RAF News

RAF Poseidon aircraft named after Canadian Victoria Cross recipient

Poseidon ZP807 taking off.
The newly named Poseidon ZP807 leaving Seattle.

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.

Portrait of William.
Portrait of Wing Commander Barker, Victoria Cross.  Photo credit: National Defence Canada.

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…."

Black and white photo of William and his aircraft.
       Wing Commander William Barker with a Sopwith Camel in which he shot down 46 enemy aircraft.  Photo credit: DND Archives, AH-517.

"The Royal Air Force has always enjoyed the closest of ties with the Royal Canadian Air Force and it is entirely fitting to name this aircraft after William Barker Victoria Cross whose exceptional gallantry continues to serve as an inspiration to military aviators.  Major Barker won his Victoria Cross in 1918 while serving on 201 Squadron who now operate the Poseidon. This also provides an appropriate link to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s subsequent key role within Coastal Command during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, and their continuing contribution to North Atlantic maritime security today."

Group Captain O’Dell
ISTAR Force Headquarters

Poseidon ZP807 nose end by emergency exit.
The Poseidon ZP807 name written on the side.  Photo credit: Boeing.

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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