The post war years
Johns continued to write his books. For the post-war Biggles stories,
Biggles was to join the “Air Police” which was not an original Johns'
idea. The Air Police had been created by writer John Templer, author
of “Jaggers of the Air Police” in 1936. Templer was a friend and former
business partner of Johns. Johns sold serial rights to various newspapers and magazines as well as one-off stories to the vast number of
children's annuals being published. Compilations of these stories were
regularly published in book form. In 1953, Johns moved back from Scotland to a mansion at Park House, Hampton Court, which overlooked the
Johns often saw and heard the Queen and her family. On March 15, 1954,
Johns' son, Jack, died from a combination of multiple sclerosis, diabetes,
and tuberculosis. Jack's mother was not to die until April 1, 1961. By this
time, it really was not possible for Doris and Bill Johns to marry without
creating a scandal because it would reveal that they were not married.
Such a scandal would have damaged Johns' reputation as a children’s
author and also his book sales.
The post-war years saw the sale of translation rights to the Biggles
books to many countries. They were extremely successful. In 1954,
Johns wrote the first of a series of science fiction stories and as a result
INFO Eduard - October 2021
stopped writing Worrals and Gimlet stories. By 1964, the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook placed Biggles books 29th on a list of the most translated
books in the world and Biggles was the most popular juvenile hero in the
world. However, sales in North America were low and Johns never really cracked the American market. The books were considered just “too
British”. Biggles stories were serialised on the radio and also appeared
in 1960 in a television series (although Johns' actual stories were not
used). In the mid 1960's Johns began to face criticism that his books were
racist and sexist as well as jingoistic although anybody who has read all
of the books knows that such criticisms cannot be sustained.
It was on the June 21, 1968 at 8.30 a.m. that William Earl Johns (born
February 5, 1893) stopped mid-sentence, whilst writing “Biggles Does
Some Homework” to make himself and Doris a cup of tea. He went
upstairs to her, sat in his armchair and suffered a fatal heart attack. He
died immediately at the age of 75. Doris was to die on September 26, 1969
If you are interested in the full details of the life of W. E. Johns you must
read “By Jove, Biggles! The Life of Captain W. E. Johns” by Peter Berresford Ellis and Jennifer Schofield, first published on October 15, 1981.