Now, compared to Hollywood budgets, that's a drop in the bucket. But when you look at this, Cowan had only ONE, count 'em, ONE actor in the movie, Eric Petersen. Oh, and a narrator. MOST of the footage in the film was stock footage from earlier war movies, and some newsreel stuff and stills of King George V.
From what I understand, and through my investigation of the Senate hearings and the results, most of that budget was spent on several trips to England, where he listened to taped interviews at the IMW and interviewed two men, and tried to interview a third. One was Squadron Leader D.W. "Joe" Warne, RAF (retired), then unofficial historian for 60 Squadron, misidentified by Cowan as "Group Captain" Warne, and known to dislike Bishop. Cecil Knight, a friend of Bishop's and a pilot in WWI. And he tried, but failed to interview Willy Fry, Bishop's deputy flight leader in 60 Squadron.
Knight was questioned about a tape at the IMW that Cowan had listened to, an interview of Sir Archibald James, who claimed that "everyone knew that Bishop was lying about his claims. It was all over the RFC/RAF."
Knight's response: "Never! I would doubt it! It was not in the character of Bishop as I knew him to do a thing like that!" ,
Meanwhile, Willy Fry apparently refused to see Cowan, or talk to him. He was apparently upset that Joe Warne talked to Cowan and relayed info that Fry didn't want to see become public. This information comes indirectly from a long time friend of Fry's, author and historian Alex Revell.
With regard to the A. James recorded interview, there are something like 44 taped interviews stored at the Imperial War Museum on 75 hours of tape, that covered the air activity in the First World War. The James tape is the ONLY ONE to disparage Bishop. And according to all RFC/RAF records, Archibald James NEVER served in the same unit as Bishop. And was in fact, the only one to mention Bishop. According to his interviewer David Lance, James was the most difficult subject he had ever interveiwed up to that time.
That was the extent of Cowan's research into Billy Bishop for his movie, "The Kid Who Couldn't Miss." He never even talked to anyone else until AFTER it was brought up in Senate hearings, and then he got help from self-described amateur historian, the late Ed Ferko. Ferko's contribution was copies of Jasta 20's war diaries, and some Nachrichtenblatt reports. All this aside, it is my understanding that Mr. Ferko enjoyed quite a reputation among amateur historians while he was still alive. But as an amateur, he did something that I've yet to see a professional Historian do, and that is to vent his "opinions" about an event for which he does not have absolute proof, and discuss something for which, as I understand it, most people had silently agreed to NOT discuss.
However, in all fairness to Mr. Ferko, it is my understanding that some of his remarks were likely in response to uncalled for accusations from some members of the Canadian Senate. As I don't have the portions of the Hansard dealing with his total testimony, I can't speak directly to that. I will just say that I know from experience it's easy to say things you wouldn't normally, when you are verbally assaulted. Based on that, I have no animosity towards Mr. Ferko on that issue. And as he is now deceased, it is a moot point in any event.
Apparently what Ferko and Cowan did was interpret silence in certain German reports as "proof" that his raid never happened. Considering that the KTB of Jasta 20 is missing entries for a period in May 27, 1917 until July 11, 1917, how can anyone say there wasn't a report, when we have a substantial time period not covered?
As for the Nachricthenblatt reports, well, as Frank Olynyk mentions in a his Claims Documentation submission at The Aerodrome, the Nachrichtenblatt was an Intelligence report on the enemy. Most of what it would report with respect to aerial warfare was enemy losses, and claims made by German pilots. It rarely if ever contained reports of German losses.
But all this was to defend his sad excuse for a documentary to the Canadian Senate. As it was, during his research, he totally ignored the wealth of Canadian sources available at the time, as there were a number of Canadian veterans from WWI still alive that he could have talked to. He also didn't even bother contacting professional historians such as Dr. S.F. Wise, or Stewart K. Taylor, Official Historian for WWI Flyers in Canada. And even while in England, he didn't try to contact any professional historians there either!! From the appearance of his efforts, I'd say he was bent on disgracing Bishop from the very start.
Created April 10, 1999
Last updated: March 23, 2001
©1999 by Albert Lowe, All rights reserved.
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