Billy Bishop, Canada’s first Air Force Victoria Cross winner

June 2 is commemorated as “Billy Bishop Day” in honour of the famous First World War ace.

On June 2, 1917, Captain William Avery “Billy” Bishop took off from Filescamp Farm, his home base with No. 60 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, near Arras in northern France, on a daring early morning mission.

It was a mission planned “after much thought”, according to his own words in Winged Warfare, first published in 1918.

“Dawn was the hour I considered advisable, as there would be very few machines in the air, and I would have a great chance of evading trouble on the way to the aerodrome.”

Captain Bishop was no rookie in terms of combat, although he had only joined No. 60 Squadron in March 1917, and won his first combat victory on March 25. Already credited with 22 aerial victories by the morning of his dawn attack, he was a keen marksman both in the air and on the ground. These skills would prove valuable during his solo adventure.

Flying over the enemy lines, Capt Bishop acknowledged that his original target turned out to be less than ideal. Finally finding a suitable target – the German aerodrome at Estourmel – he realized he had no clue where he was. Nevertheless, he continued with his mission.

He shot up one aircraft as it taxied its way towards take off. The second aircraft “crashed into some trees near the aerodrome” after Captain Bishop had shot at him. The third would be the victim of a dogfight. 

Capt Bishop returned to his aerodrome with his…

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