Raymond Collishaw

Raymond Collishaw (1893 - 1976)

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AVM Raymond Collishaw
Born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canadamap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Mayfair, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadamap
Profile last modified | Created 16 Jul 2014
This page has been accessed 739 times.

Categories: British Columbia Aviation Figures | British Columbia Military Figures | Nanaimo, British Columbia | West Vancouver, British Columbia.


Raymond Collishaw is/was a significant British Columbian.
Raymond Collishaw was born on November 11, 1893 in Nanaimo, British Columbia[1]. He was the son of John Collishaw and Sarah Jones.

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:

  • 14 JUN 1917: DSO Distinguished Service Order for services 06 JUN 1917 over Messines,
  • 1917: CdeG Croix de Guerre (France) with 2 Palms, awarded for service 12 OCT 1916,
  • 08 JUL 1917: DSO Distinguished Service Order for services on the Ypres Front in June & July, 1917,
  • 06 JUL 1918: DFC Distinguished Flying Cross
  • 01 AUG 1918: Bar added to Distinguished Service Order,
  • 1919: Czarist Order of St. Stanislaus, Second Class with Swords,
  • 1919: Czarist Order of St.Anne, Second Class with Swords,
  • 1919: Czarist Order of St. Vladimir, Fourth Class with Swords and Bow,
  • 1920: OBE (Civilian) Order of the British Empire for services against the Bolsheviks,
  • JAN 1941: OB Companion of the Order of Bath, for services during WWII,
  • 1946: OBE (Military) Order of the British Empire for services during the Western Desert Campaign,
  • 1973: Inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.

"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 outwitted by the squadron leader. Everyone on the ground cheered, for they knew that 'the baby' was Raymond Collishaw.

Raymond died in North Vancouver, British Columbia on September 29, 1976[2]. He was buried with full military honours, including a Voodoo 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.


  1. Registration of Birth for Raymond Collishaw, Event Type: Birth, Registration Number: 1893-09-050143, Event Date: 1893-11-22, Event Place: NANAIMO, Person: RAYMOND COLLISHAW, Vital Stat Images(s): 004401548_01984.jpg, BC Archives - Royal BC Museum.
  2. Registration of Death for Raymond Collishaw, Registration Number: 1976-09-014915, BC Archives Mfilm Number: B13355, GSU Mfilm Number: 2050568, Event Date: 1976-09-29, Event Place: NORTH VANCOUVER, Age at Death: 82, Person: RAYMOND COLLISHAW, Vital Stat Images(s): 004479372_01248.jpg, BC Archives - Royal BC Museum.

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    Sopwith Triplane "Black Maria"
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    Raymond is 22 degrees from SJ Baty, 25 degrees from Orville Redenbacher and 22 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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