The biography of Erich von Stalhein, the skilful adversary of the famous British pilot Major James “Biggles” Bigglesworth, DFC, DSO.
However Erich never managed to receive the Pour Le Mérite medal (the “Blue Max”) for his services to Germany!
How von Stalhein grew up and managed to survive the totalitarian systems he worked for during most of his life.
This biography gives a perfect lead to the authentic Biggles stories written by Captain WE Johns between 1932 and 1968 and fills in some more of von Stalhein's personal background.
Bruno von Stalhein, Colonel of the Prussian Army and Commander of the Prussian Military Cadet College in Konigsberg looked severely at the Captain of his staff when he reported to him.
“Herr Colonel,” said the Captain respectfully. “ An orderly has just now reported that your wife has given birth to a healthy son at 10 minutes past twelve this afternoon. Your wife and son are both in good health. On behalf of the entire staff we are pleased to congratulate you and your wife on the birth of your son and we wish them both a healthy and good life.”
“Thank you Captain,” replied the Colonel soberly. “Tell Major von Tettau to report to me immediately and order the carriage brought round.”
“Zum Befehl, Herr Colonel.” The Captain clicked his heels and left the office.
That day, 15th August 1896, Colonel von Stalhein left the Military College, after handing over the command to his deputy, Major von Tettau, and went home to visit his wife and newly born son.
On his way home he thought seriously about what name he would choose for his son. His elder son had been named after him in Prussian tradition. What should he call the new arrival? Suddenly he made up his mind. This son, who was born to his second wife, Magda von Schwerin, would be named after his childless brother Erich, who had been killed, at a very young age, in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871.
He was sure that Magda, too, would love the name. When he arrived at his estate, just outside Konigsberg, he walked straight up to the room where his wife had been in labour.
The maid, just about to carry the little baby to the nursery, handed him straight over to the Colonel for his approval. Proudly Bruno von Stalhein looked at his newborn son. The little baby's steely blue eyes looked straight back into his father’s, revealing an innate healthy and forceful strength of character.
“You have given me a handsome, healthy, strong son Magda,” he said approvingly to his wife. ”Thank you very much.”
“Yes Bruno,” she replied softly. "The doctor said he is healthy and strong. We have a fine son.
Little Erich was brought up in a disciplined and severe Prussian style but at the same time, he also received a lot of loving attention in a carefree environment.
When he was 4 years old he was often to be found in his father's stables and soon he learned how to ride a horse, becoming, with the help of his father's groom, an accomplished horseman.
In true Prussian tradition, at the age of seven, he was accepted into the strict Military Cadet College at Konigsberg. His father was retired and Major von Tettau, who had in the meanwhile been promoted to the rank of Colonel, was now in Command of the College. That he was the son of the former College Commander did not give him any advantage. Rather it turned out more of a disadvantage because he had to prove himself daily.
Although he was a bright pupil, he disliked the lectures in the art of war, allowing his fellow pupils to reach higher levels than he in these studies. His teachers, naturally, found this attitude unacceptable and a letter was sent to his father about this matter. When Erich came home, his father left him in no doubt where his duty lay.
Consequently, Erich kept a low profile and developed a system to gain information about the study of the art of war clandestinely.
Once he succeeded in breaking into Commander von Tettau's office and so gathered vital information to pass an important test on the art of war.
There was another thing in which he excelled; disguising himself whenever there was a need for it.
When he was twelve years old he managed to get all the information he needed to pass his exams for his admission to the Higher Cadet College, where the second part of his military education began.
His teachers quickly noticed that Erich valued the importance of Military Intelligence work. Although Erich was still not one who excelled in the regular art of war lectures, yet he managed to survive by the art of trickery.
One of his teachers, however, Hauptmann Bergmann, was aware of both his tricks and intelligence skills. After school he taught Erich how to improve the latter. Personally Hauptmann Bergmann was very impressed by the way Erich managed to gather sufficient important information about the art of war to pass his tests. Without Erich’s knowledge, Hauptmann Bergmann protected his pupil and guided him through his education.
The lessons from Captain Bergmann were never dull and Erich became his devoted pupil. During military training exercises, Erich von Stalhein always undertook the intelligence part for his side and skilfully he managed to gain professionally vital information from his opponents, which invariably made his side the winner. Also striking was his perseverance in this intelligence work.
His fellow cadets never underestimated him in intelligence work. They were aware of his skills and always happy to have Erich on their side rather than have him on the side of their opponents. It was not long before his fellow cadets bestowed on him the nickname “Iron Erich”. They approached him with respect and were dying to get to know him better.
His fellow cadets, however, could not get through into Erich’s personal life and he never gave them the opportunity to get to know him very well. He had developed a healthy suspicious mind and never trusted other people with his own secrets.
In spite of this he acquired knowledge of almost all the secrets in and around the College. Although the discipline at the college was strict, there were many secrets among the cadets and when it worked in Erich’s favour, he did not hesitate to use this information for his own benefit. How Erich had gained this knowledge of secrets remained an insoluble mystery for the other pupils.
According to Prussian tradition they learned that they were the cream of the nation and that the existence of the nation was inextricably linked with the existence of the Army. Once they had become commissioned as an Officer of the Imperial Army, they were obliged to continue this tradition.
Although Erich von Stalhein lacked interest in politics and hated politicians he was extremely loyal to Germany and its Emperor The Kaiser, whom he greatly respected.
When the Great War broke out in 1914, he enthusiastically threw all his energy into his studies. He wanted to pass his final exams in 1915 so he could serve Germany and his devotion was rewarded; he managed to pass his final exams.
Instead of going to a regular regiment of his choice, he was ordered to report to the Military Intelligence Department in Potsdam as a Cornet. He was eighteen years of age at that time.
Within a week he reported to Major Ramcke, his new C.O. Erich thought that he was going to be sent off to a theatre of war, but instead he was ordered to take even more education in professional intelligence lectures.
This amazed him and he later learned that his posting in Potsdam was the work of his former teacher Hauptmann Bergmann.
In Potsdam he learned quickly how to gather and analyse secret information and how to use this information professionally. He got acquainted with the structures inside the Intelligence Department and learned how to handle the new and most secret radio transmitters, learning Morse code as part of his training.
Due to having England and France as opponents in the Great War he had to take lessons in both English and French. Because he was born and raised in Konigsberg, he also spoke Russian as fluently as he spoke German, so learning to speak English and French was not as tough for him as it was for others who had never previously learned a foreign language.
