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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Col. William Barker

Link - Posted by David on February 7, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Canadian Flyer with the R.C.F.—Lieutenant Colonel William Barker’s most thrilling sky fight!

The plain unvarnished truth of William Barker’s career on two flying fronts reads more like fiction than fact. Born in the prairie province of Manitoba in 1894, he enlisted as a Private in the Canadian Army at the age of 19. He served in the cavalry before transferring to the flying corps. Barker began as a simple private. But he skyrocketed swiftly through all the grades to that of Lieut. Colonel. His training for a pilot was limited to two flights with an instructor. After that he was turned loose to begin piling up an amazing record. On October 27, 1918, he crowned this amazing record with the most astounding aerial feat of the whole war . . . fighting and escaping from a surrounding net of 6O enemy planes at the dizzy altitude of 20,000 feet.

With one leg useless, shattered by an explosive bullet, one elbow torn away by another, and two bullet wounds in his abdomen, he nevertheless maneuvered his plane in such a masterful manner that he downed 4 enemy aircraft and managed to escape to his own side of the lines. For this, his last and most terrific fight against stupendous odds, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. When he departed from the front he ranked fifth among the British Aces with 50 official victories. He was killed in an airplane accident 12 years after the war. Barker picked the following encounter as the most thrilling of his experiences.

 

WHIPPING THE FLYING CIRCUS

by Lieut. Col. William Barker• Sky Fighters, September 1935

WHEN I was assigned to the 28th Squadron, I was made a flight commander. I decided on an immediate test to prove my right to the assignment. Richthofen’s Flying Circus was operating in our area, the Hauptmann himself was away on leave, but those remaining to carry on were crack air fighters. I called my boys together for a foray over their lines.

It was late afternoon and the ceiling was less than 1,000 feet, but I picked my way across the lines by following the Memi road, vaguely discerned below by the twin rows of tall poplars on either side. Malloch, a high caste Indian, who always insisted on wearing his colorful turban with his regulation uniform, flew at my right. Fenton was at my left. Three other boys filled in the rear, 6 of us in all.

For almost an hour we dodged back and forth among clouds behind the Hun lines without having any luck. Our Sop Camels were ticking along smoothly but somewhat futilely . . . when suddenly it happened! We had slid from a cloud only to run smack into the whole Flying Circus. Malloch was closest and drew fire first, three Fokkers of dazzling hue pouncing in on him simultaneously. I split-aired to his assistance and cleaved the Hun attackers in two. But another Hun arrowed from nowhere, fastened on my tail and began pumping hot lead.

Diving for the Earth

I kicked rudder abruptly, glanced swiftly at the sky and ground, came to a sudden decision. I could spin or turn my light-engined Sop Camel on a half penny. The Fokker with its weighty Mercedes motor in the blunt nose was heavier and faster. The ceiling was low. I decided on a new adaptation of an old trick. Pushing the stick forward I dived for the all too close earth with full sauce. The Hun peppered away at my tail and I let him have it. When my lower wingtips almost touched the topmost leaves of the waving poplars I tugged the stick abruptly and went into a tight loop.

An old trick, yes. And easily countered—usually! It had been worn thin since Ball first used it two years before. But this was a new adaptation at an ungodly low altitude! The heavier Fokker couldn’t follow me. I came out sitting smack on his tail with my sights on the back of the pilot’s helmet. One Vickers burst was enough. The pilot crumpled over the controls and the Fokker fell.

I zoomed up again, just missed being hit by a tumbling Fokker coming down in flames. Fenton was going at it with two Huns. I lured one of them away by flashing my tail in his face. We went around and ’round in an ever tightening circle. The Spandau bursts swept harmlessly beneath my trucks. The Hun pilot was not able to bend his Fokker far enough to get my range. That was where our Camels were superior to the Fokkers. While circling that way I slid off on a wing nearer and nearer to the ground. When I could descend no farther I straightened out and let my antagonist line me in his sights. With his first burst I pulled up and went over in a loop to come out on the Fokker’s tail. Two bursts accounted for it. It exploded in flames. The pilot was a victim of the same trick I had pulled on the first Hun.

Four Missing Men

It was too dark now for further fighting and my squadron mates had swept away through the clouds, I could see neither friend nor enemy anywhere, so I turned homeward. Malloch was there when I landed. He reported getting one Hun. I had downed two. But four of my mates were missing! It was a sad and bitter ending to my first encounter with the Circus.

