"Better to die voluntarily crashing than to have the enemy send you down in flames."
Dogfighting just isn't what it used to be. Sure, there's something to be said for doing barrel rolls, screaming through the atmosphere at Mach Five Million, flipping on the afterburners and taking it right into the danger zone, but at the end of the day, most modern fighter pilots are really just launching missiles at the green shit on the HUD. Back in the days of the Great War, when fighter planes were little more than flying metallic deathtraps with large-caliber machine guns strapped to them, dogfighting was an up close and personal affair. I mean, taking down an airplane from a range of only a couple hundred feet with nothing more than a few hundred bullets isn't exactly like stealing candy from crippled orphans or shooting hippies in the face with a blowtorch. You need to have the lightning-quick reactions of a schizophrenic cat that accidentally got into a stash of cocaine, the ability to accurately use the iron sights of a .303-caliber machine gun from a standing position while also deftly maneuvering a rickety, barely-airworthy flying contraption so that you evade enemy bullets and don’t crash face-first into a mountain, and, quite honestly, you need more luck than a lottery-winning leprechaun with a rabbit's foot for a keychain and a horseshoe lodged in his rectum. Canadian fighter ace Billy Bishop possessed all of these talents as he blazed through the skies of Western Europe like a demonic, balls-out bat from the deepest recesses of Hades, turning the most capable and daring pilots of the German Empire into giant flaming balls of burnt toast and spicy death.
Bishop was born in Ontario in 1894 and spent a brief stint at the Royal Military College before dropping out to join the Canadian Corps of the British Army at the onset of The Great War in Europe. He enlisted in the cavalry, dreaming about leading insane, thundering charges on enemy positions and hacking up cowering kraut infantrymen with a badass gleaming sabre, but unfortunately for Billy even the most incompetent military commander this side of George Custer knew that sending a balls-out cavalry charge against a half-dozen machine gun nests was stupider than sticking your tongue in an overloaded power outlet. As a result, most of the Allied mounted units spent their first months on the Western Front sleeping in ankle-deep mud and shoveling horse shit several hundred miles away from anything even remotely resembling actual combat. Billy decided that he was sick of sitting around when he could be blasting assholes out of the sky from the cockpit of a badass fighter plane, so even though he had never piloted an airplane in his entire life he requested to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He was put through several months of intense training, received his aviation wings, and was promptly hurled balls-first into action in March of 1917.
Flying an Allied Nieuport 17 biplane in World War I was roughly about as dangerous as putting together a suit of armor made from raw meat and flying down a Slip 'n Slide coated with barbecue sauce into a swimming pool full of hammerhead sharks and starving piranhas. The average lifespan for a new pilot in the Arras sector of Northern France - the area Bishop was initially stationed - was 11 days, a stat that put most rookies somewhere between fruit flies and unrefrigerated chicken meat on the life expectancy scale. You don't need to be the illegitimate love-child of Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie to know that these are not good odds. As if this wasn't bad enough, I should mention that during this time his squadron was squaring off against the notorious Jasta 11 - Germany's most elite squadron, personally commanded by The Red Baron himself. Bishop didn't give a shit though, and on 25 March he recorded his first kill, shooting down a German Albatross D.III fighter plane that was being a total dick and screwing with him for no reason at all. By 8 April, only two weeks into his service to the Queen, Billy had already added five flaming German-speaking infernos to his Asskicking Log, scoring the magic number that officially bestowed Bishop with the prestigious title of Fighter Ace. He spent the rest of April careening through enemy space like a sociopathic cyborg bird-of-prey with a rocket launcher strapped to its back, blasting anything that moved and dogfighting with some of the most dangerous pilots in all of Germany. Incidentally, when I wrote that last sentence I accidentally typed "dongfighting" instead of "dogfighting", an unfortunate typo that pretty much affixes a completely different connotation than what I was intending to say. Anyways, during that month he shot down an additional 12 enemy aircraft, bringing his kill total up to 17. This is pretty damned impressive, especially considering that he was lucky just to have merely survived his encounter with Richtofen's boys - by the end of April, 20 of the 25 planes assigned to Bishop's squadron had been completely blown to shit.