After 6 months of intensive training, he reported back to his C.O., Major Ramcke.
He was proud to hear that his teachers were very enthusiastic about his improvement and that his basic training now was finished.
Instantly he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the German Army.
Because he was such a successful student he was also allowed to train as a pilot officer-observer, which set the seal on his intelligence education.
The German Intelligence Department was already aware that the use of an aeroplane to obtain secret information would be of great benefit to them.
He was posted to the 33rd reconnaissance squadron at Berlin's Tempelhof Aerodrome, where he received his training as a Pilot officer-observer.
At that time, it was normal that an observer was higher in rank than the pilot of an aeroplane whose only job was to fly the plane.
The 33rd Squadron used unarmed Albatros reconnaissance aeroplanes which had an excellent flying performance. Erich von Stalhein learned how to take aerial photographs, use map co-ordinates to assist artillery officers on the ground and how to operate a transmitter while airborne. Together with his pilot he learned how to land the aeroplane on small fields at dawn and how to recognise camouflaged objects on the ground from the air.
After 3 months he received his brevet as an air-observer and immediately requested to be accepted for pilot training but that request was denied.
Instead he was ordered to report immediately to Major Ramcke to get his orders for his first mission.
Major Ramcke shook hands with Erich von Stalhein when he reported for duty and told him that he was very impressed by Erich’s development in the service.
“In this envelope you’ll find your instructions for your first mission,” the Major told him enthusiastically. “I expect you to bring it to a successful conclusion.”
"I shall not disappoint you, Herr Major,” said Erich proudly with an affable smile on his lips, a feature that was later to be well-known.
In his quarters von Stalhein opened the envelope and studied his orders. He and his pilot were to cross the front lines between East Prussia and Russia by aeroplane with a wireless set installed. Behind enemy lines he had to disguise himself as a Russian Officer and join the Russian Army. How he was to get hold of a Russian uniform in his size was a problem left to him to solve.
He was ordered to maintain radio contact with the German headquarters in that area while he was behind enemy lines. All the important information he gained from the Russians he had to pass via the wireless set. The only practical problem was, if they wanted to use the wireless, they had to be in the air in order to let out the wireless antenna!
That was a rather difficult and dangerous task to do in enemy territory but not impossible. They were, after all, well trained for this kind of work.
The next day he took the first train to Berlin. A taxi drove him straight to Tempelhof. Arriving at the airport he chose Kurt Schneider as his pilot and informed him briefly about their task. The next morning they flew the Albatros to an aerodrome on the East Prussian-Russian border. Once there, they both looked at the map and discovered a little field, about 15 miles behind enemy lines in an abandoned area, which could be used to land the plane. A large forest bordered the field and gave them a chance to hide the plane from any unwanted attention. They decided the field would be suitable and went to bed early because they wanted to start their first mission fresh and well rested.
The next morning, at dawn, they were on their way over the front line. At high altitude Schneider switched off the engine and they crossed the enemy lines without being noticed. At this time there were no Russian planes in the air and Kurt assured him that the Russian aeroplanes were obsolete. Next to the forest Schneider landed the Albatros smoothly, after a thorough check of the area, on the chosen landing ground. When he switched off the engine, there were no signs of any alarm. Quickly they pushed the Albatross into the forest out of sight and camouflaged it with branches. Next to the parked Albatross they put up a small tent and took some canned food from the plane sufficient for their immediate needs.
Erich dressed himself up in a Russian Captain's uniform, which he had obtained the previous evening on the aerodrome and which had once belonged to a captured Russian officer who was now a prisoner of war. When he was ready to go Schneider, who was to remain behind, saluted him and he left the secret hide out.
After a brisk walk he arrived at a small sandy road and soon he was picked up by a passing orderly on a motorcycle whom he had ordered to stop. There was no need to overpower the orderly because the man never doubted him and was very helpful. When they arrived at the first village von Stalhein ordered the orderly to stop and then alighted from the motorbike. Von Stalhein, now preparing himself for using his new name, Captain Konsky, walked to the local inn where he requested a room for the night. He was lucky. There was a room available. After a hot meal he retired and waited some time.
Later that afternoon he went downstairs and casually spoke with some people at the bar where he found out that the Russian sector headquarters were next to the village, situated in an old castle. That night he went down again and took his place behind the bar.
His luck was in that night. At the bar there was a Russian Lieutenant who was drinking more that he could handle and von Stalhein subtly encouraged him to drink more while taking care that he himself remained sober.
It was not long before Erich found out that this Lieutenant was working for the Russian staff at the local headquarters in the castle. Von Stalhein was very pleased when he had discovered that information.
After the Russian Lieutenant was completely drunk and had almost fallen off his stool Erich carried the officer upstairs to his own room where he took off the lieutenant’s uniform and laid him down on the bed. The lieutenant immediately fell fast asleep and Erich put on the drunken Lieutenant's uniform jacket. In the pockets he found some identity papers, which he could use.
Erich left the room through the window and climbed down the drainpipe onto the street. He went straight to the castle and the Russian headquarters. The guard at the gate glanced at the identity papers briefly. Without encountering any problems, Erich entered the Castle. He avoided meeting other officers and discovered that the field officers were all in a large salon. He saw that those officers were drinking a lot of vodka and with a look of disapproval he observed that they were all already in an advanced state of drunkenness.
Inconspicuously he walked through the castle and discovered the planning room with all the maps. Quickly he wrote down everything that was of military value, like ammunition depots, locations where troops were situated and all the artillery sites and aerodromes. With this invaluable information he left the castle again without any problems. Very early in the morning he arrived, dead tired, at the secret hide out and woke up Schneider.
He told the pilot about the value of the information he had gathered and he decided to fly straight back instead of just getting airborne and using the wireless to report.
They started the Albatross and flew straight to their own aerodrome. After he wrote his full report Erich himself reported two hours later to the German headquarters and handed the report with the secret information over to a Colonel with an explanation of why he had disobeyed the orders to remain behind enemy lines.
He told him that he did not want to lose the advantage of this knowledge by using the wireless so the Russians could listen in to his transmission!
At once Erich was ordered to report to the Commanding General who read the report and complimented him on his first successful mission and the conscientious way he had made his report.
There was no need for Erich to go back and once at the aerodrome he went straight to bed. A few days later, the Germans launched a major offensive in that area and they broke through their lines while the Russians fled in complete disorder into Poland.
