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Douglas Bader

Posted by Jolly on November 12, 2007

Douglas Bader. No fighter pilot hero list can be complete without a discussion of one of the most colorful Royal Air Force pilots of World War II, Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader. He was a wartime flight commander in the No. 222 Squadron, the commander of the No. 242 Squadron, a Wing Commander and he shot down 22 enemy planes. Bader was highly opinionated about just about everything, especially fighter tactics and operations and was a constant thorn in the side of the RAF hierarchy. Here's a typical quote from Douglas Bader, "Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obediance of fools." After he was shot down in August 1941 and captured by the Germans, his repeated escape attempts and confrontations with German guards resulted in him being sent to the “escape proof” prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle. Amazingly, all this happened after he lost both his legs in a 1931 crash of an aero club plane that he was piloting.

During his bailout, when shot down in 1941, Bader lost one of his prosthetic legs. He was well treated by the Germans after his capture to the point of notifying the RAF of his lost leg. The Luftwaffe even allowed RAF bombers safe passage to parachute drop a new prosthetic leg for Bader. Somewhat amusingly, after the bombers dropped off the leg they continued on to a planned bombing target.

Douglas Bader was born in England in 1910, the son of a Royal Engineer who fought and died from wounds sustained in World War I. Bader joined the RAF in 1928 and was forcibly retired in 1933, two years after losing his legs in the aircraft accident. He was able to rejoin the RAF in 1939 after war broke out and because of his tenacity very quickly regained his flying status while flying with two prosthetic legs. He primarily flew Spitfires but also had some time in Hurricanes. Some think that his skills as a fighter pilot were greatly enhanced because he had no legs below the knee. Fighter pilots can gray out or totally black out when “G” forces push their blood to lower extremities but since Bader had none, it is thought that he was capable of maintaining higher G’s for a longer period of time.



He was knighted in 1976 for his work with amputees and the disabled. He was an avid golfer with a low single digit handicap. Bader opened a pub in Dorset named Fighter Pilot. Two other pubs in the UK bare his name. The Douglas Bader in Martlesham Heath outside Ipswich, Suffolk, where I have happily consumed a number of fine lagers and ales, and the Bader Arms in West Sussex.
A quadruple ace, a knight, a near scratch golfer, and most kickass of all, a pub owner and pubs named after you. When you reach that kind of status, you’re a hero in my book.


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