Borneo, the third largest island in the world, is the setting for most of the events in Biggles in Borneo. Located in Southeast Asia, the island was shared by a number of territories/political entities during Biggles' time:

  • British North Borneo - a British protectorate administered by the British North Borneo Company. After World War 2, this territory was ceded to the British Crown and became a crown colony. The colony gained independence in 1963 when it joined the Federation of Malaysia and is today known as Sabah.
  • Brunei - an oil-rich independent sultanate that at one time controlled most of the north and northwestern regions of Borneo. Occupied by the Japanese during World War 2 but regained its independence thereafter.
  • Sarawak - in Biggles' time an independent kingdom ruled by the James Brooke family of "white rajahs" with the capital at Kuching. After the war, the territory was ceded to the British Crown and became a crown colony. It gained independence in 1963 when it joined the federation of Malaysia and is today known as Sarawak.
  • Dutch Borneo - this occupied about 75% of the area of Borneo. It was part of the Dutch colony of the Netherlands East Indies. After World War 2, the territory gained independence as part of Indonesia and today is known as Kalimantan. Dutch Borneo was not mentioned in Biggles in Borneo although Biggles and his squadron would have overflown it to and from Darwin and to and from Cotabato.

Lucky Strike, located near Mount Mulu in Borneo, was a central location for air operations over much of Southeast Asia. It was just over 700 miles to Singapore and 800 miles to Surabaya. These were important naval bases, the former British and the latter Dutch, which the Japanese had captured. The novel is set during the time when the Japanese were advancing in the Southwest Pacific and completing the conquest of the Dutch East Indies and the Japanese would naturally have used these bases as staging areas. Cotabato, mentioned in the book as a major store of ammunition for the invasion of Australia is also about 650-700 miles away. Darwin, Biggles' main source of supply is about 1600 miles to the south.

Borneo has vast oil reserves, and even during Biggles' time, it was said that the oil from Borneo supplied up to 30% of Japan's needs for the war. There were oil fields in Seria, Brunei, as well as Miri in northern Sarawak, as well as a refinery at Lutong near Miri. These locations are virtually on Lucky Strike's doorstep and would have made plum attack targets. It's strange this was not mentioned in the book but perhaps Johns didn't know about them.


Map of Borneo. Note the location of Mount Mulu and the probable location of Lucky Strike.