Back in Potsdam Von Stalhein once more requested training as a pilot.
He received a medical examination but was rejected because of his eyesight.
They advised him to wear spectacles but he refused and adopted a monocle instead.
Together with his amber cigarette holder, they became his personal trademarks, well known to his friends and enemies alike.
During the German offensive against the Russians, Erich enjoyed a short spell of leave during which he went to stay for a while on the estate of his father who was very proud of his young son, and he filled his days with horse riding.
When he came back from leave he reported to Major Ramcke for duty.
That day Major Ramcke introduced him to a pretty woman whose name was Marie Janis. He was told that she was also working for German Intelligence in Belgium and France. They received new orders that were to send them both to France to set up an extensive intelligence network.
In Potsdam they made their preparations and both Erich and Marie enjoyed their co-operation and were looking forward to their mission in France. Besides their working co-operation they also fell in love with each other and the inevitable happened.
Major Ramcke found out that Erich and Marie Janis had fallen in love with each other and Erich was banned from the operation. They were both very disappointed that the department had separated them but there was a war going on and orders were orders.
Marie Janis was sent alone to France and Erich was ordered to go to Palestine.
Just before he left for Palestine he reported to Major Ramcke who gave him a piece of paper and asked Erich to read it.
Proudly he read the paper:
The Emperor is pleased to inform you that you are promoted to the rank of
Signed Wilhelm II, Emperor
Erich felt a glow of satisfaction that his devotion in acting for Germany against the Russians had been recognised.
Major Ramcke told him that this swift promotion was also because he had to go to Palestine. Being a Hauptmann would carry more weight and be more impressive for the mission. Von Stalhein received his final orders and travelled from Berlin to Turkey whence he travelled to Palestine and reported to Major Count von Faubourg, his new Commanding Officer. Enthusiastically he picked up his work as an Intelligence officer and set up an extensive network.
Because his mistrustful mind, mentioned earlier, he only told Von Faubourg the most necessary information and kept some vital knowledge to himself. Even his personal pilot, Karl Leffens, was kept in the dark about his secretive activities in Palestine.
From the same Leffens he secretly received his first flying-lessons, and after a while he could handle an aeroplane easily.
Erich von Stalhein worked mainly alone. He worked among friendly Arabs and used the name “El Sherif” Meanwhile the British were also active in that area. Their Major Sterne also worked among the Arabs.
One day, with the help of a few Arabs, Von Stalhein trapped Major Sterne and captured him. Von Stalhein noticed immediately that he closely resembled Major Sterne and he used this to his advantage. That same day, he left Zabala, dressed as Major Sterne to infiltrate the British Army in Palestine. From that moment on the Germans knew all about Britain’s Military activities in that area.
This continued until a certain British deserter, Captain Brunow, reported for duty at the desk of Count von Faubourg at Zabala. Von Stalhein was immediately suspicious of Brunow and with good reason as he later turned out to be none other than the famous Captain James Bigglesworth of the RFC!
Read Captain John’s book “Biggles Flies East.”
After his debacle in Palestine, leaving the British thinking that he was dead, Hauptmann von Stalhein secretly returned to Germany and was ordered to operate on the Western Front as a divisional intelligence officer until the Armistice.
After the war ended in 1918 he finally met the love of his life, Marie Janis, again.
She told him at once that her love for him was over because she had fallen in love with a British Captain named James Bigglesworth.
She had a short but passionate romance with this Captain whom she called Biggles.
Read this story in "Biggles, Pioneer Air Fighter" chapters 12 and 13 and in "Biggles of the RFC".
Very disappointed the rejected Erich von Stalhein turned his back on Marie and returned to his father's estate near Konigsberg to start a retired life where his thoughts were filled with revenge.
The Great War was over, the Armistice signed and Erich von Stalhein was dismissed from the Army.
The German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, fled to neutral Holland and stayed in the city of Amerongen until 1920 in a house belonging to some friends. Then he moved to the city of Doorn where he bought an estate on which he remained until his death in 1941.
Post war Germany, the Weimar Republic, was in a state of political disorder. In May 1919, the Allies presented the Germans with the bill for reparations. The Germans had to pay for the war damage immediately and they were forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
According to the Versailles Treaty the German Army was reduced to a force of only one hundred thousand soldiers. Embittered by Germany’s defeat and the loss of his love, Marie Janis, the proud Prussian isolated himself, made no friends and filled his time with riding.
When his father died suddenly there were more difficult times ahead for Erich.
Almost straight after his father's funeral, his elder brother Bruno, the rightful heir, claimed the estate.
Erich, like his mother Magda, did not get on well with his half-brother, Bruno, and neither of them could get along with Bruno's wife at all. Soon Erich, his mother and his little sister Magdalena moved to a house in Konigsberg while the estate was taken over by Bruno. Once in Konigsberg he started to study all kinds of foreign books on intelligence services.
A few months later, much to his surprise, Erich received a letter from a German nobleman, inviting Erich to visit him at his estate in Pomerania to discuss a new job as an intelligence officer.
Intrigued and eaten up with curiosity, Erich took up the invitation and reported to the man whereupon he found out that the German nobleman was clandestinely building up a new German Army! His former teacher Hauptmann Bergmann had mentioned Erich's name to him.
After a long discussion, Erich agreed to join this secret army and he was appointed, with his former rank of Hauptmann, into the so-called “Truppenamt”, the new name for the German General Staff.
That there was a need to build up a secret army soon became obvious. The Polish, in their expansion towards the Baltic Sea, threatened Prussia and German Silesia. Erich joined the staff of the so-called “Eisern Brigade” which covered the retreat of the fleeing Germans towards the city of Riga. Finally this Brigade was defeated and large parts of East Prussia fell into the hands of the Poles and were cut off from Germany.
Again Erich von Stalhein proved his value as an intelligence officer and high-ranking Officers started to notice his efforts. The defeat of the “Eisern Brigade” could not be blamed on Erich von Stalhein.
Because of this efforts and his ability to speak fluent Russian he was invited
to remain in the army and was stationed in Russia. His new official title was German liaison officer. He negotiated with the Russians to let the small German Army practise on Russian territory. The result of this diplomacy was the so-called "Treaty of Rapallo” in 1922. Formally the Germans and the Russians entered into friendly relationships and made secret agreements in the interests of their mutual defence. All this happened under the auspices of Erich von Stalhein.
