Record of Billy Bishop

Lionel Kearns (
Tue, 30 May 1995 21:32:32 -0700

Here is one from the other list that might be of interest.


>Date: Tue, 30 May 1995 16:40:34 -0500
>Precedence: bulk
>From: Steven Dieter u <>
>Subject: Record of Billy Bishop
>X-Listprocessor-Version: 6.0a -- ListProcessor by Anastasios Kotsikonas
>X-Comment: Military History of the First World War
>My apologies for the delay in sending a reply. My birthday was on the
>23rd, and I was home in Owen Sound until the morning of the 25th.
>On Wed, 24 May 1995, Lionel Kearns wrote:
>> Steve
>> Were you, while connected to the museum, ever embroiled in the Billy Bishop
>> controversy, i.e. whether or not he actually made that single handed early
>> morning raid on the German airdrome?
>> Or was it, or is it, politically inappropriate to comment?
>In response, I would like to re-state for the record that my involvement
>in the Museum began in May 1990. This was after the release of the
>National Film Board's "The Kid Who Couldn't Miss" and the subsequent
>investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Veteraans Affairs, chaired by
>The Honourable Jack Marshall, C.D.
>Even though I became involved long after the release of the NFB Film, I
>can say that I was asked on more than one occasion to explain the
>controversy surrounding Bishop's raid.
>For the record, Bishop did go for a flight on the morning in question,
>and he did return from that flight.
>Arthur Bishop, in his biography _The Courage of the Early Morning_, lists
>Bishop's three victories from that morning as having occurred between
>4.23 and 5.00 AM. Bishop's report was filed and nothing more was heard
>of it until 11 August 1917 when word was sent back down that Bishop would
>receive the Victoria Cross.
>Were there any witnesses? Firstly, the raid took place 12 miles behind
>enemy lines under ideal weather conditions. Secondly, it had
>been intended to be a flight of Bishop and Albert Ball. (Bishop and Ball
>had discussed such a raid prior to Ball's death on 07 May 1917) Bishop
>had also asked fellow members of 60 Squadron to join him. And certainly
>the Germans would not admit that they lost three Albatross to a single
>British aircraft, especially when all three were barely off the ground
>when they were hit!
>At this point the argument could go in any of several directions. Did
>Bishop deserve the VC? How did the Nieuport sustain such damage? Why
>was the Lewis gun missing? What about fuel? What about ground debris?
>As I recall from my readings, there were fellow members of his squadron
>who flew over the area of the aerodrome at Estourmel who did confirm the
>damage which Bishop had reported.
>Even though Bishop had been out for a period of an hour and a half, the
>Nieuport did have fuel reserves for a period of 2-1/2 hours.
>The Nieuport was missing the Lewis gun upon its return. However, the
>Lewis gun could be easily removed by the pilot and tossed overboard if it
>was dead weight. Remember, only 4 99-round drums of ammunition were
>carried. There are even some who argue that Bishop set down his own
>aircraft, shot it up, and then took off to return to the base.
>In my own opinion, I have deep doubts on this. As nearly every aviation
>enthusiast knows, Bishop had great difficulty landing his aircraft
>safely. To bring down a craft, shoot it so that it appeared to have
>sustained enemy fire WITHOUT damaging the main structure or any of the
>wires is very difficult. And then, to take the same aircraft back in to
>the air.....
>As for the Victoria Cross issue, I offer my own opinion again. The Brits
>didn't like the "colonials", and to give them the highest decoration in
>the Empire was a touchy subject. I still offer the evidence that it took
>over two months from the time of the raid until Bishop received word that
>he would receive the VC.
>IMHO, I believe that the raid took place.
>There are numerous sources on Bishop which deal with this topic to some
>Bishop, Arthur. _Courage in the Air_. (Canada's Military Heritage, Volume
>1) 1992
>- A composite of brief biographies on aviators from WWI, WWII and Korea.
>Bishop, Arthur. _The Courage of the Early Morning_. 1965
>- Biography
>Bishop, Billy. _Winged Warfare_. 1917
>- The autobiography
>Chadderton, H. Clifford. _Hanging a Legend: The National Film Board's
>shameful attempt to discredit Billy Bishop, VC_. 1986
>- A digest dealing with the NFB film and the evidence.
>Drew, George A. _Canada's Fighting Airmen_. 1930
>- Biographies on WWI aviators(Bishop's is 46 pages)
>I realize that this is a mass of pieces of information. I will be glad
>to answer questions dealing with anything specific in what I mentioned,
>or on anything else. The VC raid is a topic on which one could type for
>quite a while, and still not relay information.