Veteran Stories:
Art Barker

Air Force

  • Art Barker's Certification of Completion of a Tour of Operation Against the Enemy, 15 February 1945. A tour of operation consisted of 30 flights.

    Art Barker
  • A photo taken in February 1945 by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper at the Ottawa Union railroad station of Art Barker and Tedde Fitzgerald after Mr. Barker returned from overseas. They were married the following month.

    Art Barker
  • Art Barker's medals. From left to right: 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal (1939-1945)

    Art Barker
  • Art Barker's log book.

    Art Barker
  • A hotel receipt from the Regent Palace Hotel, Picadilly Circus, London, England, 16 January 1944. Art Barker and his brother, a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force, spent some of their leave time together.

    Art Barker
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"Now we had just got airborne that night, overloaded with bombs and gas which was usual, routine, when we lost an engine, Don managed to keep us in the air and slowly gained altitude. The procedure under these conditions, circumstances, was to jettison our excess gas and drop our bombs in the North Sea and return to base. Don gave us the choice. It was a unanimous decision to continue."

Transcript

When we left Canada we thought our training was over and we were ready for the front lines, but we were mistaken. The real training was yet to come. We received further training in armed and unarmed combat and survival tactics useful if you were shot down over enemy territory. Training on a [Vickers] Wellington two-engine bomber, which we flew over the enemy territory dropping leaflets to our allies whose countries had been conquered by the Nazis. Then posted to a heavy-bomber, [Handley Page] Halifax four-engines conversion unit and finished our training. April 4, 1944 – 4, 4, 44 – 4 was my lucky number I thought. Arrival – I arrived with my crew of seven on an operational squadron, the 427 Lion Squadron with the Canadian 6 Group Bomber Command, who flew Handley Page four-engine Halifax bombers.

Don Hepburn, the pilot of our crew, was awarded the DFC, Distinguished Flying Cross, for a particular bombing raid on Karlsruhe, Germany, December 4, 1944. This is the story as I remember 67 years ago. Now we had just got airborne that night, overloaded with bombs and gas which was usual, routine, when we lost an engine, Don managed to keep us in the air and slowly gained altitude. The procedure under these conditions, circumstances, was to jettison our excess gas and drop our bombs in the North Sea and return to base. Don gave us the choice. It was a unanimous decision to continue. He asked us each individually to – we had to climb above icing conditions over the English Channel. This meant going alone and giving up protection of the bomber stream, flying with the stream meant flying a prepared route and avoid as much as possible ground fire and night fighter bases. In a stream all bombers dropped window, which is strips of silver paper that blot out enemy radar used to vector their anti-aircraft guns. On our way to the target, alone, we encountered the expected ground fire and fought off two enemy fighters. We dropped our bombs on target as confirmed by our cameras which we carried in the nose of the aircraft, headed for home. We had to consider bailing out over enemy territory while our flight engineer calculated and recalculated how long we could stay airborne and it was decided finally that we had a good chance of making it, which means crossing the English Channel as well. We came straight in and landed safely.

The engines cut out before the usual run-up check on dispersal. On the dispersal pad, that’s where you park and everybody gets out, was completed, we had a few holes in the aircraft but none in any of us. Don and our commanding officer recommended the crew for the DFC. Bomber Command in London had the final say, approved only one for the pilot.

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