Only a few years later Erich von Stalhein, now acting as a German millionaire, went to Holland where he managed to buy 52 Fokker DXIII one and a half strutter fighters. Officially the aircraft were bought for the Argentinean Air Force but instead of being shipped to Argentina, they headed to Russia instead.
The Fokkers were unloaded in a Russian port and brought over to Lipetsk where they remained in service for both the Russians and the secret German air force until 1933.
In 1929 Erich's mother died and in that same year his brother Bruno and his wife died childless in a car crash in Africa. Erich at last became the rightful heir of the
estate and let his little sister Magdalena take care of the estate in Prussia while he was too busy with his work.
Magdalena was now grown-up and married to Arthur Lowenhardt, a naval officer in the secret German Navy, who together with other officers was secretly trained in
submarine warfare, under Russian supervision, in the Baltic, thanks to von Stalhein's foresight and his influence with the Russian Authorities.
In 1935 the Germans had, for the first time since the Great War, started to build their own submarines which were manned by experienced crews, trained by the Russians.
In 1933 the remaining 30 Fokker DXIIIs were officially handed over to the Russian authorities by the same Erich von Stalhein.
Because of his correct attitude towards the Russians and his excellent knowledge of both the country and the language he was highly appreciated by high-ranking Russian officers, which was to stand him in good stead after World War II when the Russians would remember his skills.
This appreciation of his skills was very welcome to the wily von Stalhein and he used it to become well informed about the military structures within the Russian Army and gain valuable information about their defences, information that was of great value to the German Army Commanders.
The rise of the Nazi party overturned the Prussian von Stalhein's world. As a member of the old Prussian Military School he detested the Nazis without exception. The Nazis, however, knew how to play on Prussian sentiments. They promised a strong German Army and a thousand year Reich, so von Stalhein, too, threw in his lot with the new order.
In the beginning of the Nazi period there was a shortage of almost everything in Germany. Gold and precious stones in particular were much needed and von Stalhein was asked if he could manage to obtain these items in Russia. Von Stalhein tried to lay his hands on some but failed because the Russians were also short of bullion and gems. He went to France and discovered that there was plenty of gold being traded between various countries, among them Britain, which he thoroughly detested. Consequently he informed his superior officers about the gold trade. Von Stalhein's new masters immediately ordered him to come up with a plan to steal gold and precious stones from the British. Erich was delighted with this mission and developed a master plan; he went to England and found Paul Cronfelt, a bullion broker and trader in precious stones who was willing to co-operate with him. Cronfelt unadvisedly contacted Colonel Raymond, who was an assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, and asked his advice on where to find a reliable pilot for transporting valuable goods to the continent. Raymond told Cronfelt he knew the very man and advised him to contact a pilot named Bigglesworth, so Cronfelt contacted Bigglesworth and hired him without first consulting von Stalhein. After some initial successes, von Stalhein found out that his former opponent in Palestine, the legendary Major James Bigglesworth, thwarted him at every turn. In the end, Bigglesworth put a stop to his activities!
See Captain Johns' “Biggles & Co”
It testifies to his courage that von Stalhein himself flew to the English Aerodrome of Hardwick and gunned down his former partner Paul Cronfelt, because of his swindling and treachery, while Biggles and the others looked on. For the first time Biggles became aware that von Stalhein was able to fly. Then Erich returned to Germany to face the music as his masters were extremely displeased at the turn of events. He managed to avert their displeasure and blamed it all on Cronfelt’s treason.
Erich was relieved of this job and received a new and interesting task;
he was to persuade important scientists in Europe to work for Germany.
Von Stalhein, now acting as the head of the Liechtenstein secret service, took Professor Max Becklinder hostage and created the illusion that he had died in a car crash. This raised the suspicions of the British Secret Service who had observed that several scientists had disappeared lately.
Please note: When the Captain wrote secret service he named Liechtenstein Lucrania!
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Secret Agent”
The astute Major Bigglesworth thwarted von Stalhein again and saved the professor from the Nazis in a spectacular way. From that moment on, von Stalhein harboured a sneaking admiration for Bigglesworth. When he reported the failure to his masters, he told them that he could use men like Bigglesworth on his own staff.
International tensions were increasing in Europe. Austria and Czechoslovakia were the first victims of the German Nazi expansion.
Most secret were the German preparations for the invasion of Poland. Erich von Stalhein was again sent to Russia and appointed as a liaison officer to the German “Wehrmacht”. Conscientiously he collected all the relevant information he could find about the Polish Army, which was of value to both the Wehrmacht and the Russian Army. When the preparation of the German campaign and later the Russian campaign, against Poland was finished, Von Stalhein was ordered back to Berlin.
During the Polish campaign the German Secret Service found out that a Polish scientist named Petolski had managed to escape to Russia, whence he had to escape again because Russia had also declared war on Poland. Then he escaped to Finland with valuable information on a new metal alloy for aeroplanes.
Von Stalhein was ordered to go Finland and join the Russian army, again under the cover of a German Liaison Officer. His real task was to find Petolski and get the information from him, whatever the cost, for the benefit of the German war effort. What he did not know was that Bigglesworth and his friends had joined the Finnish Air Force as volunteers.
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Sees It Through”
Bigglesworth's involvement in Finland turned out to be another debacle for von Stalhein and Germany.
Erich reported back at the Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin and was put on the reserve list waiting for another commission. It did not take long; he was ordered to Wilhelmshafen where he reported to a Colonel of the counter espionage department who informed him that strange aeroplanes were regularly attacking the Kiel harbour area. The Nazi propaganda system could not handle such an attack on German soil and they were afraid that it was going to have an affect on public opinion about the war. Hauptmann von Stalhein was immediately put into charge of ending these attacks with any means at his disposal.
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles In The Baltic”
This time they almost had Bigglesworth in their grasp, which would have been much to von Stalhein's credit, but again the Germans failed to capture the annoying Englishman. Hauptmann von Stalhein was blamed but he managed to get himself off the hook.
He was then appointed to the German Diplomatic Staff and was stationed in Berlin where he spent some time negotiating the delivery of Russian oil to Germany with the Russian Diplomats at their Berlin Embassy, having at the same time to deceive the British and the French about this matter. He fulfilled this mission to the satisfaction of his Superior officers and regained some of the respect that had vanished after his debacles with the British Major James Bigglesworth.
