Raymond spent the years 1908-1915 in the Canadian Fishery Protection Service. He served on the "Alcedo" and on the "Fispa"on the west coast, and on the "Niobe" stationed out of Halifax.
In 1916 he joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). During WWI he was credited with 60 victories, placing him second in the list of Canadian Aces. As Naval 10's Commander of the famous "Black Flight", he was the highest scoring ace to fly the Sopwith Triplane (Black Maria). He remained in the postwar RAF and saw service in southern Russia (as commander of the South Russian Expedition), in the Middle East (North Persia, Mesopotamia, Kurdistan and Iraq), in England (Andover, Henlow Field, Upper Heyford, Birchan Newton, with the Dept of Operations and Intelligence), in Malta (HMCS "Courageous") and the Sudan.
At the beginning of WWII, he commanded the RAF Desert Forces out of Heliopolis, Egypt, and later Lybia. He retired in 1943 with the rank of Air Vice Marshall, his last posting being at Inverness, Scotland.
He returned to British Columbia where he was actively involved with a number of mining and oil companies, Craigmont Copper and Copper Mountain Consolidated being the most notorious.
Over the years, Raymond conducted detailed research on military aviation during WWI and corresponded with numerous airmen, both Allied and German. The Collishaw Papers, which include two chapters of his published memoirs, a file of air casualty registers (11 binders), various historical papers, research notes, his pilot's log books 1916-1973, 7 binders annotating his life (compiled by himself), Squadron rosters 1914-1918, and many pages of research notes of a historical, technical and personal nature are held at the Directorate of History, Department of National Defence with no restriction on access. An update of his research was published in "Over the Front", Vol 10, No. 4, Winter 1995 by the League of World War I Aviation Historians.
Raymond was one of the most decorated of all war veterans, having received the following honours:
"Memories of a Canadian Airman" by Raymond Collishaw, is a series of five articles published in the May, June, July-August, September, and October 1964 issues of "Roundel" that recount his life.
In 1973 Raymond published his autobiography "Air Command, A Fighter Pilot's Story". Other accounts of his life are recorded in: -"The Brave Young Wings" by Ronald V. Doods 1980, - "Canada's Fighting Pilots" by Edmund Cosgrove 1965, - "Flying Canucks- Famous Canadian Aviators" by Peter Pigott 1994, - "Air Aces-The Lives and Times of Twelve Canadian Fighter Pilots" by Dan McCaffery 1990, - "Aces and Aircraft of World War I" by Christopher Campbell 1981, - "The History of The Royal Canadian Air Force" by Christopher Shores 1984, - "Canadians at War" by Jim Lotz - "Dictionary of Aviation-Eighty Years of Powered Flight" by Anthony Robinson 1984.
In 1980, Cedric Smith, portrayed the flying ace in the play "Billy Bishop Goes to War" as it toured across Canada. He said in an interview published in the Winnipeg Free Press 01 OCT 1980 that Ray Collishaw was a fascinating Canadian air ace who was virtually forgotten. "Collishaw once encountered three German planes, shot down one and was being attacked by the other two when his gun jammed. He flew behind some cloud cover and worked feverishly to unstick the gun, actually climbing out of the cockpit to get at it. Suddenly the plane flipped over and he fell out, still clinging to the gun. As he came from behind the clouds, the two Germans were treated with the sight of Collishaw hanging from his overturned plane. They apparently concluded he was a goner and departed. Miraculously the plane righted itself and he was able to climb back in and land it safely. But in his desperate attempts to get back into the cockpit, Collishaw had kicked a couple of holes in the fuselage, and, on his return to base, he was fined for damaging Naval property."
Cedric Smith used Ray Collishaw as his inspiration to play his part of Billy Bishop! Over the years other writers have found delight in the adventures of "Colly".
In a rare 4 1/2 hour interview, published in "Time" 10 JUN 1966, the headline reads "Out of Dawn Patrol and into the outhouse", referring to an incident where he crashed into a row of outhouses while attempting to drop a note into a girl-friend's garden to let her know he was off to France.
Gregory Clark, in the Weekend Magazine (The Toronto Telegram), Vol 9 # 4, 1959 recounts his time in the trenches watching the Fokkers engaging 'the baby' (an obviously inexperienced pilot) in a dogfight, only to discover too late that they had been outwhitted by the squadron leader. Everyone on the ground cheared, for they knew that 'the baby' was Raymond Collishaw.
Raymond was buried with full military honours, including a Voo-Doo double fly past. Schools along the funeral procession route were closed to allow the students and teachers to show their respects.
02 OCT 1999: The airport in Nanaimo, British Columbia was officially renamed the Nanaimo Collishaw Air Terminal in his honour.
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