When discussing William Avery Bishop far too many inconsistencies arise. A HUGE number of the victories he is credited with were awarded with no confirmation other than his own word. Even his Victoria Cross was conferred solely on his word, completely in contradiction to the rules set forth for this award. Why this was done has received no end of conjecture and I am not here to discuss conjecture.The problem is, we DO NOT Know if his VC was awarded on his word only! Much of the documentation that normally goes with the warrant of the VC is missing. Either through deliberate means or through wartime bombings in WWII. And from the date of his action on 2 June, 1917 until the award was announced on 11 August, 1917, over two months passed. I checked on the other aces who won the VC, this was the longest period that passed prior to announcement for any award to an ace for a single act of bravery. Mannock's award, which did take longer, was for a period of service, not for a singular act.
1. On 30 June, when 13th Wing, RFC was investigating the Victoria Cross claim they asked Captain Caldwell( Bishop’s CO) the type of confirmation for the action. To which he replied "Personal Evidence Only".My big question is this, How do we KNOW that the item to which Caldwell referred as "Personal Evidence Only" was in reference to confirmation? It's not stated anywhere in the report he filed. The heading of his report starts as follows:
Reference our telephone conversation of to-day. Herewith information as requested:I have NEVER seen anything where Grid Caldwell stated what each point in the report was in reference to. In fact, looking at the copy of the report I have on this site, item 2. "Personal Evidence Only" is the ONLY item that is not explained.
I'm not saying it's not a reference to evidence of the attack, I'm just pointing out that it has the potential of meaning something else.
2. In his book “ Courage in the Early Morning” Arthur Bishop persists in claiming that his father’s aerodrome raid on 2 June 1917, was ‘Confirmed by Spencer Horn, a member of Bishop’s flight who, with two other pilots, flew over the field that morning and surveyed the damage.’ If it was confirmed by Horn and company then why would not the CO state such in his reply to 13th wing some 28 days later?That's a good question, why didn't the TEMPORARY CO, Grid Caldwell confirm something that would have had to have been ordered by Jack Scott? I don't know. And we'll likely never know now, both men are dead. But it is a good question.
3. Bishop was unable to identify which aerodrome he had attacked and so how could these three pilots go there and check it? In his combat report and reconnaissance report Bishop stated that it may have been Esnes, Awoignt or Anneux. Of these Awoignt and Anneux were unoccupied and there was no aerodrome at Esnes until 1918!!!!!To answer this charge, I go to "Knights Of The Air" by Lt. Col. David Bashow. Page 199 footnote 121 related to page 122:
Markham, "The Early Morning," 245. Markham, as a secondary source also confirms that there was a German aerodrome just to the North of Esnes village, in addition to the 1918 aerodrome to the South., 256. Jasta 20 was only one of many German scout units that relocated north into 4th Army territory in Flanders over the period. Between May 17, 1917, and July 1, 1917, 4th Army's complement of Jastas swelled from four to fourteen attached units, and the majority of them came from Armies south of that 6th Army portion of the front over which Bishop was operating. This movement renders the establishment of a temporary staging base in the Esnes area during the period all the more logical. Franks, Bailey, and Duiven, The Jasta War Chronology, 55, 63, 73, and 285.Seems that even Phil Markham doesn't agree with David.
And then we have this point:
4. Lt. Spencer Bertram Horn strongly denied having made such a flight.Really? Denied it to whom? I've seen this mentioned by several people, but no one can say WHO he denied it to. And if you ask me, it seems strange that Arthur Bishop would write a book with a passage in it claiming someone in his father's squadron substantiated his attack, when they didn't, WHILST that person was still alive. As far as I know, Arthur Bishop stands by what he said about the conversation he had with Horn.
On to the next point.
