The next morning at around 10 o’clock, Tommy was visited by a German flying officer who presented his compliments and invited him out to lunch. He sent a barber to Thomson to give him a shave and a little while later they went out for a lunch of hamburger steak, soup, beans and beer. The conversation was a mixture of German, English and French. The German aviator (Could it have been Schafer the pilot that shot Tommy down?) traded Tommy a blanket and bar of soap for his fur-lined Government Issue flying suit. These suits were much sought after by German pilots for their warmth and the stylish feature of wearing gear from a captured enemy. Thomson said he later lost the blanket but he kept the soap for the entire time he was in captivity and judging by the looks of most of the Germans he saw, he came to the conclusion that it was the only bar of soap in Germany.
PS * This isn't the actual bar of soap given to Tommy, this is just a photo to illustrate the story.
A day or so later on a sunny Sunday morning, Thomson was transferred to the city jail in Courtrai, Belgium. He found several other prisoners there both British and Belgian. It was at Courtrai that Tommy began to believe in angels for they were visited by three women – one English (a Mrs. Fosatti who had been interned since 1914, a French woman and a Belgian) who had formed a volunteer committee to visit allied prisoners. Their visits were tolerated by the Germans and the prisoners were very appreciative of the gifts of toothpaste, a fresh shirt and strawberries. In addition to these gifts the men were visited by the young daughter of a local baker by the name of de Saegher. The young girls name was Julia and chaperoned by her brother Henri, she passed the gauntlet of frowning German guards to bring the men fresh rolls twice a week. The morning Thomson was transferred out of Courtrai, Julia presented Tommy with a parcel containing fresh eggs, sardines, rolls and butter, worth at that time, their weight in gold.
Years later in 1940 when the German army again rolled across the fertile lands of Belgium, Thomson wondered what had ever become of the little girl who had shown so much bravery and kindness to him when he was a prisoner of war. He wrote a small poem titled “The Child of Courtrai” which was published in the New York Herald Tribune. Little did Thomson know that the young girl was now grown, married and living in the United States. The poem was noticed by a freind of Julia's and she quickly contacted the paper to let Thomson know of her whereabouts. Enquires were made, letters written and telegrams sent and a touching reunion was arranged. The local press picked up the story and several newspaper articles were written. Eventually even Time magazine got wind of the coincidence and ran a short story about it in the June 24th issue in 1940.
Note: The prison at Coutrai, Beligum as it appeared in 1918. This building was destroyed during WW2 and a modern building now stands in its place.
Well Tom, you have certainly outdone yourself this time. This is a fantastic posting with many items I had not seen before. I know what goes into a post of this caliber; thanks for the hard work and great presentation!
[B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]
[CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
[SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
A very enjoyable thread. Thanks!
June 26, 1918 - The transfer to Germany begins. The train stops in Ghent and the prisoners are housed in an inner room at the train station. Tommy reads the pitifull graffiti left on the walls by Belgians being sent to Germany for forced labor. They leave again that same day and pass through Brussels around 10 o'clock. Throughout the night the train continues on passing through Namur and Leige.
June 17, 1918 - Breakfast in Strassburg, crosses the Rhine by noon at Appenweir and by one that afternoon Tommy reaches the train station at Rastatt in Baden where they are marched to the old fortress prison.
June 18, 1918 - Thomson meets the first Americans he has seen in six months; Dr. Maxon, Dr. Kane and a Lt. Wardle....
Panoramic photo of Thomson's cadet class at Toronto, Canada Oct 16, 1917.
Details of the RFC side-cap, note the Canadian buttons.
Christmas card from the RFC training grounds in Fort Worth, Texas. Once the United States entered the war a reciprocal agreement was made for the RFC to undertake training for 10 Americans squadrons. In exchange both American and Canadian pilots would complete their training in Texas during the winter months.