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Nanaimo’s Raymond Collishaw was one of Canada’s top flying aces of the First World War.
He was credited with 60 kills, although some accounts say he had more.
“There were very few pilots who got over 20 kills and many didn’t have any,” said Roger Gunn, author of Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight.
Gunn said famous pilots like the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen had 80 and Billy Bishop, also a Canadian flying ace, had 72. Gunn recently finished his book on Collishaw to bring more attention to the life of one of Canada’s wartime heroes.
Canada is a country that is largely unaware of its wartime heroes, said Gunn.
“I don’t think many Canadians know about Raymond Collishaw,” he said. “Canadians don’t have a lot of information on pilots in World War One.”
With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the First World War Gunn said he hopes more attention is turned to the era and the soldiers who fought in the war.
“I just love history and research history and love helping Canadians understand their heroes,” said Gunn. “It’s written in such a fashion that it should be interesting to any Canadian interested in history.”
The author spent more than six years researching material for his book on the Nanaimo native. Gunn said he was attracted to telling Collishaw’s story because of his abilities as a fighter pilot and also because of his character.
Collishaw was an exceptional leader who cared about the welfare of people who served with him.
He went out of his way to ensure his fellow airmen were protected.
“He had an unbeatable spirit and was able to motivate his fellow pilots,” said Gunn, adding that his outlook even in times of hardship was upbeat. “He was always looking after his fellow pilots. He protected them and would be the first one to dive on an enemy pilot.”
Collishaw joined the Royal Navy and at the outbreak of the First World War was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Force.
In April 1917 he was transferred to the No. 10 Naval Squadron, which led to him leading the Black Flight, a group of Sopwith triplanes painted black, which faced some of the best German aces, including von Richthofen.
Gunn said he’s always loved Canadian war history, especially aviation history and finds it interesting that only seven years after the birth of airplanes Collishaw was flying biplanes and triplanes in the war.
The book takes the reader to the Western Front during the First World War and details the risks of combat and close calls Collishaw encountered.
It shines a light on Collishaw’s courage and the challenges he faced.
Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight is $26.99 and available at most major book stores and www.amazon.ca.