The Reginald Barker Memorial Award

Established in May 2001 by family and friends in memory of Reginald Donald Barker, B.A. ’38. Reg Barker was a gifted athlete and WWII hero who demonstrated leadership on the football field and bravery and self-sacrifice in action. Awarded to a second, third, or fourth year student enrolled full-time in any four year program. The candidate must be a member of the intercollegiate football program, demonstrate financial need, and exhibit leadership qualities.

On June 8, 1944, two day after the Normandy D-Day invasion, Reg Barker, BA’37, was one of 145 Canadian prisoners of war (POWs) massacred by the infamous SS Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth).

Reg, an artillery lieutenant working in support of infantry, sealed his own fate when he assumed a leadership role for the POWs. He bravely insisted that his Waffen SS captors fulfill their responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions of War, and he told them that he and his fellow Canadian POWs would reveal nothing to them except “name, rank and serial number.” What’s more, Reg advised his fellow captives to run for it en masse if the SS troops started shooting.

At a moment when an enemy counterattack would have proved disastrous to the success of the Allied invasion of Europe, the German army remained unaware of just how meagre were the forces separating the British and Canadian sectors. Reg Barker’s refusal to provide his captors with information proved pivotal, as did his advice to fellow POWs. The first German bullet in the ensuing slaughter was fired into the back of Reg’s skull.

Two Canadians escaped to reveal the fate of their murdered comrades. Their stories and those who died were told for the first time in a documentary called Murder in Normandy, which aired on the History Television cable network last fall.

Reg Barker lies buried, along with 2,750 other Canadian soldiers, in the beautiful Beny-sur-mer Cemetery in France. But I still have vivid memories of Reg, the man. He was a gifted athlete, who excelled in rowing, on the football field, and as a heavyweight boxer. One of the charter members of the Queen’s Football Hall of Fame, also played with the 1932 Grey Cup championship Hamilton Tiger Cats football squad coached by Johnny Feraro, the man who is credited with introducing the forward pass to the Canadian game.

Reg won a berth on the 1932 Canadian Olympic Rowing team with the Leander heavy-eight crew, and very much wanted to row for Canada; however, legendary Queen’s registrar Jean Royce, with the help of loyal Hamilton alumni, persuaded Reg to forego the Olympics and to enhance his academic credentials so he could enroll at Queen’s and play for the coach Ted Reeve’s Tri-colour squad. Reg helped Queen’s win intercollegiate championships in 1934 and 1935, before suiting up for the Toronto Argonauts’ 1937 Grey Cup –winning team.

At this time, Reg was widely regarded as the best snapback or centre in Canada. Later, when he was employed with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Winnipeg, Reg was courted by the Blue Bombers. Although he was too old for combat, Reg was determined to serve his country nonetheless. He enlisted as a gunner, and volunteered for overseas duty. Reg received training in Winnipeg, Shilo, Petawawa, and Brockville before being posted to the Third Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery, just in time to join the greatest armada and most momentous military undertaking in history.

When Lieutenant Reg Barker waded ashore with Canadian troops on Juno Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944, he was in his 37th year.

In our minds’ eyes, old timers such as myself can still see big Reg Barker escorting Isobel Shaw, BA’38, BCom’39, president of Levana and daughter of theology professor Dr. John M. Shaw, to campus dances. Much later, Isobel married Reg’s younger brother, John, BComm’38, BA’39, and they parented a son christened Reginald Donald Barker.

 A photo of Reg Barker hangs on the wall on the Polson Room of the John Deutsch University Centre, alongside photos of the 174 other brave Queen’s men who died in World War Two.