Billy Bishop

Canada’s Flying Ace

Fighter planes were brand new during the First World War. In March 1917, a young pilot who would become Canada’s top flying ace took to the air. Billy Bishop, born on February 8, 1894 in Owen Sound (Ontario), was 23 years old when he downed his first German plane on his first mission. By the end of the War, he had 72 victories to his credit, ranking only third behind the 80 claimed by Manfred von Richthofen, Germany’s legendary Red Baron.

Pilots shared a special bond with their planes. This coin shows Billy Bishop with his first plane, a Nieuport 17 that he nicknamed Little Daisy, with a full-colour portrait of the Canadian hero in the foreground.



Billy Bishop’s best-known feat is his daring solo raid of June 2, 1917. He destroyed three German planes and sent a fourth one into retreat–a victory that earned him the first Victoria Cross to ever be awarded to the Air Force.

Billy Bishop perfected the game of “chicken.” He would fly straight at his enemy and refuse to move. Then, at the last possible moment, he would send a shower of bullets into the enemy’s engine before swerving out of the way.

Billy Bishop - $20 Pure Silver Coin (2019)
Billy Bishop – $20 Pure Silver Coin (2019)
Billy Bishop - Canada's Flying Ace

Captain Billy Bishop, V.C., of the Royal Flying Corps, in the cockpit of his Nieuport 17 fighter. At the time this photograph was taken in France in August, 1917, he had already shot down 37 German aircraft.

Billy Bishop - Canada's Flying Ace

Lieutenant-Colonel W A ‘Billy’ Bishop VC, of No 60 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, one of the leading fighter aces of the First World War, standing in front of his Nieuport 17 Scout at Filescamp, France, c. 1917.

Billy Bishop - Canada's Flying Ace

William Avery (Billy) Bishop, WW1 Canadian Fighter ace, demonstrates the “upward firing” technique used by himself and others when attacking enemy aircraft from below, c. 1917.

CREDITS: LEFT – Photograph by William Rider-Rider, now in the collection of Library and Archives Canada, PA-001654. CENTER – William Rider-Rider. Canada. Dept. of National Defence. Library and Archives Canada, PA-001651. RIGHT – Library and Archives Canada, PA-122515 / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, PA-122515.