display | more...

Major William Avery "Billy" Bishop, eventual commander of the 85 Squadron RAF. During his final sortie, which he started with 67 confirmed "kills" he entered combat with four (4) german Pfaltz* fighter scouts and emerged victories. He also shot down an LVG two-seater scout on his way home, pushing his unofficial final kill total to 72 enemy craft (sometimes he is credited with only 3 for a total of 70).

His squadron often faced off against elements of the infamous "Flying Circus" of Baron von Richthofen.

Bishop and fellow Canadian ace William George Barker founded the Toronto based Bishop and Barker Company after the war, flying out of Toronto. However, the business did poorly, and failed after an ill-fated stunt flying job at the Canadian National Exhibition when the two buzzed the crowd and caused a stampede.

* The Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke D Series Fighting Scout, a biplane, sturdy but weaker than the Fokker mainstays of the German air force.
Bishop's most famous exploit is also his most controversial. On June 2, 1917, he claimed that he attacked a German airfield which was more than 25 km inside enemy territory and shot down three enemy aircraft. His plane was in tatters when he landed almost an hour later. Bishop had already won several medals, including the Military Cross, but the account of this daring, one-man raid won him the highest of all British honours for bravery in battle, the Victoria Cross.

Bishop's victories were an inspiration to the troops during World War I, but some critics have suggested that his famous raid never took place. There were no eyewitnesses and no German record of the event. Those who support Bishop charge that these accusations are an insult to a national hero. A film that questioned Bishop's claims caused a furor in Parliament and led to a Senate investigation, which was not conclusive. Bishop was also the subject of the popular playBilly Bishop Goes to War, by John Gray. A hero or not, Bishop seems destined to remain part of the Canadian imagination.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.