The Saro Cloud was a twin-engine amphibian flying boat built by the firm Saunders-Roe in the 1930s. Capable of carrying a crew of two and eight passengers, it was used by several airlines such as Imperial Airways and Jersey Airlines. The RAF also used it as a trainer for pilots of marine aircraft as well as navigators. Suppsedly the Saro Cloud was retired from squadron service in 1939 but some of them could as transports during the war.

The Saro Cloud and the stories of W. E. JohnsEdit

In Biggles in Borneo, a Saro Cloud ferried Wing Commander Crane (a RAF intelligence officer) and his companion Fee Wong from Australia to "Lucky Strike", Biggles' secret base in the mountains of Borneo.

Why Johns chose to a Saro Cloud for this part of the story makes an interesting question. The amphibian nature of the aircraft serves no plot purpose--he might just as well have used a Consolidated B-24 Liberator or if he really wanted a marine aircraft, then a Consolidated Catalina. As it is, the use of the relatively short-ranged Cloud raises the conundrum of how it managed to travel from Darwin to Lucky Strike in the Mulu mountains (a distance of more than 1600 miles). Johns was aware of the distance--elsewhere he says it takes the Liberator 7 hours to fly from Darwin to Mulu. Perhaps it was a specially modified Cloud with large fuel tanks or perhaps Crane, being an intelligence officer, had secret airbases like Lucky Strike elsewhere where he could get refuelled.

In several early short stories, there are various mentions of Saro amphibians on the Air Police strength. Although Johns does not specify the type, this is most probably the Cloud as it was the only amphibian produced in quantity by Saunders-Roe that fit. Anything older would have been highly obsolete. Hence in the short story The Case of the Black Sheep, Biggles and Ginger patrol the Rockall, Malin and North Channel sea areas looking for the Sirocco, suspected of bringing in contraband nylons using the air police Saro amphibian.

Biggles also used the Saro amphibian in African Assignment. Its use here signals some doubt about the choice of aircraft. Given the globetrotting nature of his assignments, we know Biggles always appreciated a decent range in his aircraft--hence he uses Halifaxes and Mosquitos, all able to travel long distances without refuelling. The Cloud has a range of only 380 miles. On a long hop to Africa, this would mean stopping to refuel every 2-3 hours. The Saro London would be a better choice but this was not an amphibian. The only answer must be that Biggles had extra tanks fitted in his Saro.

By Biggles in the Blue, the Saro, (and the Scud, Skud and other such appellations) had been replaced by the Otter amphibian and later in the 1960s, the Gadfly.

Worrals also used a "Scud" for her search and rescue mission in Worrals of the Islands. Here the Scud has two engines and is an amphibian. But it had been modified for anti-submarine work and carried a 20 mm cannon in the nose and had a dorsal gun turret fitted. It is really pushing it to think the Cloud could have been modified in this way.

Appearances of the Saro Cloud in the W. E. Johns storiesEdit


  • Crew: two pilots
  • Capacity: 4 to 8 passengers
  • Length: 50 ft 11½ in (15.28 m)
  • Wingspan: 64 ft (19.51 m)
  • Loaded weight: 9,500 lb (4,310 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 Armstrong Siddeley Serval III radial engines, 340 hp. The installation of the engines on struts above the wings made it possible for a number of other engines to be fitted if desired by the customer.
  • Maximum speed: 118 mph (190 km/h)
  • Range: 380 miles (612 km)
  • Service ceiling: 14,000 ft (4,265 m)
  • Endurance: 4 hours