William Bishop
William Bishop
William "Billy" Avery Bishop
  • Country: Canada
  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Service: Royal Flying Corps
  • Units: 21, 60, 85
  • Victories: 72
  • Date Of Birth: February 8, 1894
  • Place of Birth: Owen Sound, Ontario
  • Date Of Death: September 11, 1956
  • Place of Death: Palm Beach, Florida
  • Buried: Owen Sound, Ontario

Bishop attended the Royal Military College before joining the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles at the beginning of the war. After serving overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in December 1915 and received his pilot's certificate in 1917. Flying the Nieuport 17 and S.E.5a, "The Lone Hawk" was considered by some to be a mediocre pilot, but his extraordinary eyesight and consistent practice earned him a reputation as a crack shot.

As the commanding officer of the "Flying Foxes," he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after scoring 25 victories in just twelve days. On the morning of June 2, 1917, his single-handed attack against a German aerodrome on the Arras front earned him the Victoria Cross, making Bishop the first Canadian flyer to receive this honor.

Before the war ended, he wrote "Winged Warfare," an autobiographical account of his exploits in the air over France.Because Bishop flew many of his patrols alone, most of his victories were never witnessed. After years of controversy, a television broadcast entitled "The Kid Who Couldn't Miss" led to an inquiry by the Canadian government in 1985. In conclusion, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology discredited the film, finding it to be an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of Bishop.

Victoria Cross (VC)

"For most conspicuous bravery, determination, and skill. Captain Bishop, who had been sent out to work independently, flew first of all to an enemy aerodrome; finding no machines about, he flew on to another aerodrome about 3 miles southeast, which was at least 12 miles the other side of the line. Seven machines, some with their engines running, were on the ground. He attacked these from about fifty feet, and a mechanic, who was starting one of the engines, was seen to fall. One of the machines got off the ground, but at a height of 60 feet, Captain Bishop fired 15 rounds into it at very close range, and it crashed to the ground. A second machine got off the ground, into which he fired 30 rounds at 150 yards range, and it fell into a tree. Two more machines then rose from the aerodrome. One of these he engaged at a height of 1,000 feet, emptying the rest of his drum of ammunition. This machine crashed 300 yards from the aerodrome, after which Captain Bishop emptied a whole drum into the fourth hostile machine, and then flew back to his station. Four hostile scouts were about 1,000 feet above him for about a mile of his return journey, but they would not attack. His machine was very badly shot about by machine gun fire from the ground." VC citation, London Gazette, August 11, 1917

Military Cross (MC)

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He attacked a hostile balloon on the ground, dispersed the crew and destroyed the balloon, and also drove down a hostile machine which attacked him. He has on several other occasions brought down hostile machines." MC citation, London Gazette, May 26, 1917

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While in a single-seater, he attacked three hostile machines, two of which he brought down, although in the meantime he was himself attacked by four other hostile machines. His courage and determination have set a fine example to others." DSO citation, London Gazette, June 18, 1917