In 1940 von Stalhein was ordered to the Wilhelmstrasse as the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway. At the Wilhelmstrasse he learned about the presence of the British Major Bigglesworth in Oslo, Norway, from a report by a German agent. His superior Officers gave him his last opportunity to deal with Bigglesworth in Norway once and for all. Von Stalhein interrogated the agent involved and then flew straight from Berlin to Oslo.
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Defies The Swastika”
As we know, von Stalhein failed once more to apprehend Bigglesworth who became a real thorn in the side of his career as an Officer in the German Army.
His C.O. told him briskly that there were no more opportunities for promotion for him in the German Army and that he would remain a Hauptmann forever.
Then he was re-appointed to the Diplomatic Service and put in charge of Russo-German co-operation.
After the fall of France the Germans were in a euphoric mood. They thought that Britain was soon to follow the French example. During the Battle of Britain von Stalhein had the British newspapers flown across to him daily by the Russian Military Attaché in Stockholm. He collected all the relevant information about the British for his personal records.
He lusted for revenge and hoped that the invasion of England would soon become a reality. He had already put in a request to be transferred to England as soon as it had been conquered! However, history tells us that the Germans lost the Battle of Britain. With disillusionment and pain in his heart he tossed the request into the fireplace and put a match to it.
The Germans were mainly dependent on Russian oil and von Stalhein was ordered to co-ordinate these oil deliveries as he had before. When his superior officer secretly informed him that the Germans were planning an invasion of Russia he was ordered to increase the oil deliveries. Although he personally disliked the coming attack on Russia, he did his job so skilfully that the Russians had no suspicions and kept delivering oil to the Germans. Even on the day of the German invasion of Russia, a trainload of oil from Russia arrived in Germany! Thus finished his job in the diplomatic service.
His new job was to operate just behind the advancing German line because of his knowledge of the Russian language. He interrogated Russian prisoners of war and he kept doing this till the end of 1942. Then he was ordered to go to Turkey in German Diplomatic Service again. His orders were to establish an intelligence network in the Middle East and to keep the Turkish Government loyal to the Germans. As a matter of fact he managed to establish a very good intelligence network, which reached as far as Cairo in Egypt.
Now disguised as a French civilian, he went to Cairo himself, where he met the Egyptian Captain Mehdi el Naggar from whom he discovered the general dislike in which the British rulers in Egypt were held. The Egyptian Captain knew a great deal about the British Army and he passed a considerable amount of vital information through to von Stalhein.
The pressure on von Stalhein's organisation became ever greater as the war went badly for the Germans in North Africa. Even von Stalhein's indefatigable devotion was not enough to turn the tide in favour of the Germans. Germany was going to lose the war in North Africa and he was forced back to Turkey.
His brother in law, Arthur Lowenhardt, was lost in his submarine in the Atlantic and his sister Magdalena became a widow. With her son, Fritz, they suffered a hard time on Erich’s estate in Prussia now the Soviets were advancing.
In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany. Von Stalhein was a sitting duck in Istanbul. He tried to flee the country but did not succeed and was arrested. He was amazed that he was arrested by the Russians and not by the Turks. Soon he found out that the Russians who had arrested him were members of the Russian Intelligence Service, the NKGB. Von Stalhein was flown immediately to Moscow.
The Russians knew all about von Stalhein's secret network in Egypt still run by Mehdi el Naggar. They also knew his dislike of the British. They showed him a portfolio of photographs of bombed German cities and reminded him that the British were responsible for the destruction. They also promised him that the estate he owned in Prussia would remain into his possession and that it would be protected by the Russians against any possible Polish reprisals.
With his dislike of everything British and the promise that his estate would remain in his possession, he was easily persuaded to work for the Russians who
ordered him to contact Mehdi el Naggar in Egypt at once as well as the so-called Muslim Brotherhood and any groups with Communist sympathies.
The Russians did not underestimate the value of Egypt with the Suez Canal and wanted to secure it for their future interests.
Just before Germany surrendered to the Allies, von Stalhein started to work for the NKGB. The Russians threatened him that if he betrayed them, his younger sister Magdalena and her son Fritz Lowenhardt, who lived on his Prussian estate, would be sent off to a labour camp in Siberia. He promised loyalty to the NKGB and threw himself into his new job with renewed energy, enjoying the feeling that he was going to cross the British again.
Money was no object; there was plenty available in the NKGB. Von Stalhein spared no expense and dispensed large amounts of cash in Egypt to finance a good spy network. After a few months an excellent new intelligence network was operational in Egypt, but to his great regret, the NKGB took over the network and von Stalhein was sent on leave to his estate in Prussia. He and his family lived there without a care in the world, fully protected by the Russian NKGB.
One day when Erich had returned from a ride in the forest, a visitor arrived at the estate. He introduced himself as Colonel Kiskinsky and informed Erich that the Kremlin had put him in charge of the operational department of the NKGB making him von Stalhein's new boss.
He gave von Stalhein his orders for a most secret mission; he was to collaborate with a German national who called himself Doctor Liebgarten, but known to the Russians by his real name, Alois Brunner. Brunner alias Liebgarten was advertising an interesting project in South America in English newspapers - people with some money to invest could buy a piece of land, start a farm and begin a new life after the war. Many British, Australian and South African people, most of them sick of war, were signing up and spending their last penny on the enterprise.
The scheme was all a cover for the real business of manufacturing secret weapons from German wartime blueprints! Liebgarten was working with some German engineers to develop the weapons, and it was von Stalhein's task to get hold of the blueprints for the benefit of the Soviets!
Von Stalhein knew he would have no problem at all in infiltrating their organisation. Being a German and having worked for the German Intelligence Department he was sure his expertise would be most welcome. This mission would be his first post-World War II encounter with his arch-enemy Bigglesworth!
See Captain Johns' “Biggles Takes A Holiday”
The telephone on Erich von Stalhein's desk rang shrilly. The former member of the German Intelligence Department, who had defected to the Russians, stood smoking a cigarette, in front of a window in his East Berlin office. He looked at the telephone, irritated by its insistence. Making up his mind, he walked swiftly to his desk and picked up the receiver; it was Colonel Kiskinsky, his chief at the NKGB, on the other end. The Colonel informed von Stalhein that he was about to bring some people with him to discuss a very important matter with him. Later that day, Colonel Kiskinsky arrived at von Stalhein's office. He introduced his two companions to von Stalhein as Odenski and Jacob Theller. Odenski was a Russian chemist and Jacob Theller was a well-known German whom von Stalhein recognised immediately; Jacob Theller was a master forger who, when he was in Nazi service, had forged a fortune in bank-notes.
