Who's Who - William Bishop

Billy Bishop William Avery (Billy) Bishop (1884-1956) was Canada's highest-scoring fighter pilot of World War One, with 72 confirmed victories.

Born on 8 February 1894 in Owen Sound, Ontario, Bishop attended the Royal Military College before joining the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles once war began in 1914.  Following a spell with the Canadian Expeditionary Force Bishop sought and received a transfer to the British Royal Flying Corps in December 1915.  He eventually received his pilot's license in 1917.

Bishop, who flew Nieuport 17 and S.E.5a's, was referred to as "the Lone Hawk" for his preference (like Albert Ball) for solo missions.  Perhaps unfortunately for a member of the RFC he was also regarded as something of a weak pilot, suffering from a tendency to crash land his aircraft.

Indeed Bishop was due to be sent to England from France for 'remedial' training when he succeeded in shooting down his first aircraft.  There was no looking back and Bishop quickly gained celebrity for his undoubted ability as a crack shot if not for flying ability.

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the remarkable feat of scoring 25 'kills' within just 12 days as leader of the so-called 'Flying Foxes', he was earlier awarded the Victoria Cross for a single-handed offensive against the German aerodrome at Arras on 2 June 1917.

Bishop was the ninth Canadian to receive the VC (the first being Alexander Roberts Dunn in 1854).  Some years after the war (from 1982 onwards) questions were raised concerning the verifiability of Bishop's feats that day and a Senate enquiry was held (he was cleared of any wrongdoing).  Added to his DFC and VC were also the DSO and bar and Military Cross.

Bishop survived the war (unlike a great many of his contemporaries) as commander of 85 Squadron.  He was in fact withdrawn from active duty in June 1918 for fear that he would be shot down (with a consequent ill-effect upon morale at home).  The same year he published his war memoirs, Winged Warfare.

After the armistice Bishop initially travelled the U.S. giving lectures.  He subsequently co-founded (with fellow Canadian ace Billy Barker) a charter airline business, which however went bankrupt.  After a period of floating he eventually established himself as a successful sales director for Frontenac Oil in Canada.

During World War Two he served as Air Marshall with responsibility for Canadian recruitment.  His fame as a former World War One air ace served to draw fresh recruits to the air force (indeed too many to be admitted).  After the war he entered semi-retirement, later attempting to enlist (unsuccessfully) during the Korean War.

He died on 9 November 1956 in Florida.

A cartwheel was a particular type of aerial manoeuvre.

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