Billy Bishop Essay

This essay has a total of 1793 words and 8 pages.


Billy Bishop




Many people have been born that have struck a chord with the world. Some people have
become legends, patriots and even heroes. Though one person stood out among the rest,
this one was not made a hero, but was born to be one. He was a hero at what he strived to
be in life and he has captured the attention of the public like no other solider has done
before or since. This great Canadian Air Force Ace became one of the legendary figures in
20th century air warfare. With his daring and dramatic dogfights in France, he achieved a
record of 72 kills in his many encounters. His role on the ground during the Second World
War training pilots changed and inspired a whole new generation of fighter pilots. This
man is known as Billy Bishop, the legendary and great Canadian hero who captured and won
the respect of his enemies, comrades and the world.


William Avery Bishop was born in Owen Sound, Ontario on the 8th of February in 1894.
Billy was accepted into the Royal Military College in August of 1911. He spent three
years as a cadet, even though he failed his first year exams and broke the strict
disciplinary code of behaviour on several occasions. Billy was near the point of being
expelled, when he was commissioned on September 30th of 1914 and headed off to the
European war. He didn’t make it to England that year since he was in the hospital
suffering from pneumonia. When Billy recovered, he left on June 9th in 1915 to fight in
the war. During his days in the Infantry he saw a Royal Flying Corps plane fly overhead.
This possessed Billy to get away from fighting on the ground. He applied for a transfer
as an observer to the RFC, because an application to be a pilot would have taken too long.
“ The only way to fight a war, up there above the mud and the mist in the everlasting
sunshine” (Canadian Air Force Office of Public Affairs, 1996) Billy said when he
transferred out of the Calvary.


On September 1st in 1915 Billy was sent to the 21st squadron at Netheravon for air
instruction. On January 1st, he was transferred to France. From there he was accepted to
Brasenose College, Oxford, for pilot and ground training on October 1st, 1916. In
November he moved to Central Flying School at Upavon where he proved to be one that was
able to grasp the “art” of flying. Billy didn’t give up; he soon achieved his wings after
numerous crashes. His request for a transfer to France was granted and on March 9th, 1917
he arrived at Filescamp Farm where he joined the 60th squadron. Billy was to be sent back
to England for additional training but before he was sent back he claimed his first
victory. On March 25, Billy was out on patrol with 3 other pilots when the spotted 3
German Albatross DiII Scouts and engaged them. One of the scouts came across Billy’s
path, and without hesitation Billy opened fire on the plane, where it went into a dive as
Billy followed it until it was shot out of the sky. After his first victory came his long
run of victories that put him in the spot of a legend and hero to Canadians. Billy almost
died on the 8th of April when he claimed his fifth victory. His cockpit, which had a hole
in it from a bullet, nearly hit Billy almost killing him. He was promoted to Captain and
leader of C Flight later that month. Come the end of April, Captain Bishop had stacked a
total of 17 kills and was awarded the Military Cross. Billy started going out on solo
flights and patrols though he also went on formation patrols with is C Flight. “In May,
awarded Distinguished Service Order for attacking three planes, sending two down while
under attack by four other planes.” (Billy Bishop Heritage Museum, 2000). Billy was
returned to England on his leave in May 7th, to return on May 22nd and discussed a lone
attack on a German aerodrome.


On June 1st Billy was given the go-a-head for the surprise attack on the aerodrome. On
June 2nd, 1917 Billy wad called and at 3am set out in the rain and mist. He arrived at a
deserted German airfield. Disappointed, he continued on and arrived at a second aerodrome
where there were 5 planes warming up.

Dropping 200 feet. Bishop started his first attack along the line of aircraft, spraying
bullets as he streaked across the field through a barrage of small arms fire from the
alert ground defences. Lifting over the edge of the airfield, the Nieuport executed a
tight banked turn for its reverse run, and Bishop saw that one Albatross pilot had already
started to taxi for takeoff. Concentrating on this machine, Bishop fired just 15 rounds
as the Albatross rose to a height of ten feet. The Albatross dipped a wing, hit the grass
and disintegrated, spewing wreckage in a long slide along the field. (Canadian Air Force
Office of Public Affairs, 1996)


That was Billy’s first kill on his raid of the aerodrome, and two more followed. He shot
at the second Albatross as it was starting its take off run. Billy missed but caused the
German plane to swerve and the plane hit a tree. Billy went in and fired at the wreckage
finishing what he started. As he climbed with intent to head back, two more Albatross’s
took off and went after Billy. As he engaged one of them the other one waited, Billy got
behind the Albatross and fired knocking it out of the sky causing it to crash near his
airfield. After the fourth attacker left, Billy headed back to Allied territory at low
altitudes because of the scouts he saw flying above. He made it back in one piece.
Throughout July and August, Billy’s kill record became bigger and he was awarded a medal.


Billy Bishop was awarded the Victoria Cross on August 9th that year. He was presented the
award for his bravery on the solo raid of the aerodrome. “General Trenchard,
General-Officer Commanding Royal Flying Corps who defined Bishop’s solo sortie as, “the
greatest single show of the war”” (Canadian Air Force Office of Public Affairs, 1996). He
was informed that he would be given an instructor job in England, which shocked Billy. He
wanted to obtain the highest score ever in victories than any other fighter pilot. He
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