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Brave Wings: My Story as a Spitfire Pilot in Wwii

by Arthur Bishop

How heavy a burden,” wrote Voltaire, “is a name that has become too famous.” That’s a fact of life for many offspring of the rich and well-known, who just can’t help going through life being known only as so-and-so’s son or daughter.

Canadian Arthur Bishop certainly fits into this category. But luckily for readers of Brave Wings, the 79-year-old Bishop has also led a pretty full life on his own – and he knows how to write about it, too. Sure, Bishop followed in the footsteps of his famous fighter-plane ace dad, Billy, and there’s a fair amount of detail on the old man here (Arthur already told his father’s story in the 1965 biography Courage in the Early Morning).

But the son, who developed his faculty with words as a reporter for The Windsor Star and as an advertising man after the Second World War, shines as he recounts his own wartime adventures. Bishop recounts the exciting days of the raw air-force recruit to full-out combat over England and France, as well his attempts to adjust to life as a civillian and family man when the conflict was over. Best are Bishop’s blow-by-blow accounts of the combat itself, and his tales of the camaraderie that emerged between pilots.

Readers with a low tolerance for accounts of hobnobbing with the wealthy will find this one tough going in the early pages, as Bishop details his upbringing among the scions of wealthy bankers, capitalists, and even royalty. Happily, this name-dropping doesn’t last long. Bishop soon gets on with doing what he does best – describing what it was like to fly combat missions, trying to conquer Nazi rivals, and the most difficult task, attempting to beat back the fear that was always with him when he climbed into the cockpit.