With 72 victories, Billy Bishop was third best fighter pilots of World War I. In Canada, his home country, he's a legend. At the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa we tried to learn more about the life of this, then, British Empire pilot.
John Maker, Historian - Canadian War Museum (Ottawa, Canada) :
''Billy Bishop, first and foremost, he was a very charming individual, charismatic. In his earlier life, charismatic with women and then, as he moved into the forces, very charismatic with his superior officers, and then in later life as well with the public. He became a propaganda figure, travelled across country, trying to increase recruitment. And even into the Second World War, he is very charismatic with the press.
Firstly the most important aspect, it’s his marksmanship. He was an excellent marksman. He grew up hunting and shooting and he took these skills with him into the air. He transferred them very successfully. He had very keen eyesight. Some say more keen than many of the other aviators that were in the sky. So he can spot planes from very vast distances. Also he was adventurous and daring, exceptionally brave.
He was driven to succeed and driven to compete with the highest scoring aces in the British Empire especially.
His flying and fighting style changed throughout the war. He was always exceptionally aggressive, which help to account for his high number of victories. So early on in his flying career, he would go as hard as he could at the enemy, but he very shortly found out that he was returning home with many bullet holes riddled in his planes and he realized that he could not keep up that pace of activity for very much longer. Later in his career he would try and outwit the enemy. Quite often, he would use what he called the hawk technique, which was that he would fly high in the sky and he would swoop down underneath his opponent from behind and then shoot at him from underneath and try and kill the pilot from below.
Billy Bishop was exceptionally famous. When he won the Victoria Cross, which is the Empire’s highest award for gallantry, this was published in the London paper and his name came out. It was revealed that he had achieved dozens of victories and so he instantly became a star.
So he was exceptionally famous in Canada, probably the most famous Canadian beside maybe the Prime Minister. It was also the case in Great Britain as well. He was famous Empire wide.
He maintains a very important place in Canadian military history. Billy Bishop, for most Canadians, is a Canadian icon, especially in English Canada.''
Air Marshal William Avery "Billy" Bishop died in his sleep at the age of 62, in 1956.