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Sunday Newsletter 2001-05Su.

February 4, 2001.

He had such a unique life that I had a hard time keeping this week's biography as short as it is. As it stands, it is one of the longer ones I have ever posted. Hope you enjoy this week's article on Billy Bishop, along with the others of course.



= Question of the week
= Biography -- William Avery Bishop
= An official apology from Craig
= Place names -- Uranium City, Saskatchewan
= Quote of the week
= Pet peeves
= A little trivia
= Humour for the week
= From Stats Canada
= The challenge
= Top ten list for the week
= Words of the week
= Answer to this week's question
= Preview
= Links and resources
= Legal and subscription information



Since the "fabled" Montreal Canadiens hockey team have been in the news so much of late, I thought perhaps I'd pose a simple question regarding one of their nicknames. Why are they sometimes referred to as the "habs"?



William Avery Bishop, VC, DSO, MC, CB, DFC, ED, CdeG avec Palme, Legion D'Honneur (a.k.a. Billy Bishop).
World War One fighter-pilot ace.

How he got there.

William Avery Bishop was born on February 8, 1894, in Owen Sound, Ontario. He was the second of the three children born to William and Margaret Bishop. Bishop had it tough at school, having a slight lisp and choosing swimming and horseback riding over the more popular "boy's sports" of hockey and lacrosse. He also preferred being with the girls at school rather than the boys. These traits made him the target of the many jokes and pranks. He did not tolerate these barbs for long, as he showed no fear in attacking the pranksters with much zeal -- his fists won him the acceptance on the school grounds that his choice of companionship and preferred sports hadn't. His natural talents in the sports he chose eventually gained him the respect of his student peers. As a young teenager he met Margaret Burden, a granddaughter of Timothy Eaton, the department store tycoon. It was love at first sight, and it was a determined Bishop who vowed that he would marry her.

In 1911, at age 17, his parents sent him to Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario. Bishop said, "I had never given much thought to being a soldier, even after my parents had sent me to the RMC, when I was 17 years of age. I will say for my parents that they had not thought much of me as a professional soldier either. But they did think, for some reason or other, that a little military discipline at the RMC would do me a lot of good; and I suppose it did."

Due to his skill on a horse and his military education, he was quickly commissioned into the Mississauga Horse cavalry detachment of the 2nd Canadian Division. Fortunately for Bishop, he was hospitalized with pneumonia when his unit left for the war. His group left with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and this first wave of trench-warfare soldiers met with huge losses. Upon recovery he was assigned to the 14th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, a new detachment being formed in London, Ontario. Just prior to embarking for England Bishop proposed to the young Burden. She accepted.

From cavalryman to pilot.

Once in England the 14th Battalion was sent to Shorncliffe on the Kent coast. In July 1915 a biplane, on landing in a nearby field, disgorged a pilot who was somewhat lost and in need of getting his bearings. Bishop was fascinated. He made his mind up right then and there that he was going to fly. He later recollected, "It [the plane] landed hesitatingly in a nearby field as if scorning to brush its wings against so sordid a landscape; then away again up into the clean grey mists. How long I stood there gazing into the distance I do not know, but when I turned to slog my way back through the mud my mind was made up. I knew there was only one place to be on such a day: up above the clouds and in the summer sunshine. I was going into the battle that way. I was going to meet the enemy in the air."

He soon joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and was transferred to Netheravon, 18 kilometres north of Salisbury, Wiltshire County. The first aircraft Bishop flew in was the Farman Series 11 "Shorthorn". This plane was designated as a trainer and reconnaissance aircraft, as it was seriously underpowered for any real battles over France. Bishop also recalled the tale of this craft by saying, "I loved those first few flights in an old training bus. I don't think she made more than fifty miles per hour; and as for climbing, she struggled and shook and gasped like a freight train going up a mountain side. But it was thrilling enough for me in those days, despite the fact that I soon began to envy the pilot who had all the fun of running the machine and could make it do a few lame and decrepit stunts."

Upon receiving the "Flying O" badge of an observer (meaning he went along with a pilot during missions), Bishop's first assignment was to No. 21 Squadron, RFC, based at Netheravon. The squadron then received its first modern aircraft, the R.E.7, made by the Royal Aircraft Factory. (The "R.E." stood for "Reconnaissance Experimental".) Loaded only with the pilot, an observer, a machine gun and a camera, it could barely maintain 70 miles per hour, and reached an altitude of only 5000 feet in 30 minutes. The aircraft was a sitting duck for the German Fokker EIII monoplanes with their forward-firing, synchronized machine guns. The fear of attack from Fokkers, a very advanced German aircraft, was so great that a typical sortie had twelve fighter aircraft and only one reconnaissance aircraft.

