Gnr. William A. Bishop


    William Alan Bishop, son of Allan and Florence Bishop, was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, on August 3, 1891. William grew up in Owen Sound and attended the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute prior to enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915 at age 23. Bishop was a student at the University of Toronto when he enlisted on March 16, 1915. He enlisted in the armed forces in Toronto and was initially posted to the 25th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. At the time of his enlistment he was a member of the Canadian Militia and had spent six months at an Officer’s Training Centre. The medical examination papers describe Bishop as having brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion, standing at about 5’5”. Bishop was deemed ‘fit’ for service and cleared for entry into the Armed Forces the same day.1

    Bishop arrived in Plymouth, England on August 18, 1915, along with the rest of the 25th Field Battery as part of the 2nd Canadian Division. For the rest of that year he trained with his unit in the United Kingdom before embarking for France on January 16, 1916.2 Upon leaving England for the continent, the 25th Field Battery was incorporated into the 6th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery.3 Bishop’s unit arrived in Le Havre, France, on January 18, 1916.4 During the month of September, 1916, the 7th Artillery Brigade, including the 25th Field Battery, bombarded the enemy positions in support of the infantry troops fighting in the Somme during the allied attack on the area around Courcelette, France.5 There were no daily records kept for Bishop’s unit from September 19 to October 1.6

    Following the events of mid-September, the Canadians moved on to the next phase of their attack and renewed the assault on September 25. This next movement would be known as the Battle of Thiepval Ridge.7 William Bishop would be severely wounded on September 26.8 The report made on the events of Bishop’s final moments details the ordeal:

    “Gnr. Bishop was severely wounded during an attack at Courcelette, and his officer who was with him at the time made the following report: ‘On the afternoon of September 26th, 1916, I went up to the front line with Gnrs. Bishop and Smith with the object of getting into the enemy line to observe. We were quite close to this trench when I got hit. Gnrs. Bishop and Smith dressed me to the best of their ability and tried to assist me to the dressing station, but we had only gone a short distance when I was hit again, and at the same time Gnr. Bishop was hit in the face, his chin being completely blown off. Gnr. Smith and I did our best to dress him and stop the bleeding, but before this was finished I lost consciousness through loss of blood. When I recovered, Gnr. Bishop was still with me but Gnr. Smith had gone for assistance. Gnr. Bishop showed the greatest pluck, and together we attempted to crawl in. I soon found that this was useless as I had so little strength left. Just at that time an infantry officer came and asked me for certain information concerning the attack, and as he was going straight back to battalion headquarters I asked him to take Gnr. Bishop along with him. I fear that he must have been hit again because the enemy barrage was very heavy at the time.’ When Gnr. Smith, who had also been wounded, reported to his battery that his officer and Gnr. Bishop had been wounded a party was immediately sent out to search for them, but could find no trace of either. The officer was eventually traced at a dressing station but although inquiries were made at all dressing stations in the vicinity for several days, nothing further could be obtained concerning Gnr. Bishop.”9

    Bishop was declared wounded and missing until the following year. On August 16, 1917, he was “for official purposes presumed to have died.” William Bishop is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France, one of over 11 000 Canadians killed in France during the First World War with no known grave.

1. "Bishop, William Alan," RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 760-46, Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

2. "Bishop, William Alan."

3. Marc Leroux, "Canadian War Diaries: Artillery Units," Canadian Great War Project, last modified July 16, 2010, accessed June 7, 2016,

4. "Bishop, William Alan."

5. G.W.L Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War (Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1962), [Page 174].

6. "War Diaries - 7th Artillery Brigade, C.F.A," War Diaries of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

7. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, [Page 174].

8. "Circumstances of Casualty: Gunner William A. Bishop," Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

9. "Circumstances of Casualty: Gunner."

10. "Bishop, William Alan."