I’m currently in the UK doing some research at the National Archives, and I’m reminded that accidental finds are always more interesting that what you’re actually looking for. Amidst the voluminous correspondence of the Viscount Trenchard, I came upon the following translation of a German prisoner of war interrogation report, for a pilot forced down behind the lines in France:
Lieutenant Cyrus Roy Hall, 20th Res: Battn, Royal Highlanders, Canada, attached R.A.F. as pilot.
Age 24. Law student in Canada (Alberta)
Joined the army in October 1914 (Infantry) Landed in France February 1915. Transferred to R.F.C. 1.6.17.
The following statements of the prisoner concerning his flying career are to be accepted with great reserve as they do not agree in any way with the many papers which he carried on him. He states that he was first with the Squadron 45 which was at the time still using Sopwith two seaters, he was then transferred at this own request to a Bristol Fighter Squadron, and after four months service at the front as Pilot, he was transferred to England for testing new types, for which purpose on specially outstanding Pilots were accepted. After short service as a ferry pilot (flying new machines from Englad to France) he then left for France at the end of March with his present unit and he accomplished the most heroic deeds there, especially upon the four occasions when, as he hints, he crossed swords successfully with Richthofen.
The facts, however, are quite different. If he was in fact at any time attached to Squadron 45, which cannot well be doubted in view of his knowledge of the circumstances, he can only have been an Observer. We trace him as having been in England on the 31st July 1917 with a unit of the R.F.C. at Wantage Hall, Reading (apparently the Cadet School); at the No: 3 Training Squadron, Shoreham, Sussex, on the 26th Sept. 1917; at the Aerodrome of Colney, near London, in December; with the 74th Service Squadron in January and February 1918. He then finished a course in photography with the XVIII Wing (hitherto unknown) which at the time was subordinate to the 74th Service Squadron (since in France.) He only obtained his pilot license (No:10706) on the 24.2.1918 which is proof in itself that he could not have been a pilot in 1917. On the 13th March 1918 he was with the 85th Squadron at Hounslow, at the end of April with the Fighting Squadron in Ayr, Scotland, and on the 14th May he finished his Machine Gun course at the No. 2 Auxiliary School of Aerial Gunnery at Turnberry, whereupon he returned to the 85th Squadron at Hounslow. It is only on the 25th May that he paid his mess bill for the first time in France and this date is important as establishing when his unit came to France….
Prisoner is a prominent example of Colonial “supermanliness”. He considers Europeans as cattle, unable to think for themselves. He judged the English very harshly, especially the higher Officers, but he is also full of contempt for the men. Only Canadians and Americans are free and independent men, who know how to behave and look after themselves in all circumstances. It is apparently quite clear to him that the war has, up to the present, taken an entirely victorious course for Germany. He has, however, no doubt whatever that in the end Germany must be defeated.
1. Was there any piece of personal paperwork that Lieutenant Hall didn’t carry with him in the aircraft?
2. Do POWs have any duty to attempt to tell plausible lies?
3. The bit about Canadian “supermanliness” is utterly priceless.
I’m curious whether he ever received his law degree. It does appear that he survived the war, but I can’t find anything about him after that.