Lady St. Helier and her influence.

The rigours of an air ace were not confined to the skies alone. In order to succeed in the hierarchy of the stratified regime that was endemic in the armed forces of the day, one needed doors to be opened -- doors that could lead to advancements in the skies and the ranks. A lucky man from the get go, Bishop met one Susan Mary Elizabeth Stewart-Mackenzie, also known as Lady St. Helier. She would play a great role in opening those doors for Bishop which in turn had a hand in allowing his legend to be acquired.

His run with Lady Luck began in somewhat the same fashion as his first venture had -- with an injury. The spring of 1916 must have seemed an interminable hell for the eager Canuck. He was severely shaken when the truck in which he was riding collided with another, then in separate incident he was knocked unconscious for two days when a piece of his airplane he was working on fell on his head. A week later found him with an infected tooth and then following that he suffered a knee injury acquired during a heavy landing. In May, luckily, he was sent back to England on sick leave and so was spared the June allied offensive on the Somme Valley in northern France. Number 21 Squadron suffered heavy casualties in their underpowered, under-gunned aircraft. Odds are that Bishop would likely have died in one of the flights over enemy lines in his role as a spotter of enemy ammunition dumps, train stations or store houses. For Bishop, the stay in hospital was a turning point, for he met and was befriended by the aforementioned Lady St. Helier. The famous socialite, who knew everyone who counted and many who didn't, was essential to the next stage of his remarkable career.

Once out of the hospital, Lady St. Helier offered him a room in her house to rest and recuperate. She managed to pull strings and Bishop was sent back home to Canada for nearly a year to recuperate fully. Bishop could have remained in Canada as he had a slight heart murmur and a bad knee injury. However, he was adamant in his need to become a fighter pilot. Therefore, in September 1916, he returned to England.

A series of medical examinations nearly sent him home again, almost ending any dreams of flying for Bishop. The doctors repeatedly rejected him as being medically unfit. Again, it was the influential St. Helier who came to his rescue and inveigled the doctors into changing their decisions. Bishop was given a cursory examination and passed as being fit for service. By November 1916, he was in training at Upavon on Salisbury Plain, England.

Back to the fighting.

Bishop spent many hours night-flying around southern England, mostly to improve his flying. Zeppelins had been bombing targets in southern England since 1914, and night patrols were supposed to protect against them. In February of 1917 Bishop was posted to No. 60 Squadron, an RFC station near Arras, France. It was the hottest theatre of the war. They had been flying the aircraft known as Morane-Saulnier "Bullets", but had suffered heavy casualties. When Bishop joined them they were flying Nieuport 17s. Across the trenches from 60 Squadron was the famed "Flying Circus" of Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). Here Bishop would face the best fliers in German uniform, and the highest-scoring aces in the world. It looked grim. The average life span of a rookie pilot in the sector was 11 days. Bishop, despite his length of service, fit the bill -- he was a rookie.

His first dogfight, March 25, 1917, had him flying "Tail End Charley" (the last aircraft of a flight of four), the most dangerous position (perhaps another reason for the short life span of a rookie). Three Albatros D.IIIs dove in on them, one getting onto the rear end of the Squadron Commander. Bishop dove in on the Albatros, placed shots along the fuselage forcing it away with him in hot pursuit. Near the ground, the German pilot pulled out of his faked death-dive, only to find Bishop still on his tail. Bishop fired from point-blank range and the Albatros thundered into the ground. His first fight, his first kill. Most veterans, on the way to becoming veterans, waited a long time before downing another aircraft, if they survived at all. Bishop, however, was on his way to immortality.

The Squadron Commander, Jack Scott, promoted him to the rank of Flight Commander, probably in gratitude. Bishop quickly adopted tactics similar to Albert Ball, another flying ace of the era, and that of many of the others of the age. His tactics were to gain the upper hand through surprise and altitude. "Fight with the sun to your back, and don't give the Hun (German) an even chance. Kill quickly and evade. Circle, and kill again." This was Bishop's motto. He perfected the deflection shot, that is, leading the aircraft in front so the bullets and the enemy met in space and time. Bishop also had what every air ace must have: an excellent sense of situational awareness. Knowing where you are in relation to the enemy, the ground and allies in four dimensions, and how to exploit the situation to your advantage. No one taught him this, he just had the raw abilities.

