William George Barker

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William George Barker, was born on 13 November 1894 at Dauphin, Manitoba, in Canada.

In December 1914 he enlisted in the First Canadian Mounted Rifles, but he soon asked to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He had to try twice and he finally managed in April 1916. He started as a mechanic, then as an observer: he scored his first victory on a B.E.2d, shooting down a Roland. In the end, he got a pilot license in January 1917.

He started flying a R.E.8 in February. After getting woulded in August he has been a trainer for some time. Then, on 2 October he joined 28 Squadron as the commander of 'C' Flight. His mount became the Sopwith Camel B6313. On 8 october the unit reached France and Barker shot down a green Albatros that he did not claim since he was not supposed to cross enemy lines that day.

On the 24 October, the Italian front collapsed at Caporetto. 28 Squadron was among the reinforcements sent to Italy. As soon as he arrived, on 29 Novembre Barker shot down Rittmeister Von Hideghet's Albatros D.III near Conegliano.

On Christmas Day, he took off with two other pilots for an unauthorized flight. Ignoring the tacit truce that was respected by Italians and Austrians in that holy day, they attacked the airport of Motta strafing hangars, planes and people. They also dropped a cardboard sign: “To the Austrian Flying Corps from the English RFC – wishing you a merry Xmas.” Then they came back to their base and asked their mechanics to keep quiet about that.

Austrians and Germans were so offended that at 9 o'clock the next morning they sent 25 bombers and 15 fighters against the Istrana airport, thinking it was the base of RFC Camels. Their efficiency was probably not at best for what they had drunk for Christmas. At least 15 Italian Hanriot Hd.1 and 3 British Camels reacted. Italian second ace Silvio Scaroni was among them and records everything in his diary. A second wave at 1 pm came with surprise and was stopped. Austro-Germans lost 11 planes, according to Italian official bullettins, while Italian losses are Hanriots bombed on the ground. The episode has been known as the Battle of Istrana.

In The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway (an ambulance driver on the Italian front in WW1) remembers the episode: "Barker had flown across the lines to bomb the Austrian officers’ leave train, machine-gunning them as they scattered and ran. He remembered Barker afterwards coming into the mess and starting to tell about it. And how quiet it got and then somebody saying, 'You bloody murderous bastard.'”

LIn 1918 he shot down a good number of planes and balloons. He was transferred to 66 Squadron and then he became commander of 139 Squadron, a unit equipped with Bristol F2B - anyway he kept his faithful B6313 Camel. On 9 August he flew an Italian plane across the lines to drop a secret agent, Alessandro Tandura. Then he went on to bomb some Austrian target, to mask the real goal of his mission.

At the end of September 1918 Barker was sent to England, to the Hounslow flight school, and took part to the preparation of the Sopwith Snipe. He was then back to the front with 201 Squadron. He only flew a single mission on Snipe E8102, meeting approximately 60 planes of Jagdgeschwader 3. Alone against all of them he shot down four Fokker D.VII, receiving wounds to one arm and both legs. Then he crash landed behind the French lines. Unconscious for several days at the Rouen hospital, he later received the Victoria Cross on 20 November 1918.


Planes

Sopwith Camel B6313

Sopwith Snipe E8102


Units

66 Squadron

201 Squadron