#IWW Connections, Scotland,The Boxer, 11th November, and, What a Wonderful World.

Often, like most people, wondered what the connection between Scotland of,

O flower of Scotland
When will we see your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen

The Boxer

I am just a poor boy.
Though my story’s seldom told,
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

by Simon and Garfunkel


I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.

by Louis Armstrong

and the First World War. i decided it was time to solve the mystery.. Scotland was, and still is, a far more tolerant society than the USA or England in the years before 1914. There was then as now a higher degree of religious sectarianism, but few cared what race you were. This did not apply to the USA. racism there was rife  having a darker shade of skin could see you dangle from the end of a rope in many parts of the southern United States in the closing decades of the 19th century and the opening decades of the 20th. it was a way of maintaining white supremacy. the American Civil War was over, but old times there had not been forgotten.  it was to escape the injustice of life in the USA that made Eugene Bullard, the son of a black stevedore and a Creek Indian hide aboard a merchant ship bound for Scotland. Eugene was actually heading for France, as he had heard that blacks were respectably treated there. however, the ship docked at the east coast port of Aberdeen in Scotland. All Eugene had to do now was earn a living.

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job,
But I get no offers, (Simon and Garfunkel)

He became a prizefighter, a boxer.  He seems to have been able to earn a living at this through out Scotland and England. until war broke out. Eugene Bullard headed to France and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in October 1914. Eugene fought as an infantryman at Artois, Champagne, and Verdun. a brave and courageous soldier, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire, and the Croix de Guerre with star, he was also wounded twice. In November 1916,  he was ordered to join the french air service, the Service Aeronautique, as a gunner. He asked to train as a pilot. In July 1917 he became the first Black American Combat pilot, and the second Black Combat pilot in the world, Ahmet Ali Celikten, an Ottoman was the first. From August 1917 Eugene served in two “Fighter” squadrons first with Spad 93, then with Spad 85. After an altercation with a French adjutant,  on the 11th November 1917, which end when Eugene knocked the adjutant out Eugene was transferred back to the infantry.  Dr Edmund Gros the head of the Lafayette Flying Corps refused to allow Eugene to transfer to the US Air Service on the grounds that knocking out the French adjutant and the illegal wearing of the French Foreign Legion had rendered him as unsuitable to serve in the United States Army. It was a sign of the times that he got 10 days imprisonment for knocking out a French officer, and 20 days imprisonment for wearing the wrong lanyard. For the next two years Eugene Bullard served in the French Infantry being discharged in October 1919.  after the war Bullard remained in France working as a musician and as a boxer. He re-enlisted in the french Army after the outbreak of the Second World War, escaping to America shortly before France capitulated. After the end of this world war Bullard worked in various jobs including as a translater for Louis Armstrong.

I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

(Louis Armstrong)

They you have it, the connections between Scotland, The Boxer, 11th November, and What a Wonderful World.

A hero to the French, back home in America he was not allowed to pilot a plane, and denied the recognition given to white Americans who served in the French Air Services. Eugene Bullard died of cancer on 22nd October 1967.

Additional information on Eugene Bullard and the other American Volunters who served in the French air Service can be found in Dennis Gordon’s excellent book “The Lafayette Flying Corps”, published by Schiffer Military History.


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