William Earl Johns was born in 1893 in Bengeo in Hertfordshire, England.
During the First World War, he joined the Royal Flying Corps. He served as a machine gunner at Gallipoli and in Greece and, from 1918, as a fighter pilot. He learned to fly in a Maurice Farman Shorthorn and soon became a flying instructor. Johns was posted to France where he flew DH2's on photographic and bombing raids over Germany. In 1918, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. A squadron of eight German fighters attacked his damaged plane, killing his gunner and causing the plane to crash. Johns became a prisoner of war. He escaped twice but was caught and sentenced to death. Fortunately, the war ended before the sentence was carried out.
After the War, Johns stayed in the Royal Air Force as a flying instructor and, later, a recruiting officer. He attained the rank of Flying Officer (not Captain), although he later called himself "Captain: W.E. Johns".
In 1931, he left the RAF to pursue a career as an illustrator of aircraft for magazines, books, brochures and so on. He also wrote some short stories, based on the wartime adventures of himself and his Air Force friends, for which he invented the character of Biggles.
The Biggles stories became extremely popular. John eventually produced 96 Biggles novels, numerous short stories and 71 other books - including air adventure novels featuring Worrals and Gimlet and non-fiction books on aviation.
Johns died in 1968 while working on the book "Biggles Does Some Homework", which he had planned to be the last Biggles adventure.