This Week in History
Protector of the Air
For the week of Monday October 29, 2007
On November 3, 1894, William George Barker was born on a farm near Dauphin, Manitoba. Early on, he gained a reputation as an excellent marksman – a skill that would serve him well during the First World War.
Barker began his career with the RFC as a gunner-observer, providing artillery direction, photographic and visual reconnaissance. In November 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for defending his aircraft from enemy fire while completing a difficult photographic mission during the Battle of the Somme.
In January 1917, Barker started training as a pilot in England. Deemed a “natural” by his instructor, he went “solo” after only one hour of instruction. As before, he was flying reconnaissance missions, only now he was responsible for piloting the plane while an observer conducted reconnaissance. His service was so exceptional that he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross.
Barker was seeking out enemy aircraft over the Western Front in his Sopwith “Snipe” single-seat fighter aircraft on October 27, 1918. Early that morning, he spotted a lone German plane. Barker attacked and destroyed it. Others immediately attacked. The fight ended with Barker crash-landing in Allied territory after receiving three injuries and shooting down three more planes. He was grounded due to his injuries for several months, causing him to miss the final two weeks of the war.
Among Canada’s most decorated Aces, Lieutenant-Colonel William George 'Billy' Barker, VC is a National Historic Person.
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