Douglas Bader





Douglas Bader Air Ace with 20 victories


Douglas Robert Stewart Bader was born on the 21st February 1910. At school, and in his early years as a cadet with the RAF, he excelled at all sports, including cricket, rugby, hockey and boxing. He also excelled at flying, but during a daredevil stunt in December 1931, his plane crashed and he was rushed to hospital where both his legs had to be amputated. He was fitted with prosthetic "tin legs" and set about trying to live a normal life, despite the doubts of others. He learnt to walk again and to drive a specially adapted car. He persevered with cricket (using a runner) but soon realised that he would never again excel at this sport. Later he took up tennis squash and golf - which he became good at! However, his real passion was to fly with the RAF again. Some seven months after the accident, he had the opportunity to test his flying skills, thanks to a friend who owned a two-seater Avro 504. Bader proved that he could control an aircraft in flight but the RAF medical board were not so easily convinced and refused to pass him fit for flying, because the "King's Regulations" did not allow for the possibility of a pilot with no legs! He was discharged from the RAF in 1933, on the grounds of ill health. Despite this terrible disability, he was determined that he would abandon neither his sporting interests nor his career in the RAF.


He never gave up his dreams of flying and when the Second World War broke out, he persuaded the RAF to allow him to rejoin - and to fly again. He flew his first combat mission in May 1940. At this time, his squadron (222 Sqn) was stationed at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk. From there, they provided defence for the beleaguered British army who were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk He flew Spitfires with 19 sqn then onto 22 sqn as a flight commander, he scored his first victory a BF109 over Dunkirk. In July 1940 he was given command of 242 sqn a mainly Canadian sqn which had taken a beating in the French campaign. Bader devised the Big Wing to take the fight to the huge German formations. Baders score during the Battle Of Britain was 11. It was said that Bader had an air of indestructibility about him even smoking a pipe in the cockpit of his Spitfire! On the 9th of August, 1941, flying over northern France, he collided with a German plane and went down, to find himself a prisoner of war. Following several attempts to escape, hampered by his lack of legs (!) he was transferred to the infamous Colditz Prison where he remained until the end of the war. His captors, nevertheless cooperated in allowing the RAF to air-drop a pair of artificial legs to him whilst in captivity. His decorations included the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Bar, the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Bar, the Legion d'Honneur, and the Croix de Guerre. He was knighted in 1976 for his services to amputees "so many of whom he had helped and inspired by his example and character." On 5th September 1982, Douglas Bader died of a heart attack at the age of 72 years. However, he continues to be an inspiration, through his example of courage and dogged determination to succeed despite adversity and physical disability.

Bader Seen Here With 242 Sqn A Mainly Canadian Outfit.








Infamous Colditz