5. When questioned on this Lt. William Mays Fry, Bishop’s Deputy Flight Commander, denied authorizing such a flight. No. 60 Squadron’s Record Book records no flights on 2 June for any of ‘C’ Flight except Bishop.Well, DUH! I would think that it would be the SQUADRON CO, Scott who would have to authorize the flight, not the DEPUTY Flight Commander. As for there being no record of the flight, I don't suppose it ever occurred to anyone that maybe the flight was "unofficial"? No? I didn't think so. But next we have this:
Bishop was , by this time, an experienced aviator. In that day with no navigational aids other than those the pilot sees on the ground a pilot had to be observant in order to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. His combat report says he spent nearly half an hour over the enemy field. It would seem that this, inordinate, amount of time would have given him the chance to notice any significant features yet he was unable to identify the aerodrome he attacked.Well, let me see, when he started it was DARK OUT. Secondly, even though he "said" he spent a half hour over the aerodrome, I highly doubt it. It is typical for people in a life threatening situation for time to "appear" to pass more slowly than it actually does. The way I see it, he only "thought" he was over Esnes for 30 minutes. It was more likely 10 to 15 minutes. But this is just speculation on my part.
But then there's the ever popular idea that Bishop landed his plane, took the gun off, shot his plane up then dumped the gun and took off. The problems is.....
>>And NO, you can't set a rotary engine’s throttle to idle, they don't have a throttle.<<Well, you really got me that time David. The Nieuport did have a limited throttle control. The only problem is, "idle" for the Nieuport 17 was at 45% of Max power!! At 45% it would STILL nose over unless someone were holding it down.
This is truly odd! I have several pictures on hand of the inside of a Nieuport that clearly show a “throttle quadrant” along with various devices attached to it labeled “ Fuel Metering Valve” , “Spark Advance” etc.
I will respond to more of David's post later. I think this is a good start for now. But I do want to go over ONE more thing:
>> .., but the senate sub-committee reportedly checked out everything, and came to the conclusion that the evidence against Bishop held no weight.<< I think, perhaps, that the “sub-committee” missed the point that Mr. Markham, (and I in my own small way) tried to make. Evidence AGAINST Bishop? No . We are pointing out that there is no evidence FOR Bishop. NONE! That is indeed the ENTIRE point!No evidence? Well, I guess if you're going to dismiss all 2nd and 3rd party evidence. Ok. But still, 80+ years afterwards? You expect there to be evidence? I guess that everything published after the war, that made claims that the raid was verified by Captured Germans and British agents behind the lines is to be tossed out because it's not corroborated. Never mind that this came out BEFORE there was ever a controversy, and this includes testimony given by two men interviewed by Dan McCaffery, one before the controversy, and one after, who STILL said the same thing. OH, OH, wait, didn't one of them refute that so-called "testimony" to Phil Markham?? Well, sort of. Again, from "Knights Of the Air" by David Bashow
...Townsend later recanted this unqualified interpretation in correspondence with Markham, stating that the information was hearsay only. (Markham, The Early Morning, 255)Basically, Townsend is saying that it's hearsay, yes, but it was still something he passed on as he heard it. And that was that French farmers in the vicinity of Estourmel/Esnes recalled a lone British fighter attacking the field one morning in 1917 and shooting down 3 enemy aircraft. So, just because Townsend qualifies his statement that it was hearsay, we're supposed to throw it out?
What about George Stirret? He recalled interrogating a German POW, and having that POW recalling the event of 2 June, 1917, AND verifying the raid actually happened! This, McCaffery got out of Stirret in a 1981 interview, before the horse manure hit the oscillating wind machine. But, I suppose we have to toss that out as well. Can't have any positive evidence for Bishop, even if it is 2nd or 3rd hand, or in the case of Stirret, 1st hand. Nope, that would never do.
Created:June 2, 2001, The 84th Anniversary of Billy Bishop's FAMOUS Raid on Esnes Aerodrome, the attack that garnered for him the Victoria Cross.
Last updated: September 11, 2001 (They changed the URL on me. ;-)
©2001 by Albert Lowe, All rights reserved.
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