Patrolling the Line

Gerald Coulson





Patrolling the Line Gerald Coulson

Of the great pilots of World War I few had a more remarkable story than that of Canadian Fighter Ace Major William Barker. Able to solo after just 50 minutes of instruction he joined No. 15 Squadron flying a reconnaissance R.E.8 Survival and after being wounded was posted back to Britain as an instructor. However, desperate to get back to operations his constant requests to return to the front - helped by his audacious decision to ‘beat up’ Whitehall and the new Air Ministry headquarters in London - saw him posted to No. 28 Squadron at Yatesbury.
It was with this unit that he first flew the aircraft that would become one of the most successful fighters of the war, the Sopwith Camel.

This agile and highly maneuverable biplane accounted for more aerial victories than any other Allied aircraft during World War I being credited with 1,294 enemy aircraft destroyed. Called the Camel due to the humped fairing over its twin machine guns it was extremely difficult to fly and had a tendency to kill inexperienced flyers. Of the 5,734 Camels delivered none is more famous than the one flown by Billy Barker - B6313 - which he first flew when he took command of ‘ C ’ Flight of No. 28 Squadron. He would keep this particular aircraft for over a year and it was to become one of the single most successful fighter aircraft in the history of the British flying services, logging more than 379 hours of flight time and shooting down 40 enemy aircraft with it. He would also decorate it with killing markings and whilst with No. 28 Squadron identified himself as a flight commander by attaching streamers to the rear interplane struts and having a white spinner and wheel covers.

On October 8 1917 No. 28 squadron flew to France and later that day barker, accompanied by three novice pilots, took off to patrol the line from Ypres to Dixmude. Seeing no action he decided to cut across the lines, which was forbidden at that point, and worked his way back to Ypres. About 5 or 6 miles into enemy territory he spotted a circus of 22 German aircraft below them, did a half roll and dived into the formation , leaving his novices to follow. Moments later he had despatched an Albatross D.V and to the relief of his flight pulled away and headed for home. Due to the fact that he was leading a flight of new recruits and was prohibited from crossing enemy lines Barker decided it was not wise to claim this kill, although there is no doubt that it was a clear victory. Awarded the Victoria Cross for later action he ended the war with 54 confirmed victories and remains Canada’s most highly decorated soldier with the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order with bar and Military Cross with two bars.This atmospheric painting by one of the world’s leading Aviation Artists, Gerald Coulson captures the scene moments after Barker’s impromptu victory. Having shot down an Albatross DV over Ypres , Captain ‘Billy’ Barker in his persona; aircraft - B6313 - leads his flight of novices in loose formation back to Allied Lines. Flying West into the early evening sun against a backdrop of a dramatic skyline, the four Sopwith Camels head back to their base at St. Omer.

Coulson’s ability to combine the technical accuracy of the aircraft with his immense talent for capturing the beauty of a powerful skyscape has made this a superb tribute to early military aviation.



Limited edition print signed by the artist Gerald Coulson

Matching numbered certificate of authenticity included.

Overall Print Size 34"x 27" (inches) Printed in lightfast inks on acid free archival paper.


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Signed and Numbered Print
UK £145.00
Edition Size - 500


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