The CIX VFR Club Biggles
Club Events - Biggles à la Côtes du Rhône
A new Biggles Story by Capt. P.W.Dodds
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Briefing SEPTEMBER 2020
The Story Biggles frowned. "Where?" he asked. The Swiss airman repeated "Meythet - near the town of Annecy, the capital of Haute-Savoie department". Biggles wasn't familiar with French airfields and as he was in hiding in Grenoble had no access to a map. The Swiss airman continued "It's not far from Geneva, but we can't go there - too risky - but the Resistance can get Mademoiselle Caquet to Meythet without raising any suspicion". "So if we need to smuggle her out of France, why can't we just take her into the nearest small Swiss airfield?" asked Biggles. Madame Archambeau interjected, "There are enemy spies in all the Swiss towns near the border, but we have discovered that there aren't any at Locarno" "Locarno?" Biggles asked incredulously. "But that's almost in Italy". He had heard of the famous resort at the northern end of Lake Maggiore. "Exactly". Madame Archambeau responded. "The enemy will not be looking for French spies so far from their own country". She spoke sternly, but didn't look anything like what Biggles imagined a French Resistance leader would look like. She had brought him some supper together with the Swiss airman who was to provide a briefing for the mission.

Leon, the Swiss airman, put up his hand "Excusez moi" he said, lapsing into his native tongue before continuing in quite good English. "It is possible to fly a small aircraft from Meythet to Locarno without exceeding 600 metres almost all the way by flying through the valley of the Rhône. So you will not be detected we expect.  We asked for you, Monsieur Bigglesworth, because we know you have the skill to make such a flight" "I thought the river Rhône was in France", interrupted Biggles. Leon looked at him, Biggles thought, a little condescendingly. "The Rhône rises from the Rhônegletscher in my country and discharges into Lake Geneva. From Lake Geneva, the river does then flow south through France to the Mediterranean." "I don't think we need a detailed geography lesson about the Rhône river", said Madame Archambeau, a little sharply.

Leon blushed and continued. "You will have to take off at dusk, and by the time you land, about one hour and forty five minutes later, it will be dark. You will need to fly over several airfields on the way, but they are all in Switzerland and we believe that there are no enemy spies there as they are not operational at present. We suggest you fly first to the village of Monthey, keeping low and south of Lake Geneva, and enter the Rhone valley at Monthey. Follow the valley past Martigny, and Sion, Turtman and Raron airfields. After Raron, the valley steepens so you will need to climb higher.

When you reach Ulrichen airfield, which is at about 1350 metres altitude, you will need to make a sharp right turn into a narrow and steep ravine called the Aeginatal leading to the Passa della Novena. I believe this area was once part of Italy." He paused glancing cautiously at Madame Archambeau. She did not respond to his second geography lesson, so he continued. "Once over the col, which rises to about 2,500 metres you can descend quite rapidly into the valley, and you continue in this valley of the river Ticino until it opens out and Lake Maggiore comes into sight, with Locarno airfield just before it. Be aware that the runway is not long and is unlit.

I mention lights - along both the Rhône and Ticino valleys run major roads which have lighting all along them, so as the daylight begins to fade, these roads will be your guide. Do you have any questions for me?" Biggles thought of one, but kept it to himself. "Why the heck did I volunteer for this mission?" Out loud he asked a more obvious question. "What aircraft am I going to use?" Madame Archambeau responded. "There are several private aircraft parked at Meythet, and the Resistance has arranged that any one of them can be made available to you. I will take you to the airfield on the previous evening and you can select which one you want. It will be made ready for you for when you arrive with Mademoiselle Cacquet the next evening."

"You must stay hidden here in Grenoble then until September 9th when I will arrange for someone to take you to Meythet to choose your aircraft. Then the following evening, September 10th, I will take you to the airfield with Mademoiselle Caquet and you will need to be ready to take off at 1900 hours local French time." Leon handed Biggles a map. "This is a civilian map, but I'm afraid, it is all we can provide. It does show the towns, villages and roads, and mountain heights, but not the airfields. As you will follow roads all the way, I hope it will be enough for you". "Thank you both, I will start my detailed planning ", replied Biggles, shaking hands with each of them. "So, until then, mon Capitaine, au revoir and bon chance", Madame Archambeau smiled as she turned to depart, up the cellar steps into the summer evening. Leon stood to attention and saluted before leaving himself the same way, leaving Biggles alone in the dark and damp.

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