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Memorable Manitobans: William George “Billy” Barker (1894-1930)

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William George Barker
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Soldier, aviator, war hero.

Born at Dauphin on 3 November 1894, eldest son of George William John Barker (1871-?) and Jane Victoria Alguire (1875-?), during the First World War he joined the First Canadian Mounted Rifles as a Private, later becoming a machine gunner. He went to France with his unit in September 1915, and after weeks of trench warfare, he transferred to the Flying Corps as an observer with the rank of Corporal. In April 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant and soon after was awarded the Military Cross for his deeds as an observer-gunner. He then trained in England as a pilot, returning to action in January 1917. During his career, flying mainly Sopwith Camels, he destroyed 52 enemy planes, winning a number of medals, including the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, and French Croix de Guerre, and earning promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel at age 24.

After the war, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1920, resigning in 1924. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (then known as neurasthenia). In 1930, he became President of the Fairchild Aviation Corporation at Montreal, and he was killed on 12 March 1930 when the company’s plane he was demonstrating to the Department of National Defence crashed at Rockcliffe Airport at Ottawa. He is commemorated by Lt. Col. Barker VC School in Dauphin and was designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as a person of national historic significance. There are clipping files and papers at the Archives of Manitoba.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: W. G. Barker Plaque (Dauphin Municipal Airport)

Barker VC:William Barker, Canada’s Most Decorated War Hero by Wayne Ralph (1997)

Sources:

Marriage registration [George William John Barker and Jane Victoria Alguire], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

“Lt.-Col. Barker, Canadian ace, dies in crash,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 March 1930, page 1.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 3 August 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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