The UK’s seventh Poseidon MRA Mk1 maritime patrol aircraft will be known as ‘William Barker VC’ in honor 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.
Regaining consciousness several days later he was informed that he was to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valor ‘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….”
“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.” ISTAR force headquarters Group Captain O’Dell commented.
Today, 201 Squadron operates the Poseidon in the anti-submarine warfare role from RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray Firth in Scotland. In September this year, the service received its sixth Poseidon MPA, named ‘Guernsey’s Reply.’
The RAF Poseidon fleet, which will total nine aircraft, is already providing maritime patrol capabilities after reaching initial operational capability in April 2020.
The Poseidon is responsible for sea patrol missions, hunting potentially hostile submarines and helping defend the Royal Navy’s nuclear deterrent Vanguard-class submarines. Poseidons can carry up to 129 sonobuoys to search for enemy submarines and can be armed with Mk54 torpedoes if required to attack enemy submarines.