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Aces of Aviation

Nieuport 17 of William Bishop

Nieuport 17 of William Bishop

Nieuport 17 of the 60th Squadron of the RFC (Royal Flying Corps), piloted by Captain William Bishop, the 2nd June 1917.

Wingspan: 7.92 meters.

Length: 5.97 meters.

Height: 2.44 meters.

Engine[s]: Le Rhône of 110 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 172 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 5335 meters.

Range: 2 hours.

Armament: One Vickers or Lewis 0.303-inch machine gun.

Avery Bishop, one of the truly legendary figures among the pilots of the First World War, survived the war with 72 victories and an impressive collection of decorations. He was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, the 8th February 1894. At the age of 17 he joined the Royal Military College of Canada and embarked for England in June 1915, along with the 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles, albeit he was later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He joined the 21st Squadron and was transferred to France along with it, in January 1916, as observer.

In the late 1916 Bishop returned to England and took pilotage training, albeit he was retained far from the front in tasks of interior defense until March 1917, when he was sent to the 60th Squadron. This unit was equipped with the small Nieuport 17, an excellent airplane which Bishop was able to pilot with great skill, but which was starting to be outclassed by the new German aircraft. The 25th March 1917 he achieved his first victory when shooting down an Albatros, and six days later he claimed another one. During the following week he destroyed another three enemy aircraft and the 7th April he downed a German aircraft and a reconnaissance balloon, action for which he was awarded the Military Cross.

Bishop had a phenomenal stamina. He often remained in flight for seven consecutive hours on a same day; being constantly in action, in the early May he had already destroyed twenty German aircraft. The 2nd May he alone attacked 19 enemy aircraft in nine different combats, destroying two of them, action which earned him the Distinguished Service Order. The Nieuport 17 which he flew in that time wore the number B1566 and it was this airplane which he used, following his characteristic style, to attack in solitary a German airbase in the early morning of the 2nd July 1917. Three Albatros took off to intercept Bishop, but all of them were downed by his machine gun. Before returning to base, he also left out of action other aircraft that were on the ground. This action was known by Sir Douglas Haig, and as a result Bishop was awarded the Victoria Cross. Shortly after this his record rose to 45 victories, and he was promoted to the rank of Major and rewarded with one bar for his Distinguished Service Order.

After a brief recruiting travel through Canada, Bishop returned to England, where he was given the command of the 85th Squadron, which was equipped with the SE5a and which he moved to France the 22nd May 1918. Despite of the orders received of not exposing his own life in combat, he took part in the action with his characteristic enthusiasm, and managed to shoot down 25 enemy aircraft in twelve days (twelve of them in just three days).