Barker DFC, Desmond Wallace Ferguson

Barker, Desmond Wallace Ferguson (Desmond)

Distinguished Flying Cross

Flight Lieutenant

No. 70043, 83 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Killed in an aircraft accident on Wednesday 12 February 1941 (aged 27)


Finningley (Holy Trinity and St. Oswald) Churchyard Extension, Nottinghamshire, England (Row H Grave 1)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

New Zealand National War Memorial in Wellington

New Zealand Cenotaph Database in Auckland War Memorial Museum

Brother of Pilot Officer Richard Percival William Barker (No. 41464)


Desmond Wallace (sometimes Wallis) Ferguson Barker was born on 27 February 1914 at Gisborne in New Zealand and he was the elder son of Richard Barker and Honey Sheilagh Hall Barker (nee Ferguson), of Gisborne, Auckland, New Zealand.  His father, Richard Barker, and his paternal grandfather, Percival Barker, were New Zealand sheep farmers.  His maternal grandfather, John Ferguson, was a linen manufacturer and he and his wife, Harriette Shillington Ferguson (nee Hall) from Glenavy were married on 6 November 1865 in May Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast.  They had nine children including:

John (born 9 February 1868)

William (born 27 August 1870)

Harriet (born 21 September 1872)

Anna Maria Hall (born 7 August 1874)

Honey Sheilagh Hall (born 1878)

Elese Hall (born 1879)

Robert (born 1880)

Joseph Hall (born 1885)

The Ferguson family lived in the townland of Ballykillare, Crawfordsburn and John Ferguson died sometime before the end of March 1901..

Richard Barker and Honey Sheilagh Hall Ferguson were married on 2 September 1908 in First Bangor Presbyterian Church.  Sheilagh’s brother, William Ferguson, and Kathleen J.H. Ferguson were their witnesses.  William Ferguson lived at The Craig, Carnalea.  The deaths of Desmond Wallace Ferguson Barker and Richard Percival William Barker were reported in the County Down Spectator and their uncle William Ferguson placed Killed in Action and In Memoriam notices in the same newspaper.  Desmond was the first of the two brothers to die.  Their father, Richard Barker, died on 24 January 1942 (aged 74), one month after the death of his second son.  Their mother, Sheilagh Barker, died on 27 September 1946 (aged 68) and both parents were buried in Taruheru Cemetery, Gisborne, New Zealand.

Desmond Wallace Ferguson Barker was educated at Cambridge University in England and, before the outbreak of the Second World War, he practised as a barrister.  He joined the Royal Air Force in November 1939 and during the Second World War he attained the rank of Flight Lieutenant in 83 Squadron.

In August 1940 it was reported that ‘an unusual experience’ had befallen Flight Lieutenant Barker one night when he was returning from an attack on the Dortmund-Ems canal.  The port engine of his Handley Page Hampden aircraft was hit and shortly afterwards, while flying over the Dutch coast, the damaged propeller fell off.  The bomber dropped some 2,000 feet before he regained control. Then, about ten miles from the English coast, the other engine began to falter, but by coaxing it along he was able to make a landing in the sea just a few yards from the shore. The crew escaped without serious injury.

Flight Lieutenant Desmond Barker (No. 70043) was based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire (now the base of the RAF Aerobatic Team, otherwise known as the Red Arrows).  He was one of a crew of four aboard a Handley Page Hampden Mark I aircraft (AD722) when he died on 12 February 1941.  They had been on air operations over Bremen and their aircraft crashed after hitting a building while trying to land at Finningley in Yorkshire.  Sergeant George Targett was injured and the other two crew members who died were:

  • Sgt William Harry Lowson (aged 20) from Weldon, Northamptonshire
  • Flying Officer Frank Selby Wilson (aged 34) from Stockwell, London

Flight Lieutenant Desmond Barker was 27 years old when he died, his effects amounted to some £1,065 and probate was granted to Frederick William Newton Weston, Lieutenant HM Army and Valerie Percival Kathleen Barker, spinster.

Flight Lieutenant Desmond Wallace Ferguson Barker and Pilot Officer Richard Percival William Barker are both commemorated on the New Zealand National War Memorial in Wellington and on the New Zealand Cenotaph Database in Auckland War Memorial Museum.