Von Stalhein ordered black Frisian tea with rum. Enjoying their tea, Colonel Kiskinsky explained the purpose of their visit; the plan was to build up an ingenious organisation to steal gold and diamonds from the West in the first place, then Odenski would use his knowledge to convert the gold temporarily into a substance that looked like fertiliser. It was far easier to transport artificial manure than gold to Russia and East Germany. Jacob Theller was put in charge of the organisation and von Stalhein was to be in charge of the practical side of operations and take control of that. Their headquarters, Villa Hirondelle, was situated in Eze, in the South of France. This villa was already owned by Jacob Theller who, known locally as Count Heinrich von Horndorf, was to build up the organisation with the help of Erich von Stalhein.
A fortnight later, von Stalhein and von Horndorf arrived in France. Von Stalhein left immediately for Nice International Airport, and succeeded in persuading a gullible British pilot, Canton, to work for the organisation. Von Horndorf saw an article in the paper about the so-called “White Prophets of Peace" who lived in the Ahagger Mountains at an oasis called El Asile. Seeing an ideal opportunity, he ordered the takeover of El Asile. Russian commandos, dressed as Tuaregs, were ordered by the NKGB to attack El Asile and assassinate all the inhabitants. Together with von Stalhein, he managed rapidly to establish a reliable organisation of adherents.
That the members of the organisation were criminals did not trouble von Stalhein at the time; his natural contempt for criminals was weaker than his hatred of the British.
A deserted aerodrome at Plaine de la Crau was found and made suitable for the organisation to smuggle the contraband into Europe. Canton and the Mexican pilot Louis stole some aeroplanes and bought others from war surplus disposal sales. Count von Horndorf, meanwhile, was searching for suitable opportunities to steal gold and precious stones from their legitimate owners all over the world.
For the continuing story, see Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Works It Out”
Von Stalhein managed to escape after this debacle. He gave the French Police, who were waiting for him and De Groot at Plaine de la Crau, the slip and escaped easily to occupied Germany. He reported to Berlin and a very disappointed Colonel Kiskinsky. Von Stalhein was not to blame. He insisted that if they had informed him in time about Lissie, he would never have been allowed to infiltrate the organisation. Colonel Kiskinsky accepted this explanation with distaste.
After the war, the pace of scientific development quickened rapidly and the Russians were desperately seeking an edge in nuclear experiments. Von Stalhein was put in charge of a new mission to amass as much nuclear information throughout the world as possible. One of the easiest possibilities was kidnapping leading nuclear scientists all over the world. When British scientists were kidnapped, Bigglesworth was ordered to put a halt to it.
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Gets His Men”
After this episode Biggles suspected von Stalhein was working for the Russians and reported this to Colonel Raymond.
Von Stalhein also had to report his mission to Colonel Kiskinsky who was very disappointed. He told von Stalhein that he would have replaced him immediately if he had not been very short of well-trained personnel in his own service. As he had before the war, von Stalhein told Colonel Kiskinsky that he wanted men like Bigglesworth in his staff. However there was no time for the Colonel to discuss this possibility with von Stalhein; the Korean War had broken out and the Allies were establishing NATO.
The Kremlin instructed Colonel Kiskinsky that he had to recruit men from Western Europe for propaganda purposes. Immediately he asked von Stalhein's opinion.
Von Stalhein advised him to recruit enlisted men from the Allied Forces. Enlisted men were badly paid and would easily succumb to the lure of large amounts of money and better conditions.
To establish this plan, he suggested using confirmed Communists who were already living in Western Countries. They could aid and abet the scheme. Colonel Kiskinsky was very exited about the plan and proposed it to his superiors in the Kremlin.
The same day, the Kremlin gave Colonel Kiskinsky permission to go ahead and he put von Stalhein in charge of the task. With the aid of some fellow East German agents he built up his organisation in a very short time.
Von Stalhein decided to go to England to recruit the enlisted men himself. Not only was he sure of success if he took personal charge, he also wanted to work in the field in England because of the knowledge about his arch-enemy, Major James Bigglesworth, who might get wind of it.
How this story went on you can read in Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Follows On”
The end of the story is known; Biggles managed to infiltrate the organisation and destroy it. Colonel Kiskinsky blamed von Stalhein and was furious. Von Stalhein, practical as ever, handed over his report, which blamed Stresser and the Chinese General Kwang-Sen.
Stresser was accused of treason and sent to Siberia for life; General Kwang-Sen was accused of incompetence and serious neglect of duty and executed by a firing squad.
Von Stalhein was spared and found himself landed with a new boss, Boris Zorotow.
Boris Zorotow, who was in charge of the special NKGB Department of Industrial Espionage operating in Western Europe, was very interested in von Stalhein's story about a wartime friend, Werner Wolff, and his secret papers. Wolff had possessed wartime blueprints and drawings of the German secret weapons up to the V18. When Germany fell to the Allies, Wolff fled to Jamaica with these blueprints and drawings and lived in comfort under the assumed name of Hagen until he died.
This V 18 development was way ahead of its time and could be of great use to the Russians. With their modernised industries it would be possible to develop this V 18 in no time, which would give the Russians an enormous advantage over the Allies. Von Stalhein was ordered to go to Jamaica and buy or steal the Hagen documents from the present owners.
By an accident of fate, von Stalhein and Boris Zorotow bore a distinct resemblance to each other. The astute von Stalhein suggested that Zorotow should accompany him to Jamaica to mislead the meddlesome British.
His experiences can be read in Captain WE Johns' “Biggles In The Blue”
The plot failed. Due to Zorotow's considerable influence at the NKGB, no charges were pressed on von Stalhein. Since Zorotow had been operating in his own interests, only a few members of the NKGB other than Zorotow knew about this operation.
After this episode von Stalhein was temporarily relieved of his operational job and ordered to smuggle weapons throughout the world. Although it meant an actual reduction in rank he accepted it to keep his estate and care for his sister and nephew.
A master plan devised by von Stalhein was again thwarted by Bigglesworth.
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Foreign Legionnaire”
There was no proof against the clever von Stalhein and his arch enemy Bigglesworth gave him a lift to Egypt where he disappeared again!
