Interview with Roger Gunn, author of Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight

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Interview with Roger Gunn, author of Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight

Posted on July 15 by Roger Gunn
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Today on the blog we have an interview with Roger Gunn, author of Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight. Roger has been a student of history since he was a young boy. When not reading about or researching the history of the First World War, he is an instructor of Human Resources Management at the JR Shaw School of Business at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. He currently lives in Edmonton. Today he tells us about his new book, how he became interested in the topic, and how he went about researching this important part of Canadian history.

Caitlyn: Tell us about your book.

Roger: My book, Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight traces the life of Canadian Raymond Collishaw from his humble beginnings in Nanaimo British Columbia to his exploits in the air in World War I against the German forces over the Western Front. Over the course of the war Collishaw rose in the ranks of the Royal Naval Air Service from Flight Sub-Lieutenant to Flight Commander to Squadron Commander. He ended the war with sixty victories, the third highest tally of any of the British Empire pilots. Collishaw stayed in the Royal Air Force after the war and served in other combat arenas, concluding with the command of the allied air forces in North Africa in World War II.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for this work?

Roger: Canadians do not know about or celebrate the lives of their war heroes. Books have been written about Billy Bishop and William Barker but who knows about Raymond Collishaw? I wanted Canadians to know about the courage and exploits of this truly Canadian air ace of World War I. That is why I had to write about him.

Caitlyn: How did you come up with the title?

Roger: The title of the book, Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight comes from the name of a flight of five or six aircraft that he commanded while serving with No. 10 Naval Squadron in the summer of 1917. The Sopwith Triplanes of Collishaw’s flight had a finish to them which was a very dark green, almost black so hence the name the Black Flight.

Caitlyn: Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

Roger: It seems that, in periods of war, especially the last two world wars, the best has been brought out of many young Canadians. Many young men have risen to the challenge and answered the call to arms. One young man was Raymond Collishaw. Canadians need to be familiar with this young man, from his early career at sea to his training to be a pilot in England to his many exploits in the air over France during very difficult conditions.  This is what motivated me to research, study and write about this fascinating leader of his fellow airmen.

Caitlyn: How did you research your book?

Roger: I spent many summers in Ottawa at the Library and Archives Canada looking into the nine boxes of material on Collishaw and documents he had amassed over the years concerning the air war of World War 1. These included many letters to and from Ronald Dodds, the historian who helped him write his autobiography.  Also included was correspondence which Collishaw had received in the 1960’s and early 1970’s from his fellow pilots from the war. I had also visited the Canadian War Museum’s library in Ottawa and Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, to do research.  In addition to this I have collected and read hundreds of books on World War I.

Roger Gunn

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Roger Gunn photo

Roger Gunn

Roger Gunn is the author of Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight, the first comprehensive biography of Canada's second-highest-scoring ace in the First World War. Roger lives in Edmonton.