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2001 Closed threads from 2001 (read only)

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Old 22 March 2001, 08:25 AM   #1
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I have been reading the various posts on the Willie Fry/Bishop affair and if I may I would like to make a few comments. Firstly I abhor the terms ‘anti-Bishop’ and ‘Bishop detractors’. Speaking for myself, I have no wish to be known as an ‘anti’ or a ‘detractor’.Bishop was a boyhood hero of mine, as he was to many other people.** As an historian of somewhat mature years, I am now interested in trying to understand events in history, using what evidence is available – contemporary, if possible, and certainly primary sources in the main. As with any other controversy, the Bishop question has become bogged down with minutia and many basic questions have become obscured in the process. The basic points in dispute are the aerodrome raid and the victory score. Actually there are many strange aspects to the Bishop story which have been overlooked and I’d like to go into these later.
The aerodrome raid. So far no record of this raid, or the casualties from it, has been discovered. It therefore becomes B’s word against that of the German records. It has been argued that these are not necessary complete. Fine. This is a point of view that cannot be ignored, but a disinterested observer could argue that it seems strange that both B’s claim to have attacked an aerodrome, and his combat claims, have** been unverifiable because of lost records. But let’s leave that for a moment. The hard inescapable fact remains that B was awarded the VC for an action which was not witnessed by any other. As far as I am aware, this is the only time an unwitnessed act has resulted in aVC being awarded and, in fact, goes directly against the conditions laid down for the award to be given for a single act of courage. Why were these conditions ignored in B’s case. Nobody has addressed this question.
The B victory score.** If Messrs McCaffery, Stewart Taylor and Dennis Hylands have come up with some matches, then it would be interesting to see their reasonings and conclusions.** I’m afraid that I have not heard of Mr McCaffery, his is certainly not a name which is familiar in the international research community as far as I am aware. Stewart Taylor is a fine resercher, but as far as I know his main concentration is on Canadian questions and I’m not aware that he has extensive German records. Dennis Hylands has done very little research in recent years, by his own admission and, again, is not known as a German ‘expert’ as I’m sure he would admit. On the other hand, the late Ed Ferko devoted most of his adult life to the study of the GAS and had an enormous amount of German material, which is now in the University of Texas. Ed carried out an intensive study of the B victory claims in 1986. He used the Verlustliste der Deutschen Luftstreitkrafte** im Weltkriege ; the records of Kofl 2 Kofl 4 and Kofl 6; the unit histories of German jasta operating on the same area of the Front as 60 and 85 sqdns at the time in question. At the conclusion of his research Ferko commented ‘It is not a pretty picture. This researcher has checked every possible German book, letter or record in his hands, looking for information relating to B’s claims - information either pro or con – nothing has been withheld which might confirm or deny any of B’s victories’. Ferko had failed to match a single claim made by B against a known German loss for any day, time and place in question. This is remarkable in itself – that there were no ‘possibles’ or ‘could have beens’.
As I have said, these are the basic points surrounding the B case. But I think there are other questions which need to be answered which I would like to address in part 2.** **
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Old 22 March 2001, 08:34 AM   #2
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Bishop Part 2.

In May 1916, while in hospital, B was befriended by a Lady St.Helier, who claimed she was a friend of his father, although B senior could only conjure up a ‘vague recollection’ of having met her. On his release from hospital, Bishop became one of Lady St Helier’s ‘lodgers’ in her house in Portland Place. Why an aristocratic lady, with important connections, would take a complete stranger into her social circle on the grounds of having once met his father is unclear. Those were extremely class-conscious days and although B was good fun to be with and charming he was also reputed to be a little gauche. Suddenly, ‘indefinite home leave’ is arranged for this quite unknown and unimportant Lt. On B’s return to England his difficulties in being accepted for pilot training are suddenly swept away by Lady St H pulling strings and B is welcomed with open arms by the War Office for pilot training.

After his first sortie with 60 Sqdn, having been with the sqdn a week (and already being familiarly addressed by his CO as ‘Bish’) Bishop is asked by Scott to lead a Flight - which includes himself, Horn, and ‘Grid’ Caldwell - on an offensive patrol, because, as Scott puts it, ‘the rest of us are a bit bushed’. Here we have a new pilot in the squadron, of unknown quality, who has not even had time to ‘learn the country’, being asked to lead a patrol of experienced airfighters. Why would they entrust their lives to this unknown quality, in his inexperience he might get them all killed, or at best, lost.
Five days after his first fight in the air, B leads a patrol which, with one exception, a Flt Commander, is made up of new, novice pilots. What was Jack Scott thinking of to take this kind of risk with new and inexperienced pilots. The patrol lost two pilots killed.
After only one month of flying at the Front, B is made a Flight Commander and promoted to Captain. This is most unusual to say the least. Most people served a six months, or slightly longer, tour of duty at the front, gaining valuable experience - if they survived – before being sent back to HE. They were then promoted to Captain and if they had shown promise, posted out to France again as a Flight Commander. I can think of no other pilot who was promoted to Captain and given a Flight after serving one month of his first tour of duty. People such as Ball, McCudden, Mannock, Bowman, to name just a few, all had to find their feet and learn the art of airfighting in their first tour of duty before going on to become successful airfighters and Flight Commanders in their second. Compare their claims during their first tours with that of B, who claimed 14 victories in his first month at the Front! In his first month at the front, Richthofen only scored five victories, even though he was flying a vastly superior aeroplane to his opponents. B’s promotion is incredible.
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Old 23 March 2001, 05:34 AM   #3
Kory Clark
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"Richthofen only scored five victories, even though he was flying a vastly superior aeroplane to his opponents"

I would not agree with this, the D2 is not vastly superior to n11 or the n17, and is only better than the dh2 in terms of climb and engine power. It was however, a very nice plane to chase down fe's and quirks with.



billy, bishop

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