Arthur Bishop 1923–2013
Meeting Arthur Bishop was an event in itself; irascible, charming, outspoken and just plain fun to talk to. He had appeared in 1994 at the Western Canada Aviation Museum as part of the cross-country tour associated with the launch of his latest book, The Splendid One Hundred: True Stories of Canadians Who Flew in The Battle of Britain. Signing copies of his book at a front table set up in the foyer, he was there for only a fleeting time, but was immediately surrounded by admirers, both young and old, who hung on his every word. He answered every query with aplomb, even when some of the questions touched on the controversy that had haunted the memory of his famous father. His unvarnished comments would raise eyebrows and a chuckle as he dissed and dished it out with the views of contemporary historians whom he dismissed as "revisionists."
Despite his own illustrious career as a fighter pilot, journalist, advertising executive, entrepreneur, historian and author, in the public's eye, Arthur Bishop was inextricably linked to "Billy" Bishop.
Born in London on June 13, 1923; Arhur's godfather was Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, a former governor general of Canada, and his godmother was Princess Louise, cousin to Queen Mary. At 10, he was flying with his father and three years later, trained as a student pilot at the Montreal Light Air¬plane Club. When war came, at 18, like his father, Arthur enlisted and on July 30, 1942, at Uplands, Air Marshal W. A. Bishop, director of Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting, pinned his wings on his son. The striking resemblance of the two men, was clearly evident but Arthur did not trade on the fame of his forebear, rather he was determined to forge his own way. There were other similarities; "He has enough of the devil in him to make a good fighter pilot." This was the recommendation given by Arthur Bishop's headmaster in a character reference required by the RCAF for all new recruits.
Arthur became a fighter pilot, serving with 401 Squadron RCAF flying Spitfires as part of 83 Group in the then recently formed 2nd TAF. Flying hundreds of missions over France, he scored a victory, but was also shot down twice. By 1945, Arthur was rotated back home and a new life began as he married Priscilla Jean Aylen, the daughter of John Alden Aylen QC, and Jean Oliver Anderson of Ottawa. The marriage brought two children, Diana and William.
Discovering a talent for the written word, Arthur began a professional life as a reporter for the Windsor Star, then joined Ronalds Advertising Agency, where he rose to become senior partner, director and vice president. In 1967, in partnership with his wife, he formed PPS Publicity, working with some of Canada's leading corporations. Upon retirement, he began another career as a distinguished aviation historian and author. In 1956, before his father had died, he had hoped that his son would write his biography, subsequently to become The Courage of the Early Morning (1965). Another score of important books followed, Courage In The Air (1992), Courage On The Battlefield (1993), Courage at Sea (1994), The Splendid Hundred True Stories of Canadians Who Flew in The Battle of Britain (1994), Our Bravest and Best: Stories of Canada's Victoria Cross Winners (1995), Canada's Glory: Battles That Forged A Nation 1795-1953 (1996), S*A*L*U*T*E: Canada's Great Military Leaders From Brock To Dextraze (1997), The Air-Raid Coded Bodenplatte (1998), Destruction At Dawn (1998), co-author of Our Lasting Bond: The Canadian Fighter Pilots Association Memoir (1998), Unsung Courage (2001) and Winged Combat: My Story as a Spitfire Pilot in World War II (2002).
By the time of his last works, Arthur had lost his wife and had moved to The Kensington Gardens Retirement Residence in Toronto, where he lived out his last years, in company of those he would probably characterize as "old f*ts." Arthur was also the co-founder and director of the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association, as well as director of the Canadian International Air Show. In 1999, he was awarded the Bear Hickle Award for his contribution to Canadian military history by the York Garrison of the 78th Fraser Highlanders. In 2003, Arthur Bishop was named Guardian Commander of the Canadian Veterans Hall of Valour for his outstanding contributions to the history of Canada's military heroes.
William Arthur Christian Avery Bishop died in his sleep on February 14, 2013. Did he ever overcome having to live in the shadow of a legend? Diana Bishop recalled, "My father followed in his father's footsteps as a fighter pilot, right into another war. It couldn't have been easy, and I often wondered whether he constantly had to seek his father's approval, and whether he was always trying to measure up." On his passing, his son, Bill, succinctly noted that his father "never once complained" about being constantly compared to a legend. "That's one of the amazing things about him ... He had to carve out his own life. And he did it very well."
In his obituary, his family invited well-wishers to "raise a glass and share their favourite Arthur Bishop story at a memorial celebration at The Badminton & Racquet Club of Toronto on Saturday, February 23rd."