RCAF school renamed in honour of Wing Commander William Barker, VC

News Article / April 17, 2018

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From 2 Canadian Air Division Public Affairs

In a ceremony held April 12, 2018,  at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada in Winnipeg, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) renamed the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Studies after the most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations: Wing Commander William G. Barker, VC, DSO and Bar, MC and two Bars.

The school’s new title is “The RCAF W/C William G. Barker VC Aerospace College”.Major-General Blaise Frawley, deputy commander of the RCAF; Lieutenant-Colonel William Snyder, commandant of the college; and family of Wing Commander Barker took part in the ceremony.“Recognizing and learning from our past leaders is essential to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s capability to train and prepare for our future,” said Major-General Frawley. “By linking this state-of-the art learning institution to Wing Commander Barker, we recognize the tremendous achievements of this iconic leader and commemorate his contributions to our success. Associating his name with this school will inspire generations of our personnel who pass through its doors for years to come.”

The RCAF W/C William G. Barker VC Aerospace College was established in 1987 to meet the professional development needs of the RCAF, although its history can be traced back to 1948. Still strongly tied to its roots as a technical school, it has also evolved to become a leader in providing education in both aerospace technology and officer professional development helping shape the airpower mindedness of the RCAF. Renaming the school in honour of William G. Barker, VC helps link the RCAF’s proud history with the advanced education and training needed to deliver airpower capabilities today and into the future. It also supports the RCAF’s strong ties to Manitoba, Wing Commander Barker’s birthplace.

“Honouring Wing Commander William G. Barker connects our institution with our rich and inspiring history and solidifies our close connection to his home province of Manitoba,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Snyder.

Wing Commander William George Barker (1894-1930) was awarded the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order (twice), Military Cross (three times), Mentioned in Dispatches (three times), Medaglia D’argento Al Valor Militare (Italy, twice), and the Croix de Guerre (France). Born in a log cabin in Manitoba in 1894, he entered the Great War as a simple soldier. He soon joined the Royal Flying Corps, first as observer, then as a pilot. He rose in rank and fame and, when the RCAF formed in 1924, he was appointed acting director until a permanent director (equivalent to today’s commander of the RCAF) was identified.

He retired from the RCAF in 1926 and returned to civilian employment, including a term as the first President of the modern Toronto Maple Leafs. He died in a flying accident in 1930 and is interred in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where a memorial was raised in his memory in 2011. "Our grandfather's career coincided with the rapid rise of military aviation,” noted Wing Commander Barker’s grandsons, Alec, Ian and David Mackenzie. “During and after the First World War, he developed and advocated new tactics and technologies, therefore we are proud to see his name attached to an institution that pursues those goals."

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