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76-Year-Old Vancouverite Greatest Living Air Ace
76-Year-Old Vancouverite Greatest Living Air Ace
Published by Scott
3 October 2007
Page 1

76-Year-Old Vancouverite Greatest Living Air Ace

VANCOUVER (CP) — The "waltzing partners" were British Sopwith Triplanes of Raymond Collishaw's Black Flight and red German Albatrosses of Baron Manfred von Richtofen's Flying Circus.
Streams of fiery orange tracer bullets 17,000 feet above the muddy trenches of the Somme, Ypres and Vimy Ridge flashed death in the fantastic ritual of the First World War aerial dogfight.
For Mr. Collishaw, at 76 the world's greatest living air ace, the skies over France in 1917-18 were the setting for a tremendous drama of gallantry and destruction.
"The theatre was in the clouds," said the retired air vice-marshal. "The fighter pilots on both sides played to audiences of infantrymen cheering them on from the trenches below.
"The waltz started when one plane would get on the tail of another. The two aircraft would fly in ever smaller circles until finally one could bring his guns to bear on the other — then the dance ended.
"The enemy pilot would stick with it and refuse to break off even though the gap was closing, fascinated like a goat by a snake, until he was shot down."
With 60 accredited German kills, Ray Collishaw was a consummately skilled "waltzing partner" in a profession where the odds against mere survival were long.
Born in Nanaimo, B.C., the stocky, barrel-chested combat pilot spent 28 years in Britain's Royal Air Force and never fought under Canadian command. But he survived to become one of Canada's greatest—though least publicized—war heroes.

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