jars of honey and marmalade. A small log book was produced for him and he flew on many missions which were entered in his logbook.

BBC 4 had a documentary during the summer mentioning Hendon aerodrome and a scene was included showing a dinner formerly held there. A voice was clearly heard to say “What ho, Biggles”.

Royal Air Force News, 3/7/09, included a letter from a Group Captain, as a follow-up to a previous article on T.E. Lawrence, reminding readers that W.E. Johns was the Recruiting Officer who initially rejected, then was told by senior officers to accept, Lawrence’s application for the R.A.F. The Group Captain also mentioned Worrals, claiming that she was an amalgam of Amy Johnson, the 1930’s flyer, and Pauline Gower of the Air Transport Auxiliary.

The Oldie, May 2009, had a letter from a woman who praised the Worrals books for inspiring her to fly. She joined the W.R.A.F. about 1952 and had a career in aviation lasting over 50 years.

The Best of British, May 2009, had a letter praising the Biggles Flies Again magazine.

Addendum: Vince Hagedorn's pancake landing received wide Internet coverage - nearly 100 articles last time I looked. Here is the Scottish TV report, including an interview with Mr Hagedorn. Ed.

Please keep watching for mentions of W.E. Johns and his characters in the media.       Home page