"Normal formation is two at the front and three at the rear, except Billy was always at least 1/2 mile ahead.
How he got that far I do not know"
Despite his incredible success, by all accounts Billy Bishop was actually a pretty mediocre pilot. He didn't have a great deal of skill in the air, but he did have the natural instincts of a combat aviator, he was a crack shot with the machine gun, and he was utterly fearless and balls-out all of the time. He always tore ass out in to combat at full speed, loved being in the thick of the action, and never thought twice about slamming into barf-inducing rolls and nose-dives to try and outmaneuver his enemies. He utilized surprise and altitude to his advantage, preferring to swoop down through the cloud cover like a pissed-off hawk getting ready to peck the eyes out of a small rodent and shoot asshole enemy pilots in the face when they were least expecting it. He always volunteered for the most dangerous missions available, and eventually was given free reign by his commanding officer to fly solo search-and-destroy missions deep into enemy airspace. His maverick missions soon earned him the nickname "The Lone Wolf", which is probably one of the top five most badass nicknames a human being can have. It's right up there with "The Unstoppable Unholy Ball-Smashing Machine" and "The Scourge of God".
Bishop's most notable achievement came on 2 June 1917, while he was flying one of his balls-out Lone Wolf missions against a heavily-defended airfield deep behind enemy lines. Bishop saw several planes on the tarmac out there, so he swept down and strafed the field, gunning down a couple of mechanics and damaging a shitload of expensive equipment. Several enemy fighters scrambled to face Bishop. He was able to hit two Albatross D.IIIs immediately after they got off the ground, sending them plummeting back to Earth like a couple of sacks full of lead shit, and then he killed two more in straight-up air-to-air combat. Despite the fact that his plane was severely damaged by ground fire and another group of fighters was sent in to pursue him, he managed to get back home safely and glide his broken-down, beat-to-shit plane back onto the runway. For shooting down four Germans in the span of about five minutes, Bishop became the first Canadian pilot to win the Victoria Cross - the Empire's highest award for bravery in combat.
Captain Bishop was recalled from the front for almost a year following this event, but eventually was placed in charge of "The Flying Foxes" squadron in June of 1918, where he personally led a unit of hand-picked, elite Canadian pilots against the Germans. Unfortunately, High Command finally decided that if The Lone Wolf were to be shot down it would be a massive kick in the ballsack to the entire British Empire, so on 19 June 1918 he received word that this morning's mission would be his final combat operation of the war. Instead of being relieved that he could stop having jackasses in airplanes shoot goddamned machine guns at him all day, Bishop got really ripshit pissed off that he wasn't going to have the opportunity to jam his cannons up any more German urethras. In his final mission, Bishop went solo into a group of three enemy fighters, firing his guns like Tony Montana at the end of Scarface, swearing profusely and giving everyone the finger. He killed one German pilot on his initial pass, and then pulled up hard through the cloud cover. The two remaining enemy fighters tried to chase after him, but they got crossed up in the clouds and smashed into each other like dumbasses. Bishop quickly dove back through the clouds towards another flight group that was moving towards his position and opened up with his guns once again. Two more Albatrosses were sent careening towards the ground. The surviving Germans decided, "screw this shit, I'm out of here", and bugged out like those Soviet MiGs from that got their shit jacked up by Maverick and Iceman in Top Gun. Bishop had notched five kills in the span of fifteen minutes and survived to tell the tale.
Billy Bishop had claimed 72 air victories in only six months of active combat duty, making him the British Empire's highest-scoring fighter ace during World War I. When he returned from the front was hailed as a hero in Canada and Britain, receiving dozens of medals from numerous Allied nations and scoring with his wife pretty much all the time. In the years following the war he served as a Canadian Air Marshal and flight instructor, training the next generation of Canadian fighter pilots - men who would go on to prove their worth by helping the Allies win the Battle of Britain and forever keep the Nazis out of England.
"You have no idea of how bloodthirsty I've become and how much pleasure I get in killing Huns"
William Avery Bishop
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