Major Raymond Collishaw – Canadian Ace 1893 / 1976
Raymond Collishaw was born in British Columbia, Canada. His parents were Welsh immigrants. At the age of 15, Collishaw joined the Canadian Fisheries Protection Service as a cabin boy. He continued working on the ships and the coast until 1915, he reached the rank of First Officer.
When war first broke out in 1914, he applied to join the Royal Navy, but did not get a reply for some time. In the meantime, towards the end of 1915, he heard the Royal Naval Air Service was looking for recruits, so he applied to them. He had flight training in Toronto at his own expense and further training when he reached England.
He got his pilots qualification in January 1916. Then spent seven months patrolling the British coast. Then on 2nd of August 1916 he joined the R.N.A.S’s 3rd wing in France flying Sopwith 11/2 Strutters, some were equipped as bombers whilst others were 2 seat fighters.
Collishaw’s first recorded victory came while he was flying escort on the Wings first large scale raid into Germany. Their aim was to bomb the Mauser Rifle Factory at Obendorf, Germany.
The bombers had almost reached their target when they were attacked by six German Fokkers. Collishaw manoeuvred in to position so that his observer could fire at one of them, and he had evidently damaged it. Collishaw then turned, gained height and fired a burst with the front gun, The Fokker dived out of control and smashed in to the ground.
Collishaw’s next two victories were witnessed by thousands of French troops. He was ferrying a new aircraft from Wing H.Q. when he was jumped by six enemy aircraft, who were above him, Collishaw, like Barker and Mc Keever was happiest when close to the ground in this type of situation. At tree-top level the advantage in numbers meant much less, in two quick bursts, he sent two Albatroses crashing in to the trees, the others flew off. The French were so delighted by his performance that they awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
On December the 27th whilst flying home from a raid on the steel works at Dilligen, his aircraft was damaged in flight, he only just succeeded in gliding back over the French lines near Nancy where he crashed, the plane was a total wreck. It was the first of a number of crashes made by Collishaw, and set the precedent, no matter how wrecked the plane was, Collishaw stepped out of the wreckage grinning and ready to fly again.
In February 1917, Collishaw was transferred to No.3 Naval Squadron, which was operating with the army near Cambrai. During his two months there Collishaw was employed as escort to the Corps Squadron bombers, downing one enemy aircraft in the process. In April 1917 he returned to the coast, being transferred to No.10 Naval Squadron.
To Be Continued……..
(C) Damian Grange 2018