Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
W. E. Johns
William Earl Johns was born in Hertfordshire. In 1913 he enlisted in the Territorial Army as a private in the King's Own Royal Regiment (Norfolk Yeomanry). The regiment was mobilised in August 1914 and was sent overseas in September 1915. They fought at Gallipolli and were then posted to the Suez Canal. In September 1916 Johns transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. During service in Greece he was hospitalised with malaria. After recovering he was commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps in September 1917 and was posted back to England to learn to fly. He stayed with the RFC and then the Royal Air Force until 1930, leaving with the rank of Flying Officer.
After leaving the RAF, Johns became a newspaper air correspondent, and founded the magazine Popular Flying; it was in the pages of Popular Flying that Biggles first appeared. The first Biggles book, The Camels are Coming, was published in 1932.
At first, the Biggles stories were credited to "William Earle", but later Johns adopted the more familiar byline "Capt. W. E. Johns".
Johns continued writing Biggles until the his death in 1968. In all, nearly a hundred Biggles books were published.
Other less-famous characters created by W. E. Johns include commando Captain Lorrington "Gimlet" King; female aviator Joan "Worrals" Worralson (essentially a feminine Biggles, created at the request of the Air Ministry to inspire more young women to join the WAAF); and pioneering astronaut (ex-RAF, naturally) Group Captain Timothy "Tiger" Clinton, who first rocketed into space in 1954.
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