Von Stalhein returned home and enjoyed some rest.
Colonel Kiskinsky was now dealing more with von Stalhein's replacement, which was a great relief to Erich. Now he could spend some time with his family on his estate and he told his nephew Fritz about this famous Major James Bigglesworth, whom he secretly admired, but he was not to be left in peace to enjoy his estate for long. New developments behind the Iron Curtain meant that von Stalhein was summoned to the Headquarters of the NKGB in Moscow.
His new commission was Australia. He was sent to North Korea and from there he had to embark on a trip to Australia. Not far from the Australian continent, the Americans were testing new nuclear weapons and von Stalhein's task was to get as much information as possible about the progress of these tests. The Russians wanted to be fully informed about the Americans' progress in the Nuclear Arms Race.
He received a list containing the names of East German secret agents in Australia who were to be at his disposal. Von Stalhein, discerning as ever, objected that the state of the weather in Northeast Australia was not suitable for a sea-voyage and possibly would be detrimental to the mission. His Russian bosses dismissed his objections and ordered him to go. When he arrived in Australia he had to report to a man called Smith in Daly Flats. Smith was the leader of the Russian-East German secret organisation who was busy stirring up the native people against the white population of Australia.
Smith was ordered by the NKGB to tender his services to von Stalhein, but from the very beginning, von Stalhein disliked the mission and everything went wrong.
See the rest of the story in Captain WE Johns' “Biggles In Australia”
Von Stalhein was lucky again. After being warned by Smith's black servant, who told von Stalhein about the native attack on Daly Flats, he managed to escape with the yacht Matilda. Von Stalhein returned to sea immediately and called off the mission. Out at sea he made wireless contact with a Russian trawler that was poking about in that area. A few days later he was put ashore on the island of Java, Indonesia. From there he reached Red China by aeroplane and took the Trans-Siberian Railway back to Moscow.
His bosses were again very disappointed that this case had also ended in a fiasco.
Von Stalhein insisted that it was not his fault his photograph had appeared in an Australian newspaper and aroused the interest of that accursed Bigglesworth. Von Stalhein was sent to Berlin to await further instructions.
A few days later, Boris Zorotow visited von Stalhein in the Hotel Prinz Karl. At first von Stalhein was pleased to see Zorotow but his joy soon faded. Zorotow confronted him with his tasks against Bigglesworth all of which had failed. He handed over a bulky report with full details of all von Stalhein's shortcomings. Even his first confrontation with Bigglesworth in Palestine was fully documented in the report.
Zorotow told him that a copy of this report had been placed in a safe in his office.
“What do you think you will achieve with this report?” von Stalhein snarled at Zorotow.
Zorotow smiled with the same affable smile playing around his mouth, as von Stalhein was wont to do, and said silkily, “ I’ll keep this report under lock and key in my safe - just as long as you continue to do some odd jobs for me and are willing to be at my personal disposal, my dear Erich.”
“You are just a filthy criminal,” cried von Stalhein hoarsely.
“It is entirely up to you, Erich. It's your problem; if I hand this report over to our bosses, you've had it - you’ll end up in Siberia. You really have no choice,” was Zorotow's sober response to Erich's reaction.
“You're blackmailing me," expostulated von Stalhein incredulously.
“Back to business,” interrupted Zorotow in a sharp voice.
"We are going to make a trip to West Africa together, Erich. To Liberia to be exact, where we're going to work on an interesting project. In the United States of America, a black American has got his hands on a secret weapon. He thinks that he can become the Emperor of Africa with it. The weapon has already been flown into Liberia and we are going to steal it from this chap when we get the chance.”
Thus did the unfortunate Erich become an unintentional accomplice of Zorotow. He had to co-operate with Zorotow's plans, whose only value was for his own personal destiny and glory.
Von Stalhein determined he would finish off Zorotow once and for all. He awaited his chance.
See the story Captain WE Johns' “No Rest For Biggles”
Von Stalhein settled old scores with Zorotow in this adventure. Finally von Stalhein and his satellites fled from Christopher’s secret aerodrome with the kidnapped British Hastings and landed the plane in a neighbouring country. It took von Stalhein about a month to return to Berlin safely and he stayed in hiding for a while. He was hoping to burgle Zorotow’ s office to blow his safe and get the report, but he did not succeed.
Things were not going well for Erich. In Berlin he bumped into Colonel Kiskinsky at the Hotel Prinz Karl. He had a lot to explain. Other agents, who were also involved in the “No Rest For Biggles” adventure, had reported to Colonel Kiskinsky.
Von Stalhein succeeded in convincing Kiskinsky that Zorotow had been playing his own game, and because of this, the case collapsed.
Kiskinsky ordered von Stalhein to his office where von Stalhein learned that he was bound for France to help a Moldavian defector named Proetski. He and Proetski had to track down the Crown Jewels, which belonged to the Archduke of Moldavia.
Read the Biggles story, Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Takes Charge”
To save his own skin von Stalhein tried to get hold of the Crown Jewels in Paris.
But after the short chat von Stalhein had with Biggles, he vanished immediately.
If he had known what was going to happen in Berlin, von Stalhein would have been only too pleased to hand himself over to the French Police.
Von Stalhein, nevertheless, went to Berlin and sneaked into his room at the Hotel Prinz Karl. After a hot bath he was dressing when he heard a knock at the door. He opened the door and saw two men on the threshold. One of the men he recognised as Rallensky, an unscrupulous man who was doing dirty work for the KGB, the new name of the former NKGB. He did not know the other man but he was obviously a similar type to Rallensky. Rallensky pushed von Stalhein roughly into his room and followed him. A third person also entered the room; It was Colonel Kiskinsky. The Colonel closed the door behind him and looked straight into von Stalhein's blue eyes.
“I think that you are aware of the purpose of this visit," he remarked dryly.
Von Stalhein also looked straight into Kiskinsky's eyes, his face emotionless. Kiskinsky took an envelope out of his pocket, opened it and took out some papers, which he gave to von Stalhein with a triumphant look in his eyes.
"You know the contents of these papers, Herr von Stalhein?” he asked mockingly.
Von Stalhein glanced briefly at the papers. It was a full report about his shortcomings in his encounters with Major James Bigglesworth.
“I was aware of this report, Kiskinsky," he acknowledged in a matter-fact tone. "I know that Bigglesworth has constantly crossed my path but I am not ashamed at being defeated by him. He is skilful and helped by loyal friends; he has the best material to work with. I never had skilful men or good material at my disposal, neither from the Germans nor from the Russians,” was Erich’s response with a hint of admiration for his adversary in his voice.
