Here’s the intel for DC Thomson’s Commando Issues 4939-4942 – on sale now in all good newsagents across the UK and via various digital platforms. Two issues are set in the Far Eastern grandeur of New Guinea’s truly impressive landscape, which makes for an interesting backdrop to both the classic and news stories it features in… and there’s also a chance to be a Tank Commander for the day in a competition being run in every issue. (No, we don’t think you can take it home).
Commando No 4939 – Retreat – Or Die!
Story: George Low Art: Jaume Forns Cover: Janek Matysiak
Staff Sergeant Sid Charlton was a born soldier, tough and resolute. Caught up in the Allied retreat from Norway in 1940, he and his men were determined to live to fight the Germans another day — but they were cut off from the most direct route to the coast.
Led by an intelligent but inexperienced young officer, Lieutenant John Barclay, they had to take a dangerous detour through hostile territory. Commandeering a stolen enemy truck, the retreat was on…
Commando No 4940 – Flying Flea
Originally Commando No 235, (November 1966), re-issued as No 911 (February 1975)
Story: McOwan Art: Cicuendez Cover: Ken Barr
When war came to the island of Silau, south east of New Guinea, the pilots of a Royal Australian Air Force squadron laughed at two freakish-looking planes already operating there.
“Pop” Onslow and his son, Willie, ran an air-freight business which used an ancient Vickers Virginia bomber and an odd little crate called a “Flying Flea” — the Aussies reckoned it looked like a motor bike with wings.
When Willie took the Flea into the air and ran rings around the latest Tomahawk fighter the RAAF men considered letting the plucky civilians join the war effort.
“The little machine at the heart of the late Ken Barr’s wonderful cover is, of course, a real aircraft and not some kind of artistic license on our behalf,” notes Scott Montgomery of this re-presented tale. “Created by Frenchman Henri Mignet, his HM14 was known colloquially as the ‘Flying Flea’ because of the translation of its nickname, ‘Pou du Ciel’ — literally ‘Louse of the Sky’.
“I think it’s fantastic when Commando features these real life curios and it is even better when they practically become characters in their own right — and that’s certainly the case here.”
As Scott noted above, the Flying Flea was the creation of a French inventor, Henri Mignet who, after he’d failed to be accepted as a pilot, decided to build his own plane. Between 1931 and 1933 he tested and built prototypes in Paris and tested them in a large field northeast of the city. According to his later book, Le Sport de l’Air, he successfully flew the first successful model, HM-14, on 10th September 1933 and demonstrated it in 1934, He then published the plans and instructions in a book.
Mignet made the aircraft intentionally simple. It’s essentially a single-seat light monoplane built of wood and fabric and the original design has a two-axis controls stick, 18 feet pivoting front wing, 13-feet fixed, tandem rear wing and simple rudder. The propeller was powered by small motorcycle or car engine.
Mignet claimed that anyone who could build a packing case and drive a car could fly a Flying Flea and as the Movietone films above reveal, he flew the English Channel in his plane which cost just £70 to build. Numerous enthusiasts in Europe and the US began to build their own aircraft – including British flier “Mr Appleby” featured above, who built his version of the “Flying Flea” for £85. There were at least 500 planes built in France.
However, when a number of Fleas crashed when pilots could not recover from shallow dives, resulting in some deaths, both the Royal Aircraft Establishment in the United Kingdom and the French Air Ministry investigated the design and suggested improvements that increased the safety of the aircraft. By 1939, there were thousands of Flying Fleas but in other circles the aircraft retained its dangerous reputation.
The Shuttleworth Collection has an example in its collection of historic aircraft which it considers “not airworthy”.
Modern aircraft enthusiasts have continued to build their own aircraft and vary the original design over the years. French enthusiasts hold an annual meeting every June.
• There’s more information on the plane on the “Mignet Aviation” web site (in French and English), but please not the company itself is no longer trading. There’s information on the book and the annual event here on Eroland (in French)
Commando No 4941 – Ram Raiders
Story: Steve Taylor Art: Keith Page Cover: Keith Page
It was a daring tactic known as the “Taran” — using an aircraft as an aerial battering ram. Major Ilya Bezkhov of the Russian Air Force had used it on several occasions and lived to tell the tale.
When the Royal Air Force took on a mission to deliver four Tomahawk fighter-bombers to the Russians, Squadron Leader Peter Deacon clashed with Bezkhov, whom he viewed as unhinged — a danger to himself and everyone else around him.
However, Bezkhov saw the interfering Englishman as a coward. Could they work together to defeat the might of the German Luftwaffe?
Commando No 4942 – Kill Me If You Can!
Originally Commando No 1110 (March 1977), re-issued as No 2444 (February 1991)
Story: N. Allen Art: Dalfiume Cover: Ian Kennedy
It was only a bone, white and shiny, with odd painting and carving on it. An Aborigine mystic had said it would protect the wearer from any harm.
Well, if you’re an infantryman fighting in a modern war, you aren’t going to believe in that kind of thing, are you? Unless, of course, it starts saving your life — then you might begin to think there was something in it after all!
“Geography is, naturally enough, hugely important in Commando,” Scott notes of this story. “Every tale must have a proper sense of place — the authors and, especially, the artists must evoke each location realistically enough to convince readers of the story’s authenticity and create a sense of drama and atmosphere. Here the dense jungles of New Guinea are brilliantly brought to life by interior artist Dalfiume and cover illustrator Ian Kennedy.
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