Later on, however, Fenton phoned in from a nearby field where he had been forced to land in the darkness and reported a victory. Two others had landed with him, but one of my men would never return. Fenton had seen him fall in flames behind the German lines. But I had won my first joust as a single-seater flight commander. The final score was 4 to 1 in our favor. But what pleased me most was the working out of my new tactic.

“Sky Fighters, January 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 31, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the January 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the Allied piloted Sopwith Camels against the German Albatross DVs!

The Ships on the Cover

THE SHIPS on this th_SF_3401 month’s cover are the Sopwith Camel and the Albatross D.V. Both were outstanding in their class during the World War.

The Sopwith Camel was a single-seater tractor biplane which had such fine fighting qualities that the pilots of the Royal Air Force gave this ship credit for the successful end of the war in the air. Many of the best known British aces flew Camels at some time in their careers.

A Tricky Little Scout

Collishaw alone brought down over twenty enemy aircraft in this ship out of his sixty confirmed victories. Barker flew a Camel over the Alps at the head of a British squadron which utterly routed the Austrian air forces. Many American squadrons were equipped with Sop Camels. George Vaughn and Elliott White Springs ran up their victories in them. Despite the effectual qualities this little scout possessed, it had plenty of tricks. It was the doom of many novices, but in the hands of an experienced pilot its trickiness could be turned to an advantage.

It had a tendency to rotate the plane instead of the propeller. However, there wasn’t a ship at the front which could out-maneuver it below ten thousand feet. At that height it made 113 m.p.h. It was equipped with a Clerget motor of 130 h.p. The maximum height was 9 feet, length 18 feet 9 inches and the span 28 feet. It could climb to 10,000 feet in twelve minutes.

Two Albatross D-5’s pitted against two Sopwith Camels is a fight in which either side may win. Much depends on the pilot.

An Exciting Fight

In the fight pictured on this month’s cover the Albatross scouts are in a bad way. One is a smoker trying vainly to shed the persistent Camel on his tail. The other has his guns blazing down at an enemy machine-gun nest. The broadside he is receiving from the Camel barging in from his side is dangerously close. Theoretically those two Albatross’ should have the bulge on the slower Camels. But the Boche ships are heavier, harder to jerk around. Those little Camels have been flashing in and out, lashing the Germans with Vickers slugs; completing a dangerous maneuver and being set for another before the foe could get organized.

Family Tree of the Albatross

The Albatross D-5 brought to the front in 1918 had a long line of ancestors. The beginning of its family tree was in the dim past—the days of the “Taube” school of airplane design in 1911. From those Taube-like types of monoplanes through the slow moving biplanes of early war days, mostly two-seaters, to the trim ship on the cover was a big jump. The Albatross scout of 1915 had a speed of 80 m.p.h. with its Mercedes 130 h.p. engine. The Albatross D-5 pushed along at from 135 to 140 m.p.h. without any trouble at all. Its Mercedes motor was stepped up to 220 h.p. by that time.

When any of these husky German ships were attacked the Allied aviators treated them with plenty of respect.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, January 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Hanriot 3 C.2 and the giant L70 Class Zeppelin!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 37: Lt. Col. Barker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 3, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the July 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the most decorated Canadian Ace—Lt. Col. William Barker, V.C., D.S.O. M.C.!

William George “Billy” Barker was a fighter pilot credited with 53 aerial victories during WWI, but is mostly remembered for the epic, single-handed combat on October 27th 1918 against some 60 German aircraft that won him the Victoria Cross.

After the war he joined Canada’s other Ace named Billy—William Bishop in an ill-conceived commercial aviation venture in Toronto, but in June 1922 he accepted a commission in the Canadian Air Force and was briefly the acting director of the RCAF.

Barker was fatally injured when his new two-seater Fairchild aircraft he was demonstrating crashed at Rockcliffe air station, Ottawa. He was 35.

As a bonus—here is the feature on Lt. Col. William Barker from Clayton Knight’s newspaper feature Hall of Fame of the Air which ran Sundays from 1935 to 1940. This strip is courtesy of Stephen Sherman’s acepilots.com which has a large collection of HFA strips that his father had clipped and saved at the time.

Great stuff!