Patrick (Pat) and Doris Barker

The photos and words below are curtesy of Tim Barker, son of Patrick and Doris Barker. After his own adventures, Tim has returned to his hometown of Silloth, where he set up the Soldiers in Silloth Museum at 1 Marine Terrace, Criffell St, Silloth, Cumbria. CA7 4BZ.

PATRICK (Pat) and DORIS BARKER were both born in Silloth, married in Christ Church in 1939 and both served on Silloth Airfield during World War 2.

Pat and Doris on own
Patrick & Doris Barker, Silloth

In the early 1930’s Pat was in the Merchant Navy as a wireless operator for the Marconi Company. In those days the radios on ships and the trained specialists who operated them were hired from Marconi by the shipping lines.

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Patrick Barker, Merchant Navy

When it became clear that Britain might be going to war Pat volunteered his radio skills for the RAF volunteer reserve and was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force in 1939.

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Patrick Barker, RAF Reserve

He was one of many slightly older volunteers sent out at the beginning of the war as they were already experienced radio operators while younger recruits were still being trained. He was evacuated from St Nazaire after the defeat at Dunkirk and eventually posted to his home town and Silloth airfield.

Screenshot 2015-02-24 21.49.43

Later he was re-posted to North Africa and served out the war in Khartoum but at Silloth he was able to live with Doris at their home on Skinburness Rd where several airmen were also billeted during their training, some of whom remained family friends after the war.

Among his duties at Silloth Pat worked as a an operator on the Silloth Trainer and gleefully remembered that one of the simulations he and his colleagues could produce for trainees was the effect of anti-aircraft shells exploding under the pilot’s seat.

As his son remembers it, Pat’s version of the notorious incident when a civilian was shot at the airfield gate related that a sentry on duty stopped a car leaving the site with an officer and a lady. The officer refused to show his identification (on the “nonsense you know perfectly well who I am” principle) and attempted to drive on. The sentry correctly fired a warning round from his gun into the ground but the bullet ricochetted off the road through the rear of the car and hit a passenger.

Doris, along with many local women, helped on the airfield driving a canteen wagon for the WVS (Womens’Voluntary Service) – though she had never learned to drive properly ! – and providing tea and refreshments for the airmen.

After his demobilisation Pat returned to Silloth to run his late father-in-law’s greengrocery business but, in the 1950s, he returned to work for the RAF as a civilian, first at Kirkbride and, when that station closed, back at Silloth. At Kirkbride he used his radio skills as an air traffic controller (the Duke of Edinburgh piloted himself in there on one occasion) but at Silloth he took up clerical duties, doing his bit in the Cold War by ordering stores.

Other surviving documents etc

Pat’s discharge book.

Membership card for Garrison Sailing Club, Khartoum

Doris’s National Identity card.

Christmas card from North Africa to Pat’s mother in Silloth

Thank you cards from servicemen to Pat’s mother for gifts of cigarettes

Airfield open day programme, Battle of Britain Week 1947.


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