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William Bishop

Air Marshal

Royal Canadian Air Force

Legendary Fighter Pilot

Born Ontario, Canada

Feb. 8, 1894—Sept. 11, 1956

When World War I began, "Billy" Bishop was a cadet at the Royal Military Academy, from which he graduated and was posted to a cavalry regiment. Ordered to France in the Spring of 1915, he soon applied for flying duty. He received his pilot rating in the Royal Flying corps in March 1917.*

Assigned to the No. 60 Squadron, he achieved the first of his 72 confirmed victories on March 25 and thus began one of the most extraordinary performances in fighter pilot history. In the short span of five months, he scored 47 confirmed victories. For his courage and performance, he received the three highest awards for valor awarded by Great Britain; the Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and the Victoria Cross. His performance was credited to aggressiveness, sound tactics, and daily practice to improve skills - sterling qualities that have been the role model for fighter pilots of succeeding generations.

In August 1917, Bishop was assigned to staff duty in England. Bored with staff duties and longing to return to active operations, Bishop arranged his assignment as Commanding Officer of No. 85 Squadron in May 1918. In the short span of 12 days he won an additional 25 victories, a feat unequalled in history. Lt. Col. Bishop's final score of 72 confirmed and 25 unconfirmed victories, remains a legend.

Peace did not end Bishop's flying activity, much less his boundless energy. Bush flyer, executive of an oil company, directorship and president of aircraft companies and author of his well known book Winged Warfare were a few of his accomplishments. Recalled to active duty in 1939 and appointed Canada's first Air Marshal, he commanded all the Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting and training activities.

Invested 1967 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984


* Other sources point out that Billy Bishop didn't graduate from the RMC due to bad grades, he simply left and joined the Canadian Cavalry when the war started.  Also, Bishop actually received his Pilot's wings in November, 1916.  He was first posted to a Home Defense Squadron, Number 37.  In March of 1917 he was reassigned to 60 Squadron.

Bishop also authored "WINGED PEACE" and aided the recruiting of qualified American pilots as instructors for the fledgling British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in '39-'40.


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Updated: March 12, 2004