Biggles in the Gobi by W. E. Johns was first serialised in 17 parts in the weekly magazine "The Eagle" from Volume 4 issue 17 (31 July 1953) to Volume 4 issue 33 (20 July 1953). The book was first published on 8 October 1953 by Hodder & Stoughton. There have been three subsequent editions in the English language, all hardbacks, with the most recent being the 1970 by Brockhampton. The events in the book take place in the early 1950s in the desert regions of Western China.


Biggles and his team are sent on a mission to rescue a group of missionaries trapped in one of the most remote regions on Earth, a desert oasis in the Gobi desert.


Note: The sections below contain spoilers. In particular, the plot subpage (click here) has an extended summary of the narrative in the book


The Special Air PoliceEdit

  • Air Commodore Raymond
  • Biggles
  • Algy Lacey
  • Ginger Hebblethwaite
  • Bertie Lissie

Friends and alliesEdit



  • Mig fighter - a jet fighter, probably a MiG-9.
  • Yak fighter - probably a Yak-17.



  • Pakistan (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh)
    • Dacca - now Dhaka. Launchpad for the rescue mission.
  • China
    • Nan-hu - the destination where the missionaries are hiding. An oasis with caves carved into cliffs rising from the Tang River about 20 miles south of Tunhwang. Fictional? Perhaps not. See article on Nan-hu.
    • Tunhwang (now Dunhuang) - an actual town, nearest settlement to Nanhu. Some of the captured missionaries were held there. Sometimes spelt Tunghang.
    • Tang River (Danghe) - actual river in the region. Navigation landmark.


  • China
    • Lake of the Crescent Moon - an actual oasis 6 km south of Dunhuang. Navigation landmark.
    • Caves of a Thousand Buddhas - actual site near Dunhuang. Today an important tourist attraction. Navigation landmark.
    • Suchow - actual town 200 miles to the east, mentioned as the location of one of the two nearest airfields.
    • Anxi - actual town on the Silk Road. Mentioned as the node of the nearest road.
    • Hami - actual town 200 miles away in the neighbouring province of Sinkiang further to the west- Mentioned as a location of one of the two nearest airfields.

Research NotesEdit

References to the pastEdit



  • Mention of "convoys carrying war stores to Korea" suggests the Korean War and puts the events between 1950 and 1953. It is more likely to be towards the later part of this period .i.e. 1952-53 as there was an earlier book Biggles Follows On also set in the Korean War and in between there are two other books.
  • 1952-3 is plausible. Even though the Chinese communists defeated the Nationalists in 1949 and founded the People's Republic of China in 1949, it took several more years for their forces to establish their hold over the more remote parts of China.