A nice, polite conversation on Bishop.

The following is the conversation that took place on the Aerodrome forum that resulted in the article I have posted, called "Opinion on the movie". This conversation started out talking about Mick Mannock, and whether or not his official score was 61 or 73. I presented the information below. This was in response to a user on the Aerodrome forum who uses the I.D. of "Vigilant".

24 Aug 98 21:57
Re: Oh,no not again!!
Al Lowe

From The Canadian Historical Review LXX,2 of 1989, the article "The Sad Case of Billy Bishop, VC" by Brereton Greenhous, Directorate of History, Department of National Defense, come the following words on Mannock.

"Ironically, after the war, the British adjusted some figures and decided that their own Mick Mannock, VC, had accounted for seventy-three enemy machines - one more than Bishop - thus raising him to the honour of top-ranking imperial ace. Mannock, of course was dead; marvellously, his last five victories were posthumous."

Yes Vigilant, this confirms that the RAF did do "something" after the war to raise Mannock's score. I'm not totally convinced they did this because he actually had the credits coming. But most likely because they felt they now needed a British hero, when before the British gov't felt they needed a Canadian hero to bolster Canadian morale, and increase Canadian enlistment which was suffering in the summer of 1917.

A lot of what I've found so far leads me to believe that the RFC/RAF set out to make a hero of Billy Bishop. Does this make HIM a liar and a cheat? I don't think so, after all, he only put in the claims, someone higher up confirmed them.

Do I think he faked the raid on Estourmel? No. It really doesn't seem to be in his character. Yes, he was ambitious. Yes, he had cheated in the past while at RMC. But in those cases at RMC it wasn't when he was doing well that he "broke the rules". It was when all seemed lost, and he felt he had no alternative. I don't think that was even CLOSE to the case on 2 June, 1917. Add to that, the independent corroboration of 4 different people. Historian George Drew in the 1930s, Arch Whitehouse in the 1960's, George Stirret in 1981, and Phil Townsend in 1985. He is even backed up to some extent by Ira Jones, who pointed out in his book "Tiger Squadron" that he knew for a fact that the Germans lied about some of their losses, since on the same day when Bishop claimed 5 victories, and Capt. Cobby claimed one, and these were the only claims made that day by the RAF, YET, the Germans said they hadn't lost anyone to combat. Even though Jones had the bullet-riddeled body of Capt. Cobby's one victim for that day, in his hangar! Apparently any losses the Germans suffered that particular day were put down to accidental losses, and not as a result of combat. This makes me wonder how many other combat losses were falsely claimed by the Germans as "accidental".

Anyway, I think you can rest now Vigilant. ;-)

VBR to all,

Al Lowe 'Honourary Canadian Citizen'
"On the edge of destiny, you must test your strength. "
-Billy Bishop

The next message was one of the replies to the above. It simply brought out the age-old story of "German records". Never mind that these records don't exist anymore, people will talk about them anyway, as though they do exist.

25 Aug 98 11:21
Re: Oh,no not again!!
Tom Cervo

The fact remains that the Germans DID report damage from airfield raids--they even wrote admiringly of a lone pilot's courage in doing so. They made these reports before and after Bishop's claimed raid. I think Bishop took off with the intention of doing a raid-- why else would he invite Willie Fry--but botched it, got lost, shot up something to little or no effect and then made it worse by embellishing a story that he was afraid to tell straight--other pilots did so, called it a joke on themselves and no one thought the less of them. As for the "witnesses", you might look at the story of Alan Jerrard's VC--the standard, even with witnesses, seems to have been quite low, which is probably why some very brave British fighter pilots of WW2 were denied the VC's they earned--because of the sham of several from the first war.

I should point out that there were other responses, but they didn't really impact this particular conversation, so I left those out. My next message was a response to Mr. Cervo's message listed above.

25 Aug 98 14:14
Re: Oh,no not again!!
Al Lowe

The fact also remains that on a day in 1918 when 6 victories were claimed by two RAF pilots, and one even had his victim lying in a hangar, the Germans denied losing any aircraft to combat! If they would do that, what makes you think they wouldn't deny Bishop's raid? In spite of what some people think the Germans weren't always chivalrous, or kind, or even always truthful about their losses. Just as I'm also certain that the Allies may have done some creative accounting in their losses too. And I think neither side has exclusive rights to creative accounting when it comes to victory claims.

VBR, anyway. ;-)

Al Lowe 'Honourary Canadian Citizen'
"On the edge of destiny, you must test your strength. "
--Billy Bishop

Then Ray Kowalchuk posted this response to Mr. Cervo, which I think sums up the situation quite well, that's why I recreated it as a seperate document.

26 Aug 98 00:56
Re: Bishop's VC
Ray Kowalchuk

Tom,

Consider one of the arguments supporting Bishop's VC accomplishments from Hanging A Legend. Considerable invistigation seems to have gone into most VC's awarded to a recipient based on a single accomplishment; the King's highest decoration doesn't get handed out based on rumors. At the time that Bishop was awarded the VC, and this is the important part, NO CONTROVERSY EXISTED. Controversy continued to not exist until a very amateur historian/docudramatist named Paul Cowan figured himself a brilliant researcher and decided to create a controversy. And why not; over seventy years later, it's hard to debunk a hypothesis with rapidly dwindling hard evidence.

If you said you hit a game-winning home run in little league yesterday and I wanted proof, you could probably find a scorecard or an eyewitness pretty easily. If I asked you twenty years later, you'd have little proof available and I can call you a liar all I want.

The possibilities you suggest are definitely possibilities. I'm suggesting, however, that the King of England in 1917 likely had more information/evidence at his disposal than Paul Cowan did in the 1980s.

"Hanging A Legend", rather than proving that the raid did exist (and admits that proof probably doesn't exist), picks apart the flaws of Cowan's theories and "research" to the point where he becomes a pretty shabby authority. In other words, Cowan is unlikely to have hit a home run if he can't even swing a bat.

I remain,
RK



Created September 23, 1998
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