The Enid Blyton Society
Five Go to Billycock Hill
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Book Details...

First edition: 1957
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Famous Five
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations


Dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Eileen A. Soper

Endpapers from the 1st edition, illustrated by Eileen A. Soper

Cover picture from Chucklers' Weekly, February 7th 1958, illustrated by Monty Wedd

1st German edition published by Blüchert Verlag, Stuttgart in 1959,
illustrated by Nikolaus Plump with the title Five Friends as Rescuers in Distress
Foreign Titles
German: Fünf Freunde als Retter in der Not
French: Le Club des Cinq et les Papillons
Dutch: De Vijf en de verdwenen piloot
Spanish: Los Cinco en Billycock Hill
Portuguese: Os Cinco e os Aviadores
Italian: I Cinque in Zona Militare
Swedish: Fem befriar flygarna
Danish: De fem som redningsmænd
Finnish: Viisikko Vapauttaa Lentäjät
Russian: Taina holma billikok
Slovakian: Slavna Patka na Clyindrovom vrchu
Greek: H Iiatiaa Ton Kataektoiion
Icelandic: Fimm á fjöllum uppi
Catalan: Els Cinc al Turo De Billycock

Brief Summary by Poppy Hutchinson: Whilst camping on Billycock Hill, the Famous Five, accompanied by Toby, a friend from a local farmhouse, encounter a mystery surrounding a Secret airfield nearby, and the mysterious disappearance of two planes. Toby's Cousin: Jeff, who is a Flight-Lieutenant at the airfield is also missing, and it seems as if he and an accomplice have made off with the planes. Can the children clear his name and discover the true culprits?

Full Review (This may contain spoilers):

Terry Gustafson's Review
"Just us Five together again on a sunny week's holiday!" says George giving Timmy a sudden thump of joy. Timmy retaliates and bites her head off! No, that doesn't really happen of course because George and Timmy have a pretty good relationship despite the occasional thump.
It is Whitsun and at Kirrin Cottage plans are drawn up for another camping trip. Quentin makes an appearance in his usual exasperated manner and Fanny his wife approves the children's holiday schedule and tells them to behave themselves then they're away.

How many times has there been a scene similar to the Soper illustration at the beginning of Chapter Two? This is the Five as we know them and once again we can take part in one of their quests — their sixteenth. They stop for ices at Tennick village and consume them under a tree outside the shop. Anne makes a remark which I think must have been uttered in every single story where one of the children owns a dog, and then they set off again to search out a good venue for their lunch. This chapter embraces much of the atmosphere which through the years has been remembered fondly by those who partook of the Kirrin books at an early age. The concept has admittedly been laughed at occasionally (in a polite way I hope), and satirized by a few outrageous personalities but would probably exemplify the Famous Five in anyone's mind when thinking of them in general terms.

Their destination is Billycock Farm and they meet up with their friend Toby whose parents own the place. Toby has a dog called Binky and a five year-old brother named Benny who also has a pet. There have been dogs, a parrot, a slow-worm, a goat, a snake, a fox, a puffin or two, at least three monkeys and goodness knows what else, but now we have a pig as a friend and counselor to one of the players — a pigling which, for obvious reasons, is called Curly. I can't say I'd heard the word pigling before ... when I referred to a small pig I called it a piglet, but apparently they're one and the same. Toby's mother gives them all a mouth-watering high-tea and then the Five set off to find a place where they can camp out under the stars. Up on Billycock Hill they enjoy the magnificent view and George spies an airfield in the distance. Toby, who has helped them take their camping gear up, tells them that his cousin who is a flight-lieutenant is involved with experimental aircraft at the establishment. There are obviously secrets connected with the place and it would be a great background for a Famous Five adventure.

They settle themselves into their camp and Toby with his dog Binky, goes back to the farm. In the morning he returns with some extra food for the hungry Five and whilst they are choosing the best place to visit a Quentin-like butterfly collector appears and they are introduced to him. He is Mr. Gringle and he often roams around the hill catching butterflies which he and his partner Brent, breed at his nearby farm. He agrees to the children visiting his work-place and as they move off they are joined by Toby's little brother who has been trying to catch his errant pig which has a habit of running away — at least that's according to Master Benny. The little boy seems to disappear after that but emerges again later after the rest of them have had a swim. A witch-like woman peers through a window at the group and they are informed that she is a kind of housekeeper and she also has a son who, when he visits, does any repairs that are needed and cleans the glass of the butterfly houses. Mr. Gringle makes the children feel a little uncomfortable because he's rather queer and seems to live in another world but the children view and admire the lepidopterist's wonderful collection. As they are going the woman they saw earlier appears and because Timmy is growling at her she points a finger at him and subdues the dog whilst uttering strange words! She would be representative of several ill-used crones that feature in the Enid Blyton series of books and an example might be Aggie from Five Get into Trouble. This elderly woman's name is Mrs. Janes and she warns them quite graphically about her son and tells them to go away before he sets his eyes on them. They leave and decide they'd like a swim so Toby shows them a convenient pool which is near the secret airfield. It might not be all that secret but it has the EB stamp on it which conveys an image of a place seen by few outsiders. There is a certain intrigue involving land which has been set aside for hush-hush government experiments especially those connected with clandestine experiments — remember the Manhattan Project? One EB example which comes to mind when this setting is discussed would be the top-secret area inadvertently visited by the children after the terrifying and highly dramatic episode heralding the end of the second Bill Smugs book.

