Billy Bishop's home declared heritage site

Ottawa retreats from earlier rejection of designation

Rick Mofina
Southam News, with files from The Canadian Press
Willy Waterton, The Sun Times

Sheila Copps, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, says the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada was wrong when it initially refused to designate the childhood home of Billy Bishop as a historic site.

OTTAWA - The boyhood home of First World War flying ace Billy Bishop
will be declared an official heritage site, Sheila Copps said yesterday.

The Heritage Minister said the Historic Sites and Monuments Board
of Canada was wrong to reject the designation.

"Certainly the commission's decision to refuse the designation, we felt,
was not acceptable," Ms. Copps told reporters.

"So upon reflection, they've decided that they will work with the
community to make it happen."

Ms. Copps said the board sent a letter to officials in Owen Sound, Ont.,
yesterday to ensure recognition of the Bishop home.

"I'm glad of the quick action on behalf of the minister," said Ovid Jackson,
Liberal MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, who pressed the issue yesterday
in the Commons.

"It was kind of like a slap in the face when the board rejected the request,"
said Mr. Jackson, former mayor of the city.

The board had concluded the sprawling Victorian home "does not reflect in
a persuasive way Bishop's national significance."

William Avery Bishop was born in 1894 and became one of the leading aces
of the First World War. His schooling at the Royal Military College in Kingston,
Ont., was interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. Bishop was a
mediocre pilot in the Royal Flying Corps but possessed a superior grasp of
tactics and was an accurate shot.

In February, 1917, Bishop was sent to France. He made his first kill during his
first dogfight on March 25 of that year. A month later, he had brought down 17
aircraft and was his squadron's leading ace.

In June, 1918, Bishop brought down 25 enemy aircraft in 12 days. Over the
preceding five months, he had shot down 45.

The government, worried about the impact on public opinion if Bishop were
killed, exerted pressure to have him removed from the front.

After receiving orders to return to England and assist in the establishment
of a Canadian Flying Corps, Bishop flew one last mission. In 15 minutes, he
shot down five enemy aircraft. He ended the war with 72 victories and
many decorations.

In 1938, with the threat of Nazi Germany looming, the government made him
head of an advisory committee charged with expanding the Royal Canadian
Air Force. He worked at the post until 1944, when illness forced him to step
aside. Bishop died in 1956.

In 1980, the federal government designated Bishop a nationally significant person.

The home now houses the Billy Bishop Heritage Museum, dedicated to the pilot
and to Canada's aviation history.

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Honourary Canadian

Brought to you by: Billy Bishop, a REAL Canadian Hero.

Created: February 27, 2002
Last updated: December 28, 2003
This story was brought to my attention by Steven Dieter, former Historian at The Billy Bishop Heritage Museum.
©2002 Albert Lowe. All rights reserved.
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