Hello Mr. Lowe! First off, well done on a beautiful site. I am a WW I aviation buff, and am particularely interested in the German and Canadian aces. Needless to say, I was delighted to find a good site on Billy Bishop (though, truth be told, I'm more of a Collishaw man.). In the second place, I would like to put my cents into the Billy Bishop controversy. Revisionist history is in vogue these days, but on what evidence did Mr. Cowan decide to challenge six-decade old accounts? Even Bishop's enemies let Bishop's record stand. This includes 'Taffy' Jones who, in his perhaps too influential book, gave his idol 'Mick' Mannock 73 kills just to put one over on Bishop. True, Bishop's claims weren't as tightly documented as one would hope, but then that goes for just about the whole of WW I. After decades of war, strife, lost memories and misplaced records, it would be a tall task to fully verify the record of any airman on either side. If we give Mr. Cowan the benefit of the doubt and say that Bishop was a pathological liar, how is he going to prove it? Again, especially since every record we have of Bishop, friend and enemy alike, supports the contention that he was in every way a remarkable warrior and airman who accomplished everything he said he did. In the struggle for veracity, I'm afraid it's Mr. Cowan, not Bishop, who has the hill to hump. If anything, it is sad that Bishop's name was brought back, not as a legacy of Canadian achievement, but as a figure to be belittled. If Canadians had spent the time and effort they used to bash Bishop into establishing his record, they would have found themselves the heirs to a remarkable war hero. If there is any real mystery to Bishop's record, with 72 air victories, 3 balloon downings and 5 probables, it is in his being a statistical anomaly. In effect, and this is quoting from various records: With 72 confirmed victories, Bishop was the leading ace of ALL the British Commonwealth countries. The official RAF records give 'Mick' Mannock only 61 victories. The 73-victory figure, again, was cited from the book about him written by his admirer, and Bishop foe, 'Taffy' Jones. Mannock was a great air warrior who, like Bishop, deserves better from the nation he served. But no one benefits from distortion, no matter how well intended If you count Bishop's 3 balloon victories, and that would be a stroke of a pen by the proper Canadian authorities, then Bishop would have 75 victories. Why this has not been done is a mystery. For instance, if other countries discounted balloon victories, then Belgium would lose its ace of aces (Willie Coppens, 35 balloons out of 37 total) and the USA would lose its second-ranked ace (Frank Luke, the 'Arizona Balloon-Buster', 14 out of 18 victories). As such, Bishop would tie Rene Fonck as Allied Ace of Aces. Finally, if it was possible to confirm any of Bishop's probables, and if that could be done it would be easier than proving him a liar, then, of course, he would be undisputed Allied Ace of Aces. If it was possible to confirm all of them, then he would tie Manfred von Richthofen as the WW I Ace of Aces. And he would have done it without having being brought down once and shot down once, as the Red Baron was. Albeit, he probably crashed enough planes to qualify as a German ace! Bishop's situation is indicative of a greater malaise among Canadians, and especially Canadian officialdom. The Canadian tendency to denigrate achievement, especially of a military nature, is only too evident here. It should be kept in mind though, that only through achievement, our own and others, do we as individuals and communities learn what is possible to achieve. Bishop most certainly achieved what he is said to have and he did so in the service of his King and Country. His life in peace was not as clear-cut (whose is?), but he lived it with honor and dignity. Whatever one's feelings about human conflict, his was a genuinely inspiring life. Thank you again for your site, and I hope you don't mind the rant! Sincerely Yours, James Matsuzaki Santa Clara, CA
Created: August 27, 1999
©1999 by Albert Lowe, All rights reserved.
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