They reach the pool and they all take a swim because Toby assures them it'll be all right despite the Keep Out notice but unfortunately they are chased away by a uniformed official from the airfield. Back at the farm they find that Toby's flight-lieutenant cousin — Jeff, is visiting. The children meet him and think he's a really decent chap. They would love to go up with him in his 'plane but there are doubts that he can grant their wish owing to the secret nature of his work. The Five set off for their camp on Billycock Hill and Anne manages to catch a butterfly which they think might interest Mr. Gringle so the boys take it to his residence and meet Brent, the chap who helps with the butterfly-breeding. He wears dark glasses and is also rather peculiar ... that makes three! They see the witch-woman again and give her some money because they are rather sorry for her and then they return to camp where they feel like listening to a little music on the radio which they have included in their luggage. As the years go by, Anne is slowly becomes more assertive and worthy of respect when she feels like making a point and she initially expressed this unexpected side of her character in Five on Kirrin Island Again. Now she states unequivocally how she loathes people who spoil the peace and quiet by playing radios at a high volume. She would like to "kick their wireless to pieces" and once in the past, Julian had to restrain her from scolding some people who were picnicking with their gramophone going full pelt! "Gramophone" is a fairly outdated word and I think there would be many young people who would puzzle over it just as I did when I came across the word "accumulator" (Enid Blyton's Book of the Year). I still don't really know what one of those was used for although obviously they were something to do with radios because Miss Brown bought one from a wireless shop to use for an aquarium. Anyway, Julian gets the radio and dutifully sets it to play soft music and then they hear something very loud indeed. Anne cannot reprimand the person causing this noise because it's the drone of an aeroplane and it's recognised as the one which is used by Jeff — Toby's cousin. It flies over their camp and down into the adjacent airfield. Later on Timmy barks, so Julian goes to see what's disturbing him and in the night's dimness he discovers a person whom he thinks is the butterfly man's helper apparently catching some specimens. Later on a storm blows up and they hear the throb of a plane in the wind and the rain and the darkness. Things are definitely starting to happen.

Next day they visit Billycock Caves and marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites and then, unexpectedly, a sudden high-pitched whistling sound fills their ear-drums to bursting point. Anne hasn't a chance to tell the perpetrators off because the din scares the hell out of them all and there is a mad rush from the caves to the open air as if a hundred dogs are after them!

The next chapter is entitled (as many have been) — A Dreadful Shock. This is where the excitement mounts when it is discovered that Jeff may not be all that he's made out to be! A daring plot has been hatched and two 'planes have been stolen from the airfield! Military police are quickly on the scene and the children are questioned. Mr. Gringle appears and from what he states a mystery arises concerning the man seen by Julian the night before.

The boys including Toby take it upon themselves to visit Butterfly Farm again as part of their investigations. Contrary to Anne's emerging strident personality, our George appears quite willing to forgo a night adventure but perhaps she just wants to protect Anne who would be left all by herself in the dark if she (George) went with the boys. The girls therefore just come part of the way whilst Julian and Dick together with Toby enter the farm and spy through the lighted windows. They are captured briefly but fortunately some unexpected (or expected) help arrives. Not to be put off they all visit Butterfly Farm again next day where they make further enquiries and learn of facts which are peripherally connected with the case in hand. At Billycock Farm there are discussions and then another shock — Benny and his pig have disappeared. There is a search for the little boy and the ongoing activity leads directly to the excitement which brings everything together at the end of any book which is part of a Blyton series.

Trivia: There is a Soper picture of the children gazing intently at Curly the little pig near the end and every time I see it I am reminded of a Caption Competition which featured in the now defunct Green Hedges Magazine. The winning witticism was: "Good old Joan. She knew we could eat a whole ham!" — which may be little dig at the Famous Five's gastronomic capabilities but it's all in good fun of course! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.