He won his first gallantry award, the Military Cross, on April 7, 1917. The next day he single-handedly attacked a flight of six Albatroses, knocking down three. By the time April was over (five weeks after he had arrived at the front) he had defeated 17 aircraft and was the squadron's leading ace. He earned the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts. Only Germany's Red Baron bettered his score, downing 21 British aircraft that month. Before going on leave after his first tour as a fighter pilot, Bishop shot down two more Germans, making his score 19. That same day Albert Ball, the leading British ace, was killed. Bishop was shook up again, for he and Ball had plotted to make an early morning raid on a German airfield when he got back from leave. But he didn't forget the plan. Now Bishop was the leading, surviving British ace, although a Canadian.

The leave allowed his legend to thrive. St. Helier used her abilities to capitalize on his successes. She introduced him to anyone who was everyone in London society; this included Princess Marie Louise, Lord Beaverbrook and attorney general F. Smith. Bishop stayed in the city until May 22, 1917. His exposure to the hierarchy, and his celebrity status acquired there had excited him, and instilled in him a sense of identity and responsibility. Four days after his return to the front, he downed his 20th aircraft.

On June 2, 1917, Bishop set off alone on an early-morning patrol. Although he found his original target to be deserted, he went looking for another, and found a German airfield where seven aircraft were warming up on the ground. Audaciously he made a run at the line of aircraft, emptying a drum of ammunition into them. In the ensuing melee, he shot down three aircraft that managed to take off to challenge him, and another thought better of the situation and landed without engaging Bishop. For this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the English or Commonwealth Armed Forces for valour in the face of the enemy.

Bishop finished the war credited with 72 victories (aircraft shot down), second only to the Red Baron's 80. Bishop survived, however, while the "Baron" perished on April 21, 1918. The closest Bishop came to death was on one routine patrol. As he was flying close to the ground, he was hit in the fuel tank and nearly brought down by German ground fire. With his plane on fire, he had just made it into Allied territory when he crashed into a tree, there to be left hanging upside down. The fire was lapping at his face when it began to rain, but the brief storm put out the fire before he was burnt. This was, in effect, luck number three, again as a result of injury. This incident rattled Bishop badly. The Canadian government, impressed but fearful that their greatest national hero would get killed in the fierce action over the Western Front, ordered him home. And Bishop went.

Bishop, amongst his many awards, was also the first Canadian airman to receive the prestigious Victoria Cross for gallantry. Bishop and his wife Margaret had a full and satisfying life after the war. I encourage you to read more on this unique individual either through links provided or from books that can be ordered from Indigo.ca. A highly regarded Canadian play, "Billy Bishop Goes to War", also provides an insight to this Canadian legend. Bishop died in Palm Beach, Florida, USA, while wintering in Florida on September 10, 1956. Although he died peacefully in his sleep at only 62, he had lived the life of someone twice his age.



No, I'm not going to apologize for the newsletter being late... again. This time it's for my sarcastic sense of humour. Last week I wrote, when announcing the winner of our latest contest, "Those who answered golf, horse racing and bowling have been singled out for remedial Canadian history lessons!" I sincerely did not mean to insult anyone with my words, and I apologize to those I offended. I also want to make clear that those were not John's words. I try to make it clear when I'm butting into his newsletter, but sometimes I don't, as it is often the "royal we" who are speaking. If you answered the contest question at all, you were doing better than I -- my only guess was that Gretzky played baseball. John has since given me my well-deserved remedial Canadian history lesson.



Uranium City, Saskatchewan.

Uranium City had an estimated population of 209 in 1994. It is located on the north-shore of Lake Athabasca, 50 kilometres south of the Saskatchewan / Northwest Territories boundary and some 75 kilometres east of the Alberta border. The fur trade was the dominant economic activity until the 1930s, as it was with so much of the area's early economy. In the 1930s gold was discovered in the nearby Beaverlodge Lake area. From 1938 until the mid-1940s gold was the main mining concern of the area. In 1946, thanks to the interest spawned by the Second World War, uranium exploration took off in the area with Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited beginning production in 1953. In 1952 a town site, Uranium City, was established and in 1956 a special local government jurisdiction was created. A thriving mining community followed the development and continued until Eldorado announced that it was closing its operations. Since the termination of mining and milling operations was announced and effected in 1982, the community has experienced economic collapse and an exodus of its population. Today it is referred to only as a settlement. What is of particular concern to the now near-deserted site, and the meager amount of residents, is the polluted land the company left behind. The federal government and the people of the region have been at loggerheads over the cleanup costs.



