Douglas William Barker, centre, a former mayor of Duncan, has been posthumously awarded the Korean Peace Medal. (Photo courtesy Jim and Jackie Barker)

Douglas William Barker, centre, a former mayor of Duncan, has been posthumously awarded the Korean Peace Medal. (Photo courtesy Jim and Jackie Barker)

Former Duncan mayor posthumously honoured for Korean War service

Ambassador for Peace medal is an expression of appreciation from the Korean government to veterans

By Jackie Barker

On a sunny day in August, 2021, Consul General Byung-won Chung from the Korean Consulate in Vancouver flew to Victoria to recognize former Duncan mayor and decorated war veteran Douglas William Barker for his Korean War service 70 years before. As Barker died in 2003, his son Jim received the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal on his father’s behalf.

In the audience were a number of Korean war veterans from the Korean Veterans’ Association as well as members of the Victoria Korean Community Association.

The Ambassador for Peace medal is an expression of appreciation from the Korean government to veterans or their descendants from the 21 nations that fought as part of the United Nations Command in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953 and to those who participated in UN peacekeeping operations there until the end of 1955. Approximately 100 medals have been awarded since 2015 to veterans in the consulate’s jurisdiction covering B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

The Consul General emphasized in his remarks that the Republic of Korea will never forget the service and sacrifice of Canadian veterans who answered the United Nations’ call to serve during Korea’s time of need. Several memorials to Canadian soldiers exist in Korea, including the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, where 376 Canadians are buried. Chung attributed the fact that Koreans enjoy freedom and democracy today to the 26,000 brave Canadian volunteers as Canada contributed the third highest number of troops in the war behind the Republic of Korea itself and the United States.

For the Canadian volunteers, it meant leaving Canada for months or even years so soon after many had fought overseas in Europe during the Second World War. This was the case for Chief Petty Officer Douglas Barker of the Royal Canadian Navy. Including his naval service in both wars, he was away from his home in Victoria for a total of approximately eight of his first 12 years of marriage.

During and after the Second World War, Barker, like other Canadian war veterans, received service medals from the Canadian government and the United Nations. Most notably, Barker was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 for bravery exhibited under fire during the Second World War while in the Atlantic, where RCN vessels were charged with protecting supply ships traveling between Europe and North America. Barker’s brother Ken also received the DSM for his service during the perilous Murmansk Run in the North Atlantic, giving the family the distinction of having received two DSMs of the 116 awarded in total for Canadian service in both world wars.

Barker continued his military service at Naden after returning from Korea, later commuting from Duncan where his family relocated in 1956. He retired from naval service with the rank of captain and then established and voluntarily ran the Navy League sea cadet programs at Shawnigan Lake School and in Maple Bay for many years. Subsequently he and his wife Evelyn opened Sea Fleet Kennels and two pet stores in Duncan and Victoria in the 1960s.

In the 1970s and 1980s Barker served as a Duncan alderman and eventually mayor. He is remembered for spearheading the first Duncan summer festival, which was then called the Festival of Flowers and Song. As an avid gardener, he also promoted the tradition of the hanging baskets adorning Duncan streets during the summer, and oversaw the planting of the flowers and flowering trees along the highway through the city. One of his most rewarding projects involved working with Cowichan Tribes Chief Dennis Alphonse to establish Duncan as the City of Totems.

Jim and wife Jackie were in the process of applying for the medal on Barker’s behalf when they discovered that they had missed the local ceremony held in Duncan in the fall of 2019.

“We never expected that a special ceremony would be held to show respect and appreciation for my dad’s service, and know that if he were still here he would have felt deeply honoured,” Jim says. “His war service was a major, defining part of his life, but came at great cost to his health and family. He always maintained, though, that it was a necessary evil in order to defend democracy. He would have cherished this medal.”

The Barkers suggest that any Korean war veterans or their descendants should contact the Korean Consulate in Vancouver for more information about receiving the Ambassador for Peace Medal.

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