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Chocks away - extremely rare first ever Biggles book to be auctioned in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 20:31 14 January 2018 | UPDATED: 20:32 14 January 2018

Bestselling author: Captain W E Johns, creator of Biggles, with an image of his most famous character.

Bestselling author: Captain W E Johns, creator of Biggles, with an image of his most famous character.

Archant

Adventure story fanatics will be setting their sights firmly on Norfolk later this month when the first ever book about fictional fighter pilot Biggles is to go under the hammer.

Keys auction rooms at Aylsham.
Photo: Bill Smith
Copy: ***
For: EDP news
Archant © 2005
(01603) 772434Keys auction rooms at Aylsham. Photo: Bill Smith Copy: *** For: EDP news Archant © 2005 (01603) 772434

An extremely rare first edition of The Camels Are Coming - the first ever book by W.E.Johns featuring Capt. James Bigglesworth (‘Biggles’) of the Royal Flying Corps - will be auctioned at Keys Fine Art Auctioneers in Aylsham.

The book, published in 1932, consisted of 17 short stories featuring the fictional World War One flying ace and his sidekicks Algy, Ginger and Smyth.

It was the first of nearly 100 books featuring the character written by Johns up until his death in 1968, a body of work which was wildly popular in its time, and which is still fondly remembered by a substantial number of enthusiasts.

The extremely rare first edition is already causing a stir among Biggles ahead of the auction later this month with the book expected to fetch somewhere in the region of between £500 and £600.

Keys Fine Art Auctioneers has appointed Robert Henshilwood as head of its Book Department.Keys Fine Art Auctioneers has appointed Robert Henshilwood as head of its Book Department.

Robert Henshilwood, head of books and ephemera at Keys, said: “First editions are always much sought-after, and when it is a first edition of the first book in a hugely popular canon like Biggles, it is sure to elicit massive interest.

“This volume is already being much talked about on the various Biggles-related internet forums, and we are expecting considerable interest when it goes under the hammer later this month.”

The book will be auctioned on the first day of Keys’ two day Books, Maps, Prints and ephemera Sale, which takes place on Thursday, January 25 and Friday, January 26 at Key’s salerooms at Aylsham.

Born in India in 1893, author William Earle Johns first served as an infantryman in Gallipolli and Macedonia, before joining the Royal Flying Corps in 1917.

In September 1918 he was shot down over the Western Front; his navigator was killed, but Mr Johns survived and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.

After finally leaving the RAF in 1927 with the rank of Flying Officer, he started writing short stories, 17 of which form the first Biggles book, ‘The Camels Are Coming’. He wrote nearly 100 Biggles books before his death in 1968, aged 75.

Before the war Johns was a sanitary inspector in Swaffham while he learned to fly at No.25 Flying Training School in Thetford.

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