"Ordinary mud is bad enough, when you have to make your home in it, but the particular brand of mud that infests a cavalry camp has a meanness all its own." --Billy Bishop.



This week's pet peeve comes to us from the ever-travelling Cathy, now located in Seoul, South Korea.

I have a pet peeve for you that happens to me every time I travel overseas, and it would surprise me if it has not happened to every Canadian while travelling abroad. If I get asked if I'm American one more time, I'm going to spit nails! It happens all the time and the questions is asked by many, including taxi drivers, store owners and other Western foreigners.

When meeting a person for the first time, I can immediately tell they are Canadian when they ask, "Where are you from?" instead of, "Are you American?" It must be more noticeable and annoying because I have been overseas for an extended period of time. Many Koreans and other Western foreigners seem to have a very narrow view of the world and assume that a person is from the States if they are white and speak English. However, when I tell them I'm Canadian, their voices perk up a bit because there is a large anti-American sentiment here.

American's don't understand why it is offensive to Canadians. I try to explain that we are a separate country, that on the surface we may not differ from that much from the US, but we couldn't be more different historically and culturally.

Another pet peeve? I have witnessed many times the stereotypical American ignorance about Canada, such that it has proven itself not to be a Canadian misconception. I don't mean to offend any American subscribers, but the sheer stupidity is laughable. I was talking to an American soldier one night several weeks ago. When I told him I was from Canada, he said he went to Canada once "to that international airport of yours." I always thought Americans were ignorant about Canada, but it was absolutely ridiculous that he thought us to be so small that we only have one international airport! I retorted that we have *several* international airports (to which he appeared surprised) and asked which one he visited. I then named all of our international airports and he couldn't tell me which one it was. The fact he couldn't name a single Canadian city (not even Toronto) and didn't know we are an industrialized nation proved my long time assertion about American blindness to Canada. I'm sure he would have believed me had I told him we live in igloos!

Gee, I'm on a roll! Once I tell someone I'm from Canada (after they asked me if I'm American), the *first* thing they ask is, "Do you speak French?" Some have even asked why I don't have a French accent. One American thought she would need an interpreter or a French-English dictionary if she travelled to Canada. She said she always wanted to go to Canada, but hesitated because she couldn't speak the language!

I (John again) am curious about the sort of response she got this past Christmas in Australia. Cathy, you have the floor. Let me know the differences, if any, and I will post them for our audience.



Did you know that "Maclean's" magazine, is owned by none other than the media giant known as Rogers Communications? It is a small world after all. Stay tuned for an upcoming Friday Feature on this media giant. Don't expect it to be too warm and fuzzy!



Here are some questions asked by Americans crossing our border, and the sometimes humorous replies given.

- What is Canada? -- The top half of North America.
- How big is Canada? -- Bigger than the United States (approximately 9 970 610 square kilometres).
- What is a Canadian? -- Someone who lives in Canada (i.e., not an American).
- What is a Canuck? -- Someone who lives in Canada (i.e., not an American).
- Does Santa Claus live in Canada? -- Yes. The North Pole lies within the boundary of Canada. Technically, he is Canadian.
- Can you keep beavers as pets in Canada? -- If you really, really want to.
- Who is Canada's president? -- We don't have a president, we have a prime minister (Jean Chretien).
- Do Canadians drive Ski-Doos? -- Yes, when there's snow on the ground.
- What do Canadians *do* up there? -- Shovel driveways, play hockey.
- Does it snow all year in Canada? -- Only when it's cold.
- What are "Newfies"? -- These are a mythical tribe of people from Newfoundland. They feed on cod.
- What language do Canadians speak? -- Canadian: French-Canadian or English-Canadian. Either way you will find a distinctive "a" sound involved in pronunciation.
- Is Canada clean? -- Yes. Except for Lake Ontario.
- Why do Canadians say "eh", eh? -- That way they can they appear to speak both French and English.
- Do Canadians live in igloos? -- No! Not all of us.
- Why are Canadian mosquitoes so big? -- We demand only the best. It takes fewer mosquitoes to make a fur coat if they're larger.
- Do they turn off Niagara Falls at night? -- Only if there's a hydro outage.
- Can I walk to Vancouver after dinner in Ottawa, or do I have to take a bus? -- I suggest a major airline.
- Can women really go topless in Canada? -- Yes, in Ontario and British Columbia they can. We expect your tourist dollars this summer!
- What is Tim Horton's? -- The temple in which we worship a hockey player who loved donuts.
- What is Kraft Dinner? -- A macaroni and cheese entree in a box that forms the central diet of most Canadian university students.



