It was Alex Revell, however, who posed a most interesting observation on 19 April (just before release of the Greenhous book). He wrote, "No one has ever explained or even attempted to explain why Bishop is the only person to be awarded the VC for an act which was not witnessed".
This led to a lengthy contribution by myself. I shall be shameless in quoting myself (though edited for this posting). I wrote:
"To be fully accurate, a VC did not necessarily have to be ‘witnessed' but, in the absence of witnesses, there had to be corroborative evidence. Even if the events of 2 June 1917 HAD transpired as described by Bishop, how could a VC be justified ? I maintain it could NOT be justified. Yet it went through. Why ?
"Markham and Greenhous both suggest the answer but do not expand upon it Allow me to take this further.
"There is one thing that I find interesting - a comparison of Bishop's Combat Report of 2 June 1917 and the citation for his VC. The latter is based almost solely on the former, the only significant difference is that the citation mentions an enemy mechanic, the CR does not. It is almost as if Bishop wrote his own citation...
"Why that VC when neither witnesses nor corroborative evidence was available ? The most often cited ‘reason' is that the RFC had been taking heavy losses, trench warfare had degenerated into stalemate, civilian morale needed a boost and the way to do it was to manufacture a hero (a la The Blue Max). It had been done before (Warneford and Leefe-Robinson were very timely heros) - but the ‘reason' cannot be proven because, simply put, we are never going to find a memo suggesting, urging or authorizing such a ‘production'.
"But I think there the reason. suggested by Markham and Greenhous bears further expansion. I admit my own views are conjecture - but my theory is as good as any other theory
"You may recall, during the Forum discussions, the statement being made that Bishop had been ‘secretly' recommended for a VC even before 2 June and that I had stated it was more likely confusion with his DSO (and of course, all recommendations were to be ‘secret' until approved). But then, in THE MAKING OF BILLY BISHOP
(page 93), I find reference to a letter Bishop wrote on 1 June 1917 saying that ‘I have just learnt that when I got my DSO, I was recommended for the VC'.
"Aside from evidence that Bishop has ‘VC on the brain', what do we make of this ?
"Is Billy telling the truth - or another whopper ? The documents I have seen show it as a DSO being put forth on 7 May 1917 (‘whopper ! whopper !'). But let us give him the benefit of the doubt and say that Scott recommended a VC (in a document now lost) and that Wing or Brigade turned it into a DSO. What does this indicate ?
"It indicates that, in matters pertaining to Scott, Bishop and/or No.60 Squadron, the rules about confidentiality and discretion were ignored - and later letters by Bishop to Margaret also indicate that the public learned more - and faster - than anyone expected or deemed prudent.
"So, here is my scenario.
"Scott recommends a VC on 2-3 June 1917, trotting Bishop before senior officers to tell his story, and they buy it. BUT...
"In the absence of witnesses or corroboration, those involved in final approval are concerned. They ask Caldwell (the acting CO on 30 June) for more information - and he confirms their worst fears - there IS NO MORE INFORMATION - the account is based on ‘personal evidence' and no more.
"It is nearly a month since the VC nomination (it took only a month from air action to gazetting when awarding it to McLeod and Barker, admittedly 10 and 17 months later) and the more they delay a decision the greater the leaks already appearing. The process has acquired a momentum of its own. Lacking the normal corroboration, the authorities can either stop the train (fearing that newspapers will trumpet the story as ‘VC DENIED - COLONIAL OFFICER'S WORD NOT ENOUGH') or flag it through the station.
"They waved it through the station.
"They allowed - just once - the award of a VC based solely on the recipient's report, without witnesses or corroborative evidence."