RAF P-8A Named for Canadian Victoria Cross Recipient

The UK’s seventh Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft will be known as ‘William Barker VC’ in honour of the Canadian pilot awarded a Victoria Cross whilst serving with 201 Squadron in the First World War.

In October 1918, Major Barker was flying a Sopwith Snipe overhead the Western Front when he became embroiled in a dogfight with 15 enemy aircraft. Despite being wounded three times in the legs and having his left elbow blown away, he managed to control his biplane and disable three enemy aircraft before making a forced landing.

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The Caption held by the Imperial War Museum reads: “Major W.G. Barker, VC, DSO, MC, commander of NO. 28 Squadron, beside his Sopwith Cmael.” In this caption he has obviously been given the rank and decorations he ultimatley gained. Barker did not command No.28 Squadron, however, and he was not promoted to major — as he appears in this photot– until he took over command of No. 139 Squadron. It seems likely that this picture was taken when he was in command of No. 139 Squadron on the Italian fronts, and that the Camel is the one he flew while with Nos. 28 and 66 Squadron.–B6313.

Regaining consciousness several days later he was informed that he was to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valour ‘in the face of the enemy.’ In a short note to the Commander of 201 Squadron Barker wrote: “BY JOVE, I WAS A FOOLISH BOY, BUT ANYHOW I TAUGHT THEM A LESSON….”

Today, 201 Squadron operates the Poseidon in the anti-submarine warfare role from RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray Firth in Scotland. The RAF Poseidon fleet, which will total nine aircraft, is already providing cutting-edge maritime patrol working side-by-side with the Royal Navy and other Allies to secure the seas around the UK and abroad.

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