Canadian Drama Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Examine Bishop's first interview with Lord Hugh Cecil in Billy Bishop Goes to War. What exactly makes it funny and how is the British War Office characterized through Sir Hugh? (Billy Bishop Goes to War by John Gray)

Expert Answers info

Pauline Sheehan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write2,388 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Math, and Social Sciences

In Billy Bishop goes to War, Billy Bishop has been encouraged, after a drinking session wherein the discussion turns to flying and getting out of the cavalry and all that mud! "The only way out is up" gets Billy thinking again about his dreams of being a pilot. He is encouraged to call at the War Office as there are "plenty of vacancies these days." This assertion is followed by a barrage of firing indicating the reason for the so-called  "vacancies"  (such as, death).

There is a problem for Billy as he is Canadian but Lord Cecil indicates that there is a way for even "bleeding Canadians" to get in and there is the distinct impression that the "upper classes" make the decisions anyway. As long as Billy is prepared to be an observer and meets the "qualifications" criteria, he is in.

The War Office is obviously taking any willing recruits and it's dubious "qualifications"  standards add dry humor to the discussion. On asserting that he has "tremendous eyes," can ski (which Canadian can't, right?), ride a horse (he's in the cavalry!) and can play sport (no proof necessary), Lord Cecil is suitably impressed.  

The decision is made and Billy is accepted as an observer. This does paint the British War Office as nothing more than a bureaucratic arm in the war effort, keeping the upper classes busy and ensuring a willing supply of recruits. There is little or no consideration of suitability.    

check Approved by eNotes Editorial