Ancient history

Billy Bishop

Air Marshal William Avery "Billy" Bishop, VC, CB, DSO, MC, DFC, ED is Canada's greatest flying ace. He has more than 72 victories to his credit. Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, on February 8, 1894, he died on September 11, 1956.

After graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1911, he chose to serve in the Canadian Mounted Rifles. In August 1914, he joined the British armed forces, as a cavalry lieutenant; but, tired of the little action that this position allowed him, he asked for and obtained his transfer to the Royal Air Force in July 1915.

After having first served as an observer-officer at 21 Squadron and, following a serious injury received, at the end of the autumn of 1915, during a crash following a bad landing, Bishop learned to fly and, in March 1917, joined the 60th Squadron engaged on the front. On March 25, 1917, he shot down his first enemy plane; five months later, at the end of August, he already had 47 certified aerial victories. In the spring of 1918, while commanding No. 85 Squadron in France, Bishop scored 25 more victories in just 12 days.

Bishop was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first awarded to a Canadian airman, for his exploits on June 2, 1917. Flying solo, several miles behind enemy lines, Bishop circled above a German airfield and attacked the Germans as they take off to counter it. He shot down three aircraft and forced another to land, before returning to his base aboard his Nieuport Scout plane, badly damaged by flak fire.


* Victoria Cross (VC)
* Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)
* Distinguished Service Order with Clasp (DSO)
* Military Cross (MC)
* Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
* Efficency Distinction (ED)


For some years the score of 72 homologated victories granted to William Bishop has been the subject of a controversy among historians, which took on such dimensions that it was the subject of an official investigation by the Canadian Senate. The starting point of this debate is the fact that many of his claims were not supported by any testimony other than his own; so it is with the 3 victories won on June 2, 1917 above Estournel, and which earned him the supreme distinction:the Victoria Cross. Being alone, he could not base his statements on those of any teammate. None of this, however, calls into question the value or the courage that this outstanding pilot always showed.

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