William George Barker was born on a family farm in Dauphin, Manitoba to June Barker and George Barker Jr. on November 3, 1894. He grew up working on his father’s farm and sawmill; his father would sometimes pull Will out of school for weeks at a time to help cut logs at the latter.
Will enjoyed riding horses and shooting – often at the same time. His shooting skills often helped him provide food for the workers at the sawmill. He would often use his allowance and other money earned to buy ammunition. Barker won many local turkey shoot competitions, beating the area’s adults on many occasions. When his grandfather (George Barker Sr.) retired from politics and opened a bowling alley and shooting gallery, he would often bet on his grandson against the local shooting ‘sharks’.
The Barker family moved from Dauphin to just north of Russell in 1902 – they would stay until 1913 when they moved back. Will and his brother Percy often got into trouble together, playing practical jokes on neighbours and schoolmates. Although he sometimes made trouble and at other times was pulled out of school for extended periods of time, he was a good student. By 19 years of age he still hadn’t finished his final year of high school, and in 1912 enlisted as a trooper in the Non-Permanent Active Militia in the 32nd Light Horse.