Bios

Douglas Bader

Douglas Bader’s father was a major in the British Army in the First World War, who was injured badly by shrapnel in 1917, and would go onto die of those wounds in 1922.

The loss of his father put a serious financial strain on his family, and there were doubts whether Douglas would be able to go on to public school, but he won a sports scholarship to St Edward's School in Oxford.

He also won a prize cadetship to Cranwell Air Force Academy in 1928. Bader took to flying like a duck to water, going solo after only six and a half hours tuition.

In 1930, Bader graduated from Cranwell and was posted to a fighter squadron. He was always his own man and could never resist a challenge. In attempting a low level aerobatic display in December 1931, he crashed. Lucky to be alive, Bader was rushed to hospital where they were forced to amputate both his legs below the knee.

Amazingly, Bader took the loss of the legs well. He was determined to live a normal life, even if others were not so sure he could. He found he could still fly with his tin prosthetic legs. However, he was retired from the RAF.

He married, found a good job, and continued to excel at sports, yet he still missed flying.

Upon the outbreak of war in 1939, Bader re-joined the RAF. By the summer of 1941, he had shot down twenty three German planes, the fifth most prolific record in the RAF.

On 9 August 1941, Bader collided mid-air with another plane over Le Tourquet. He was captured by German forces and sent to the Colditz prison. He remained there until the end of the war.

Bader was knighted in 1976, and he died in 1982.