6th July 1951. Death of a Quiet Man. #FWW #WW1

On the 26th October 1788 a small sailing ship dropped anchor at Papeete. Then it  was a tropical paradise. The ship was on a voyage to study and collect breadfruit plants. A soldier from the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers would one day write a book about that ship. His name was James Norman Hall. Hall was an aspiring writer who in 1914 took a holiday in the UK. It was not his original plan. He did plan to go to Montana and become a shepherd. Being a shepherd in Montana is the ambition of a mad man. It is a cattle state bloody range wars were fought there to keep it that way. So it is perhaps just as well he came to the UK. Hall was cycling through Wales when war broke out. He first heard about the war on about the 8th August 1914. Deciding this was for him he headed for London, and on the 18th August enlisted at Hounslow in the Royal Fusiliers. Hall was one of Kitchener’s first hundred thousand, a Yank in the British Army. He wrote a book about his experience, “Kitchener’s Mob Adventures of an American in the British Army” . He served with the 9th through the Battle of Loos. While in the trenches during November 1915, Hall received a letter telling him his father was seriously ill. He applied for leave to go and visit his father in the USA. Permission was refused, but as an American he could be given an honourable discharge. Then he could go to the US, and reenlist on his return. Hall accepted and returned to the US. He did intend to reenlist and was about to return when he decided to visit Ellery Sedgwick. Ellery Sedgwick the editor of the Atlantic Monthly asked Hall if he would write a few articles on the Escadrille Americaine while he was in France.  Hall made his way to Paris where after a conversation with Dr Edmund Gros he joined aviation section of the French Foreign Legion. Gros was a leading figure in persuading the French to form an American Flying Corps as part of the French Army. After completing his training. Hall joined the Escadrille Lafayette in June 1917. The Escadrille Lafayette. the name of the squadron of Americans in the French Air service. Ten days later Hall was shot down. Badly wounded he did recover and resumed his flying career with the Escadrille Lafayette. on the 1st January 1918 he achieved his first confirmed victory.  Having served in the British Army, now the French Air Service, February 1918 found Hall commissioned into the US Air Service. He was now a Captain in the 103rd Pursuit Squadron. While with them Hall shot down two more German airplanes. At the end of March he became a flight commander in 94th Pursuit Squadron and before the end of April had shot down his fourth victim. A short while later, in May, Hall was shot down and captured by the Germans. After the Armistice he made his way to Paris. In Paris Hall joined the Headquarters of  US flying services. He also made his last flight in US Service, and flew the complete length of the Western Front from the Channel to the Swiss border.  After which Dr Gros ordered him to put together the histories of the pilots of the  Escadrille Lafayette. To help in him in this task was Charles Nordhoff. Nordoff and Hall formed a literature writing partnership that  lasted 28 years.  In 1920 both men sailed to Tahiti.  Nordoff married a local woman. Hall set off to Iceland around 1921 to write a travel book. Not able to complete the book and in debt he returned to Tahiti in 1924. Two events were the saving of Hall, his friendship with Nordoff and he met Sarah Winchester the daughter of an English Sea Captain.  Sarah the love of his life he married. Nordoff convinced Hall that both of them should write another book. The book “Falcons of France” published in 1929,was a fictionalised account of their life in the  Escadrille Lafayette. A year or so later they decided to write about the ship that had dropped anchor in 1788.  increasingly Hall found he was doing most of the writing but the partnership with Nordoff continued although Nordoff’s life was falling apart.  Drink and debauchery would be Nordoff’s downfall and he left Tahiti in 1940.  He died in Santa Barbara on 11 April 1947. Hall and Mrs Nordoff found him in the morning. Nordoff had died while reading a book. Hall returned to Tahiti and carried on writing.  On the 6th July 1951 James Norman Hall died of a heart attack.  He had served in the British, French, and American armies during the Great War. Hall is buried on a hillside overlooking Matavi bay Pateete. where HMS Bounty dropped anchor on the 26th October 1788.




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