“I have had enough of working with criminals and the scum of the earth,” he continued, looking disdainfully at Rallensky and his partner.
“You are guilty of contempt for the Soviet Union. I arrest you for being an enemy of the State,” barked Kiskinsky in German and then in Russian ordered Rallensky and his partner to tie von Stalhein's hands and take him to the KGB prison. Three days later, von Stalhein arrived in the disreputable prison of the KGB at the Lubianka in Moscow. They interrogated von Stalhein daily, often using force. One day, a KGB officer put a proposal to von Stalhein; if he was prepared to co-operate with Rallensky and the others he could save his skin. The proud Prussian refused to work with criminals and murderers.
Six weeks later a phoney trial was held and he was found guilty of high treason.
He was sentenced as an enemy of the state to serve a life sentence of hard labour on the Island of Sakhalin. In his last letter to his sister and her son Fritz Lowenhardt he bade farewell to both of them. Shortly afterwards, he was taken to Sakhalin. His nephew, Fritz Lowenhardt, left the country for England in an attempt to persuade Major Bigglesworth to save the life of his uncle Erich von Stalhein.
See Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Buries A Hatchet”
After von Stalhein arrived in England together with Bigglesworth and his friends, he found himself in a trying situation. On the one hand, he was grateful to Bigglesworth for saving him but on the other hand he had to deal with his personal feelings for the British. He was given a new identity as Lothar Bölke. He felt like a fish out of water. He was determined that he was not going to work for British Intelligence! When Air Commodore Raymond invited him for lunch, Erich was very wary, but the Air Commodore was well aware of von Stalhein's attitude and he put him at his ease, being very patient with him. He cautiously asked von Stalhein if he would be prepared to do some translation work to earn his livelihood. Von Stalhein agreed on condition that under no circumstances would he translate any secret documents that would benefit British Intelligence.
After this lunch, von Stalhein and the Air Commodore retired to Raymond's club. The Air Commodore treated him to a glass of French brandy and they took a seat in a quiet corner of the clubroom. The Air Commodore knit his brows in surprise when von Stalhein asked him if he could borrow a violin.
“I didn't know you were a musician, Herr von Stalhein,” said the Air Commodore surprised.
“As a child I learned to play the violin but to be honest, I neglected it during my career due to lack of time," von Stalhein told him. "My wish, at the moment, is to take it up again. When I am on my own, playing the violin will afford me some diversion.”
“I have a little surprise for you, too,” confessed the Air Commodore. “I play the violin, too. If you like, we could play a duet together sometime.”
They agreed they would arrange it, finished their brandy and left the club. They took a taxi and the Air Commodore directed the driver to a London street where a small apartment had been put at Erich von Stalhein's disposal.
Air Commodore Raymond showed von Stalhein around the small apartment and gave him an envelope with some money for his immediate needs. He handed von Stalhein his visiting card with his personal telephone number and warned von Stalhein to avoid publicity as much as possible before he left.
A few days later, Air Commodore Raymond returned to the apartment to hand over some translation work and a violin. Erich was very pleased with the violin and they took it in turns to play some classical music. From that date on, Air Commodore Raymond was a regular visitor to the apartment to hand over translation work and play the violin together. Their mutual confidence grew more and more each time.
This confidence was of course to Air Commodore Raymond's benefit and he was doing well out of it. Von Stalhein's first meeting with Bigglesworth after his rescue, was much friendlier than Bigglesworth was used to and was followed by the story Captain WE Johns' “Biggles In Mexico”
After this adventure Biggles reported to Air Commodore Raymond who told him about the secret hiding place of a treasure in the remote part of the world known as Tierra de Fuego. This information was given by Erich von Stalhein and was followed by the story Captain WE Johns' “Biggles At World’s End”
The mutual relationship between Bigglesworth and von Stalhein was improving and became much better after von Stalhein's warning which was followed by the story Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Takes A Hand”
From that adventure on, Bigglesworth and von Stalhein regularly used to lunch together and their confidence in each other became so good that one could say that they had become friends.
One matter, however, was never mentioned until von Stalhein brought it up, Marie Janis. This matter was followed up by the rescue of Marie Janis, related in
Captain WE Johns' “Biggles Looks Back”
In the end all went well and Marie Janis was saved.
She bought a small cottage in a little village in Hampshire where Bigglesworth and Von Stalhein visited her regularly. A few years later Bigglesworth and von Stalhein were on their way together to see Marie Janis when von Stalhein asked Bigglesworth to stop the car in a lay-by next to the road. They both got out of the car and lit a cigarette.
“Bigglesworth, I need to have a chat with you before we arrive at Marie’s,” said von Stalhein in a diffident voice.
“What on earth do you want to talk about?” asked Bigglesworth, obviously amazed.
“It is very difficult for me to talk about this matter, but I think you ought to know something,” said Erich with a slight catch in his voice.
“Well, go ahead," Bigglesworth encouraged him, puzzled. "I don't want to hang around here all day.”
“ I don't know if you are already familiar with the story. A long time ago, during the first World War to be precise, I worked with Marie in the German Intelligence Service.”
“I was aware of that Erich” interrupted Bigglesworth.
“But were you also aware that Marie and I were going steady till my Commanding Officer, Major Ramcke found out about it and separated us?”
“No, Erich, I was not aware of that,” admitted Biggles surprised.
“There is more to come, Bigglesworth. After the war I met Marie again and she told me that her love for me was over, ever since she had met you in France! At that time my world collapsed and for a long time I held a personal grudge against you, James. But luckily I began to get over it.”
The two men lit another cigarette in an embarrassed silence. Bigglesworth did not know what to say.
He finished his cigarette and lit another before he answered. He inhaled deeply on his cigarette and said, “I'm deeply sorry that I never knew about the love between you and Marie. Please except my sincere apologies that because of me, your relationship with Marie was terminated.”
“ Well, James, I can't blame you. It is Major Ramcke who was to blame. He separated us. If you are thinking of marrying Marie, you have my blessing,” said von Stalhein candidly.
Biggles looked straight into the eyes of his former enemy. “Thank you, Erich," he murmured pensively. "I shall think about it.”
“Why are we hanging about here?” asked Erich suddenly. “ Get in the car and let's go to Marie.”