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William Barker, flying ace and forgotten hero

If you ask a Canadian who Billy Bishop was, chances are they'd know the answer. The flamboyant First World War flying ace has become part of Canadian folklore. But what about William Barker? He was also one of Canada's top wartime pilots -- and in fact, Bishop himself called Barker "the deadliest air fighter who ever lived." But by the 1990s, few Canadians have any idea who he was. In this 1998 Midday interview, Barker biographer Wayne Ralph and Manitoba MP Inky Mark explain why Canada needs to remember William Barker.
• William George Barker was born in 1894 in Dauphin, Man.

• He was Canada's most decorated war hero of the First World War, having garnered such prestigious awards as the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, Croix de Geurre, and two Silver Medals of Military Valor.

• Barker was featured as a character in Ernest Hemingway's 1936 fictional short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

• After the war, Barker and friend Billy Bishop founded a Toronto-based air charter and aircraft maintenance and sales firm called Bishop-Barker Aeroplanes Limited. Begun in 1919, the venture failed by 1922.

• In 1927, Barker was appointed as the Toronto Maple Leafs' first president by the hockey club's manager, Conn Smythe.

• William Barker died in March 1930 at the age of 35. He was piloting a demonstration flight for the RCAF when he lost control of the plane and crashed near Ottawa. An honour guard of 2,000 soldiers attended his funeral, with approximately 50,000 spectators lining the streets of Toronto en route to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery where the war hero was laid to rest. 

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: March 16, 1998
Guest(s): Inky Mark, Wayne Ralph
Host: Brent Bambury, Tina Srebotnjak
Duration: 6:44

Last updated: February 24, 2012

Page consulted on August 21, 2012

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