William Avery Bishop

William Avery Bishop, "Billy," fighter pilot (b at Owen Sound, Ont 8 Feb 1894; d at Palm Beach, Fla 11 Sept 1956). He was the top scoring Canadian and Imperial ace of WWI, credited with 72 victories. A fellow pilot accurately described him as "a fantastic shot but a terrible pilot." A flamboyant extrovert, he was the first Canadian airman to win a Victoria Cross, awarded him for a single-handed dawn attack on a German airfield on 2 June 1917. His last victory came on 19 June 1918 when he claimed 5 enemy aircraft.

In August he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and sent to England to help organize an abortive 2-squadron Canadian Air Force. After the war Bishop and W.G. Barker operated a commercial flying enterprise before Bishop went into sales promotion in England and Canada. During WWII he was an honorary air marshal in the RCAF.

In 1982 a National Film Board of Canada production, Paul Cowan's The Kid Who Couldn't Miss, challenged the veracity of many of Bishop's claims, including his own, unsubstantiated, account of the raid which won him his VC. The film caused a furor in Parliament and the media. Investigation by a Senate sub-committee exposed a number of minor errors in this apparent "documentary" and confirmed that statements had been wrongly attributed and incidents shifted in time for dramatic effect. However, the senators were unable to demonstrate that Bishop's claims were valid, and consequently recommended only that the film be labelled as "docu-drama." This was done.