The fledgling military air services of World War I had no problem finding volunteers and many recruits were cavalrymen who had seen their traditional and glamorized role usurped by the airmen in their outlandish flying machines. Many of these men such as Mannock, Richtofen and Ball were destined for immortality for their part in this new kind of warfare: aerial combat.
Of the great pilots of WWI none had a more remarkable story than that of Canadian Fighter Ace Major William Barker. Able to solo after just 50 minutes of instruction he joined No. 28 Squadron and it was with this unit that he first flew the aircraft that would become one the most successful fighters of the Great War, the Sopwith Camel.
On 8 October 1917 Barker, accompanied by three novice pilots took off to patrol the line from Ypres to Dixmude. Seeing no action he decided to cut across the lines, which at that time was forbidden, and worked his way back to Ypres. Approximately 6 miles into enemy territory he spotted a circus of 22 German aircraft below them and dived into the formation, leaving his novices to follow. Moments later he had downed an Albatros D.V and to the relief of his flight pulled away and headed for home. Due to the fact that he was leading a flight of new recruits and was prohibited from crossing enemy lines Barker decided it was not wise to claim this kill, although there is no doubt that it was a clear cut victory.
Awarded the Victoria Cross for later action he ended the war with 54 confirmed victories and remains Canada’s most highly decorated soldier with the Victoria Cross, Military cross and two bars and Distinguished Service Order and bar.
This atmospheric painting by one of the worlds leading Aviation Artists, Gerald Coulson captures the scene moments after his impromptu victory, as Barker leads his flight of novices in loose formation back to Allied lines. Flying West into the early evening sun against the back drop of a dramatic skyline, the four Sopwith Camels head back to their base at St Omer.
Each print is individually numbered and personally signed by the artist.