The books were popular and were eventually translated into Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.According to stories in The Boy Biggles and Biggles Goes to School, James Bigglesworth was born in India in May 1899, the son of an administrator in the Indian Civil Service and his wife (née Lacey).On 16 September 1918 his De Havilland DH4 was shot down on a bombing raid.His observer, Lieutenant Amey, was killed (in two of the stories in Biggles Learns to Fly observers flying with Biggles are killed or badly wounded) but Johns survived to be taken prisoner of war.Various models on which the Biggles character might have been based have been suggested, including rugby player and WWI flying ace Cyril Lowe, fighter pilot Albert Ball and air commodore Arthur Bigsworth.The bulk of the Biggles books are set after the First World War, and after Johns' flying career was over.He retained a lifetime gift for languages and as an adult spoke French and German fluently, with a "fair command" of various other languages.He spent holidays in England, under the custody of "Dickpa", an eccentric uncle and inventor who lived in rural Norfolk.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross and bar. Johns description of the "Vandal", is a Vickers Viking Mk 4.
He has joined the RFC in 1916 at the age of 17, having conveniently "lost" his birth certificate.
Biggles represents a particularly "British" hero, combining professionalism with a gentlemanly air.
He transferred to the RFC and learned to fly in the summer of 1916, at No. Posted to France with under 15 hours, dual and solo, he first flew in combat in September 1916 with 169 Squadron, RFC, (commanded by Major Paynter). In late summer 1917, he was transferred to 266 Squadron RFC, commanded by a Dubliner, Major Mullen.
17 Flying Training School, which was at Settling, Norfolk, flying solo after two hours of instruction. His observer was another youth named Mark Way, a New Zealander. With 266 Squadron, Biggles flew the Sopwith Pup and the famed Sopwith Camel, developing a friendly rivalry with 'Wilks' (Captain Wilkinson) and the S.
Biggles is accompanied by his cousin Algernon ('Algy') Lacey and his mechanic Flight Sergeant Smyth, who are to accompany Biggles on his adventures after the war; added to the team in 1935 is the teenager Ginger Hebblethwaite. The author's initial war service was as an infantryman, fighting at Gallipoli and on the Macedonian front.