Hey, we, as a country, are watching TV a lot less these days. No doubt everyone is logging onto the FactsCanada.ca Web site and no longer has the time for Ally McBonemeal or Oprah McWindy. According to the report, every province, except British Columbia and Newfoundland, have reported a decrease in viewing time by their populaces during the past year, bringing the Canadian average down to 21.6 hours per week. This is down almost 10 percent from 1988 statistics that showed we watched 23.5 hours per week. The numbers themselves don't look that different, but the percentage drop is huge, especially when considering the number of new stations, fancy options and digital choices we now have. The British Columbia average went up to 20.7 hours, still below the national average, while Newfoundlanders stand at 24.5 hours. What was the demographic with the highest number of hours viewed you ask? The answer is French speaking Quebecers at 25.5 hours per week.



A couple of readers have questioned my actual intent in putting forth my challenge last week with respect to names of cities and towns. Perhaps my argot did not translate as well as I had intended. To attempt to clarify this challenge I will briefly say that what I am looking for specifically is Canadian community names that are repeated two or more times and are spelled exactly the same. An example would be the name Garson, which exists in both Ontario and Manitoba. You could also respond with the name Glenwood which can be found in five provinces: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. Don't worry about my clues here -- there are plenty more, believe me. I probably should have used an example in my initial statement of the challenge. Happy hunting!



Longest rivers in Canada and their lengths in kilometres.
 1. MacKenzie           4241
 2. St. Lawrence        3058
 3. Nelson              2575
 4. Churchill           1609
 5. Peace               1521
 6. Fraser              1370
 7. North Saskatchewan  1287
 8. Ottawa              1271
 9. Athabasca           1231
10. Yukon               1149
The length of the Yukon River includes only that portion which lies within Canada. Its total length would rank it number two at 3185 kilometres, if we counted the length in foreign territory.



By Craig.

Following on from my earlier apology, I was going to define "crow" (as in eating it), but I'll work with three words used in this week's newsletter.

Ace -- (noun) 1. a playing card, domino, or side of a die having one spot. 2. a single spot or point. 3. (Sports) a. a point won by a single stroke. b. (Tennis) a serve that is impossible to return. 4. a person expert at anything. 5. a combat pilot who has shot down a large number of enemy planes. 6. (adjectival) of very high rank or quality; expert. -- (verb) 1. (Tennis) serve an ace against (an opponent). 2. (Golf) make an ace on (a hole). 3. (Slang) achieve a high mark in (an examination, etc.). 4. win (a game) or defeat (an opponent) decisively.

Argot -- (noun) 1. the specialized language, or jargon, of people who share a particular kind of work or way of life, especially one that is more or less secret.

Dogfight -- (noun, informal) 1. a fight between dogs. 2. any rough fight or uproar. 3. a combat between individual fighter planes. -- (verb) engage in a dogfight.



Since the "fabled" Montreal Canadiens hockey team have been in the news so much of late, I thought perhaps I'd pose a simple question regarding one of their nicknames. Why are they sometimes referred to as the "habs"?

"Hab" is short for habitant, or habitan, which is French for an inhabitant of French descent living in Canada, especially Quebec.



On Friday, Mike takes a look at Canadian awards for bravery.


A week from hell this was at the MacDonald household. We experienced our second basement sewer flood in the past two and a half years, and this was even after we relocated after the first one! It could not happen twice in the same lifetime, but alas it did. Good news is this newsletter still got out. (Well, it got to Craig on time, but he's had his own problems this week.) Hope you enjoyed this week's articles. Remember, if you're looking for a unique e-mail address, visit our Web site at www.factscanada.ca and sign up for our free e-mail service. I will talk to you next week. Hey, what's that smell?



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