Billy Bishop, Air Ace
Date of Issue
August 12, 1994
Series Time Span
Perforation or Dimension
Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.
Designed by Pierre Fontaine.
Two of Canada's "brightest lights" will be honoured on the 100th anniversary of their birth with a se tenant pair of stamps portraying World War I aviator Billy Bishop, and Quebec's first chansonnière Mary Travers, popularly known as "La Bolduc". Canada's top flying ace during Word War I, Billy Bishop had entered Royal Military College (RMC) in 1911, following his brother Worth (who had achieved the highest grades in the history of the school). But Billy proved a troublesome cadet - not inclined to military discipline. So when Canada entered the war, Billy Bishop left RMC to be commissioned a cavalry officer in the 9th Mississauga Horse. Bishop arrived in England in June, 1915 with the 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles. He soon grew weary of the rains and mud and decided flying would be an attractive alternative. He went to France in January, 1916 and spent four months in the "second seat", observing. Accepted for pilot training, he took his solo flight after 2½ hours of training and received his wings in December, 1916, on the eve of "Bloody April, 1917". Royal Flying Corps casualties that month were 238 men killed or missing and 105 wounded. Among them were 45 Canadians. Bishop and other young pilots without much experience entered this fray; they either mastered their aircraft quickly or died. Life expectancy was just three weeks! Pilots flew without parachutes or oxygen masks. Bishop disdained goggles, believing he could shoot better without them. "Shooting" meant firing a fixed, magazine-fed Lewis machine gun mounted on the top wing, just over the pilot's head. To Bishop "it was a battle of skill and wits, free from animosity of any kind, a game more than a war." Often engaging several enemy planes a day while flying alone, Bishop's most famous flight was his Victoria Cross-winning raid on a German airbase near Cambrai, France. He descended through a barrage of small arms fire, shot up three aircraft, and out of ammunition, evaded enemy air patrols, and successfully returned home in a scarred aircraft. Bishop returned to battle as a major in March 1918 after extended leave at home. In June 1918, he decided to have "one last look at war", and in just 15 minutes he scored his final five victories, bringing his total to 72. Many believe this to be the highest total in the RFC. Billy Bishop, wearing an officer's uniform of the Royal Flying Corps and a sheepskin-lined flying coat, is depicted in the left foreground while his single-seater Nieuport 17 appears in action in the background.
Canada Post Corporation. Canada's Stamps Details, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1994, p. 10-11.
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