Billy Bishop, the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I was a man that gave a new face to Canadian pride and patriotism. Having shot down a total of 75 confirmed victories (72 planes and 3 German balloons), he broke the records of other prominent fighter pilots, being second only next to his German counterpart, Manfred von Richthofen (who shot down 80). Bishop was a man of fame, but he was certainly not without controversy. Many critics and historians have since launched attacks on the man, denigrading him and leaving his legend in tatters and surrounded with uncertainty...until now.
In this excellent and superbly-written biography, historian Dan McCaffery has not only examined Bishop the man and his fast-growing legend, but also has set the controversy to rest in light of new and previously untapped interviews with comrades and extensive readings of primary and secondary sources on the topic. Was Bishop truly honest about many of his victory claims? Find out for yourselves! Reading like a fast-paced novel, Bishop is depicted in a very well-deserving light characteristic of a hero and living legend. What more can readers and aviation history buffs seeking the truth behind the man and his amazing deeds in the skies over the Western Front ask for?
As a Canadian, this reviewer sees the lack of heros and an identity crisis that the country of Canada is experiencing. Bishop is the type of individual that stirs pride and patriotism, and certainly represents the Canadian youth that were among some of the best fighter pilots of the Great War.(1) Should these great and brave individuals not be acknowledged and remembered with pride as Canada's history grows? Form your own opinion (as you will), but Canadians are doing an unbelievably shoddy job of remembering and acknowledging, all sense of pride being lost amid attacks and accusations of hero-worship and pro-war propaganda. McCaffery and his work is the little bit of acknowledgment and pride-stirring history that Billy Bishop fully deserves.
This book remains the definitive work on the subject, and Mr. McCaffery is to be congradulated for writing and exposing the truth behind this Canadian legend and icon. Let Bishop go down in history as a Canadian Hero, and by reading this book, one will gain tremendous insight into what made Bishop tick, and what a true hero is made of.
Edition which was reviewed: Dan McCaffery, "Billy Bishop: Canadian Hero." (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 1988).
1. For an excellent discussion of this issue, see Denis Winter, "The First of the Few: Fighter Pilots of the First World War" (London: Allen Lane, 1982); and Dan McCaffery, "Air Aces: The Lives and Times of Twelve Canadian Fighter Pilots" (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 1990).