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Billy Bishop

William Avery "Billy" Bishop was a Canadian ace in World War I who is officially credited with 72 kills, the highest number for a British Commonwealth fighter pilot in the war.

Billy Bishop was born on February 8, 1894, in Owen Sound, Ontario. At the age of 17 he entered the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and enlisted in the Mississauga Horse Regiment when World War I broke out in 1914.

In 1916, frustrated with the mud of the trenches and the lack of action in the cavalry, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer. During one flight, he was injured and spent the summer recuperating in Britain, fortunately missing the Battle of the Somme.

By 1917 he had completed his training. He shot down 25 planes in April alone, winning the Military Cross and a promotion to captain for his participation at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. On April 30 he survived an encounter with Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, and in May he won the Distinguished Service Medal for shooting down two planes while being attacked by four others.

On June 2, 1917, he flew a mission behind enemy lines to attack a German-held aerodrome, where he shot down three planes that were attacking him and destroyed seven more on the ground. For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross, although it has been suggested that he may have embellished his success.

He returned home to Canada in 1917, where he was lauded as a hero and helped boost the morale of the Canadian public, who were growing tired of the war. While there, he married Margaret Burden, a granddaugter of Timothy Eaton, and wrote an autobiography entitled Winged Warfare. Upon his return in April, 1918, he was promoted to major and given command of Squadron 85. By the end of the war, he had a total of 72 air victories.

After the war he established a short-lived passenger service with fellow ace William Barker. In 1928 he was the guest of honour at a gathering of German Air Aces in Berlin, and was made an Honourary Member of the Association. In 1938 he was promoted to Honourary Air Marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force[?], and was in charge of recruitment during World War II. In 1942 he appeared as himself in the film Captains of the Clouds, a Hollywood tribute to the RCAF.

He died on September 11, 1956.

His life is depicted in the famous Canadian play, Billy Bishop Goes To War.

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