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 REVIEW: Amercom RFC Sopwith Camel, 139 Squadron, Major William Barker VC, DSO, and Bar, MC and Two Bars, Italian Front 1917

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Join date : 2017-02-18
Location : Vancouver

PostSubject: REVIEW: Amercom RFC Sopwith Camel, 139 Squadron, Major William Barker VC, DSO, and Bar, MC and Two Bars, Italian Front 1917   Wed Jul 26 2017, 15:25

Sopwith Camel F1
Royal Flying Corps (RFC) 139 Squadron
Italian Front 1917
Major William George Barker VC, DSO and Bar, MC & Two Bars
1/72 scale

William George "Billy" Barker Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order & Bar, Military Cross & Two Bars. Two Italian Silver Medals for Military Valour, and the French Croix de Guerre. He was also mentioned in despatches three times.

He was a Canadian First World War Ace and Victoria Cross recipient. He is the most decorated serviceman in the history of Canada, and indeed in the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations.

William Barker originally served in the Canadian Army as a Colt machine gunner with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles machine gun section until early 1916, when he transferred as an Observer to 9 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps flying in Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 aircraft. In January 1917 he commenced pilot training at Netheravon. In February 1917 he returned to serve a second tour on Corps Co-operation machines as a pilot flying B.E.2s and R.E.8s with 15 Squadron on the Western Front.

After a short spell in the UK as an instructor, Barker's continual requests for front line service resulted in him being transferred to become a scout pilot with 28 Squadron flying the Sopwith Camel. 28 Squadron was in Action in France in 1917 and later the Squadron was transferred to the Italian Front. After serving as a Flight Commander with 28 Squadron and 66 Squadron he became the Squadron Commander of 139 Squadron also based in Italy.

The Amercom model represents the time Barker was the Squadron Commander of 139 Squadron flying the Bristol Fighter. Barker however took his Sopwith Camel with him from his previous assignment at 66 Squadron and continued to fly fighter operations.

Barker's personal Sopwith Camel (serial no. B6313) had become the most successful fighter aircraft in the history of the RAF, having used it to shoot down 46 aircraft and balloons from September 1917 to September 1918, for a total of 404 operational flying hours. It was dismantled in October 1918.

Having flown more than 900 combat hours in two and one half years, Barker was transferred back to the UK in September 1918 to command the fighter training school at Hounslow Heath Aerodrome. Barker ended his Italian service with some 33 airplanes claimed destroyed and nine observation balloons downed individually or with other pilots.

In London at RAF HQ, he persuaded his superiors he needed to get up to date on the latest combat techniques in France and he was granted a 10-day Roving Commission in France, wherein he selected the Sopwith Snipe as his personal machine and attached himself to No. 201 Squadron, whose Squadron commander, Major Cyril Leman, was a friend from his days as a Corps Co-operation airman.He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on day 10, Sunday, 27 October 1918.

The citation for Barker's Victoria Cross is fascinating reading and follows:

"On the morning of the 27 October 1918, this officer observed an enemy two-seater over the Foret de Mormal. He attacked this machine and after a short burst it broke up in the air. At the same time a Fokker biplane attacked him, and he was wounded in the right thigh, but managed, despite this, to shoot down the enemy aeroplane in flames.

​He then found himself in the middle of a large formation of Fokkers who attacked him from all directions, and was again severely wounded in the left thigh, but succeeded in driving down two of the enemy in a spin. He lost consciousness after that, and his machine fell out of control. On recovery, he found himself being again attacked heavily by a large formation, and singling out one machine he deliberately charged and drove it down in flames. During this fight his left elbow was shattered and he again fainted, and on regaining consciousness he found himself still being attacked, but notwithstanding that he was now severely wounded in both legs and his left arm shattered, he dived on the nearest machine and shot it down in flames. Being greatly exhausted, he dived out of the fight to regain our lines, but was met by another formation, which attacked and endeavored to cut him off, but after a hard fight he succeeded in breaking up this formation and reached our lines, where he crashed on landing.

This combat, in which Major Barker destroyed four enemy machines (three of them in flames), brought his total successes to fifty enemy machines destroyed, and is a notable example of the exceptional bravery and disregard of danger which this very gallant officer has always displayed throughout his distinguished career." VC citation, London Gazette, 30 November 1918

Post war..

Barker continued to suffer from the physical effects of his 1918 gunshot wounds, his legs were permanently damaged and he suffered severely limited movement in his left arm. He also struggled with alcoholism in the last few years of his life. He died in 1930 when he lost control of his Fairchild KR-21 biplane trainer during a demonstration flight for the RCAF, at Air Station Rockcliffe, near Ottawa, Ontario. Barker, aged 35, was at the time the President and General Manager of Fairchild Aircraft in Montreal.

This model of the Sopwith Camel is a magazine series model produced by Amercom in Poland. It is mainly plastic construction and represents good value for a model that can often be found for the sub $15 range. The packaging is typical for Amercom. Once opened it can never be sealed up again. However, the range was never intended for the upper end of diecast collectors. The model fills a unique niche in the 1/72 range and represents an important part of Aviation History. Recommended.


Below: Almost 100 years separate these Italian based Canadian Military Aircraft - Barker's RFC Sopwith Camel (1917) and RCAF CF-18 Hornet during the Libyan No Fly Zone enforcement (based at Trapani, Italy in 2011).

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REVIEW: Amercom RFC Sopwith Camel, 139 Squadron, Major William Barker VC, DSO, and Bar, MC and Two Bars, Italian Front 1917
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