William Avery Bishop, the third son of the Registrar of Grey County, Ontario, Was born on February 8, 1894. Right from the start "Billy" Bishop was a rebel, flouting the rules and authority and always involved in a fight. Although he developed an early talent for shooting, horse-riding and other outdoor pursuits, his academic record was appalling. His head teacher reported to his parents, " The only thing your son is good at is fighting."
In August 1911, Bishop was accepted into Canada's Royal Military College as a cadet. But he continued to defy authority and fail exams, so much so that he was threatened with expulsion. Fortunately for Bishop the First World War intervened, and on September 30, 1914, he was commissioned, although illness prevented him from being sent to Europe until June 1915.
Shortly after Bishop's arrival in England the sight of an aeroplane moved him to transfer to the RFC as an observer. He went to France in January 1916 and continued as an observer in R.E.7s until May, When he returned to England to have a knee injury tended following an earlier crash-landing In France. He was sent home to Canada to convalesce, But returned to England that October for pilot training. The following month he moved to CFS at Upavon and, despite having no apparent aptitude for flying, was awarded his wings. After several postings in England Bishop arrived back in France in March 1917 to fly Nieuport scouts with 60 squadron, based at Filescamp. After an inauspicious start, during which he crash-landed, Bishop scored his first victory when, on March 25, 1917, he brought down an Albatros DIII.
Bishop's career as a fighter pilot now took an upturn--- so much so that on April 25th he was promoted to Captain and took command of C Flight. By the end of the month he had at least 12 victories and was awarded the Military Cross.
Bishop preferred to work alone. On June 2, 1917, flying his Nieuport, he paid an early morning visit to Estourmel. near Cambrai, where Albatros scouts were being prepared for flight. Bishop attacked the aircraft from about 200ft. and caused havoc, dispatching three aircraft on the ground and in the air as the German fighters took off to engage him. This one-man raid earned Bishop the Victoria cross and prompted Trenchard to describe the flight as " the greatest single show of the war."
By the end of September 1917 Bishop had notched up 47 accredited victories and had added the DSO and a Bar to his VC and MC. He returned to Canada on leave and married Margaret Burden on October 17. On his return to England, he was promoted to Major and given command of 85 Squadron at Hounslow, equipped with Sopwith Dolphins. With a hand-picked team Bishop arrived at Petite Synthe in France in May 1918, re-equipped with the SE5a. There his personal score of victories mounted steadily, culminating in an extraordinary 15 minute action on June 19 when he polished off 4 Pfalz D III scouts and a two-seater. This amazing scrap took his total to a final tally of 72 confirmed victories. Shortly afterwards he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, for 25 victories in 12 days of combat.
Returning to England in August, Bishop was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. With the Armistace he was demobilized from the FAF and returned to Canada. in December 1918.
Between the wars he was involved with private airlines and oil companies. With the coming of WWII has was made an Air Marshal and was director of Recruiting for the RCAF. After the war he returned to the oil business, retiring in 1952. He died peacefully in his sleep, at home, on September 11, 1956.
Written by Ken Aitken; as it appeared in Aeroplane Magazine