James Norman Hall, co-author of “Mutiny on the Bounty,” experienced his first taste of mutiny at the end of World War One.
North of where Hall was held captive in a German Prisoner of War Camp, the Dreadnaught “Prinzregent Luitpold” was tied up at a dock near the Kiel Canal.
It was September, 1918. Everyone knew the war was over and that Germany had been defeated. Everyone was just putting in time and awaiting final orders.
Suddenly, out of the blue, came a new order from Admiral Franz von Hipper, sending the Dreadnaught into one last battle against the English Royal Navy in the English Channel.
This was Hipper’s sole idea –he had not been given higher authorization. He just wanted to do it. The German sailors were being asked to risk their lives in a naval battle for no reason at all.
The mutiny began with the stokers of the fires that created the steam power for the ship. The stokers simply refused to start their fires. The mutiny swept over the crew and eventually reached other naval crews. The battle was never fought.
The Kiel Canal is a 61-mile long German engineered waterway, leading from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. When completed in 1914, it permitted German warships, safely berthed in the Baltic, to reach out to the Atlantic and threaten the English Navy.
It was here that the mutiny began. It then spread throughout Germany, reaching over 500 miles south to Munich, Bavaria, home of Gustav Krupp’s munitions factories.
There, it was witnessed by Herr Capp, an official at the German Prison Camp, where James Norman Hall was being held prisoner.
Hall had been shot down behind the German lines of the Western Front. He was being held in a prison camp near Landshut, 40 miles from the violence of Munich.
Herr Capp’s news of the mutiny and the end of the war were very disturbing to the German guards at the prison camp.
As Hall writes in his autobiography, “My Island Home”: “glancing out the window of our prison camp barracks, I saw a guard being relieved with a lack of discipline that surprised me.”
Conspicuously, the prison gate was standing wide open, without a guard. Eventually, the officer in charge told the surprised prisoners “you may go now”. He then suggested they walk out of the prison camp and try to get to the Swiss border.
Hall survived and made it to US Aviation Headquarters in Paris.
Then began one of the most curious sight seeing trips one could imagine. The war was over and all the military equipment, which was once necessary, was now just scrap – and soldiers and flyers, once filled with purpose, now, like the crew of the “Prinzregent Luitpold”, had nothing to do.
Hall asked for and received permission to commandeer an airplane. He had his choice, since no one needed military aircraft anymore. He also was able to commandeer gasoline for the flight.
Hall took off alone, flying over all the battlefields once so important. The Western Front was now really quiet. Looking down, he could see the abandoned trenches; there was nobody there.
As he flew, Hall relived his memories of flying and the war. Then, he contemplated his future and where he would like to live. He thought of living in Tahiti. That might be nice.
Eventually, Hall wrote about his experience in the Lafayette Espadrille, the first French military air force, in his book “High Adventure”, which my audiobook company, Listen To Read, has recorded, with actor Andre Devin reading the part of Hall. (Free preview: https://listen2read.com/high-adventure/)
Meanwhile, in France, at Versailles, French King Louis XIV’s extravagant palace, in the Hall of Mirrors, next to where, in another time, Marie Antoinette was taken prisoner, a ceremony was taking place. The “Treaty of Versailles” was being signed.
The United States, England, France and Russia, the allied powers, stripped Germany of its monarchy, stripped Germany of 25,000 square miles of land and stripped Germany of seven million people.
It was ironic that Versailles was chosen for the dismantling of Germany, because only forty-seven years earlier, in the same Hall of Mirrors, Otto Von Bismarck of Prussia signed the papers to unify the country of Germany and make it into a world power.
What the Hall of Mirrors giveth, the Hall of Mirrors taketh away.
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