Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Douglas Bader

Discussion in 'A Soldier's Story' started by Jim, May 5, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    13
    via War44
    Douglas Bader was a legend who won huge admiration - even among Germans. An outstanding sportsman, Bader joined the RAF in 1931 to be acknowledged as an exceptional pilot. Tragedy struck the following year. Bader lost both legs in an air crash. Undaunted, his extraordinary mobility on metal legs turned his defeat of tragedy into inspiration for millions.
    After persistent badgering of friends, in June 1940 Bader was appointed commander of 242 Squadron at Coltishall. His sheer flying skills, charm and force of character smothered the doubts of his startled pilots.
    In the thrill of the Battle of Britain Bader loved stalking unseen Dornier’s; darting out of clouds to pursue stray Messerschmitt 110s over Canterbury with long bursts and then witness them breaking up over the Channel; or, hearing ground control announcing the location of 'Bandit Angels', banking steeply to catch a gaggle of Messerschmitt 109s from below, picking them off like pheasants. Bloodthirsty, he infected his squadron to kill the Hun, shooting down at least 22 enemy aircraft himself and helping his squadron to eliminate another 50. Coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb,' he shouted gleefully as the Luftwaffe fled.

    But in a reckless dogfight over France, Bader's Spitfire was shot down. He was saved by a parachute, but his metal legs were separated from his body. 'Do you think you could look for my legs?' Bader asked his amazed captors.
    With the chivalry of air aces the German fighter pilots invited Bader for tea at their base, and even Goering offered the RAF free passage to deliver a replacement leg to France. Instead, it was parachuted during a bomb raid.
    About to be transferred to a POW camp in Germany, Bader lowered himself on fifteen knotted sheets from his hospital window and escaped. While he hid in a Frenchman's house, baffled Germans scoured the countryside seeking a legless pilot. Recaptured, Bader delighted in baiting the Germans. After another attempted escape, he was dispatched to Colditz Castle. Inside his chess set he had concealed 1,000 Reichmarks, three compasses and seven maps. After his fourth abortive escape the Germans confiscated his legs every night. After liberation in April 1945, he was feted as a hero and honoured.
    In peacetime he worked for Shell and played excellent golf. His example inspired the disabled across the world to "Reach for the Sky". He died aged 72, on his way home from celebrating 'Bomber' Harris's 90th birthday.

    [​IMG]

    A 1941 Picture showing Bader on the Golf Course​
     
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2006
    Messages:
    483
    Likes Received:
    0
    via War44
    Undoubtedly a great pilot and exactly the type that was needed. "Charismatic" though ? I have heard he was insufferable - aloof, rude to everyone and and arrogant.

    Love the photo BTW !
     
  3. Jamie 111

    Jamie 111 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    West Midlands/ California
    via War44
    Bader

    Superb thread Jim:thumb:

    I worked with a guy who was in the RAF during the War. He was a cook stationed at a airfield where Bader was the C.O. He always told us what a disciplinarian ( not his words!) Bader was. Although the blokes admired his flying skills and deeds, they thought him a petty tyrant who had very little time or patience with anyone else.

    In the movie "Reach for the Sky" nothing is mentioned of these things. When asked about the movie, the ex RAF cook said:-- quote "load of crap" Again not his words! I am trying to be polite here. Now I had a lot of time for this bloke (the cook) but I guess he was looking at the movie from his perspective.


    Without men such as Bader, we would have been hard pressed to keep the Germans from invading Britain. Heroes are not without their faults, as is true of all humans. Let us hope Douglas Bader is remembered for his heroics and not for his human frailties.
     
  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    3,324
    Likes Received:
    13
    via War44
    Wing commander Douglas Bader

    Wing commander Douglas Bader was leading his Royal Air Force fighter squadrons across the English Channel at 28,000 feet so that they, not the Luftwaffe pilots, would have the height and the sun. Their job was to go after German fighter planes where and when they found them. As the formation knifed past the French coast near Le Touquet, Bader looked down on twelve Messerschmitt 109s about two thousand feet below.
    Bader, a scrappy pilot who had twenty-three 'kills' and ranked fifth among RAF aces, shouted into his mask: “Dogsbody (code name for his group) attacking! Plenty for all! Take ’em as they come!” Bader plunged downward in his Spitfire and squirted bullets at the nearest Me 109. Bits and pieces flew off the German fighter, then it burst into flame and fell earthward.
    Moments later, the wing commander felt a heavy jolt. His plane had been hit and started to go down in a spiral. “Get out! Get out!” he told himself. That would not be easy to accomplish: the thirty-year-old ace had artificial legs.
    Bader tore off his helmet and mask. The plane’s hood was ripped away. He gripped both sides of the cockpit and managed to get out his top half. Then came a flash of terror. The rigid foot of his right leg was caught in the cockpit. He was stuck and plunging to a seemingly certain death. Miraculously, Bader managed to break a leather strap that trapped his leg in the cockpit. Moments later, he was sucked out of the cockpit and pulled the ring that opened his parachute. Lady Luck had been his co-pilot.
    Suddenly, he was aware that the earth was rushing toward him, and within seconds, he crashed into the unyielding terrain, instantly losing consciousness. An undetermined amount of time later, he opened his eyes and was aware that three German soldiers were removing his harness. They stared at this curiosity: a fighter pilot with no legs. It was August 9, 1941. Bader was driven for several miles to a German hospital at St. Omer, a French town twenty miles south of the English Channel coast. His mind slowly cleared and he thought: “I hope the boys saw me bail out and tell [wife] Thelma.” That night he was to have gone dancing with Thelma. No one had seen his parachute: he had simply vanished.

    Wing commander Douglas Bader.

    [​IMG]

    Douglas Robert Steuart Bader had been born in London and won a competitive exam to the Royal Air Force College where he was a champion boxer. Commissioned in 1930, he had served only eighteen months when his plane crashed. He survived, but both legs had to be amputated. Discharged from the RAF, he mastered artificial legs and went to work in London for the Asiatic (later Shell) Petroleum Company. As a civilian, he demonstrated that he could fly an airplane skilfully, but the RAF refused to take him back. When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, however, the RAF brass winked at regulations and commissioned him as a flight officer. Bader rapidly removed any qualms about his fitness for combat: he shot down an ME 109 and a Heinkel 111 bomber in two missions over the English Channel. One promotion after the other followed and at the time he was shot down, he was leading three Spitfire squadrons. Now at the St. Omer hospital, Doug Bader’s mind was awhirl. He must get word to Thelma that he was alive and he must get a second leg. He could not escape with just one leg.

    One day, a young Luftwaffe fighter pilot called on Bader. Speaking flawless English, he identified himself as Count Whomever. The RAF ace seized on the opportunity: “Can you radio England and ask them to send me another leg?” He doubted if such an unprecedented task could be accomplished, but if it could, Thelma would know he was alive. The German promised that he would do what he could. Later, the Luftwaffe pilot returned. “I’ve got news for you,” he said cheerfully. “With the permission of Reichsmarschall [Hermann] Goering, we have radioed England on an international waveband.” He went on to explain that one RAF airplane had been given unrestricted passage to fly on a specified height, course, and time to drop the leg by parachute over St. Omer. Pugnacious Bader replied that the RAF didn’t need an unrestricted passage and that if the leg was dropped, it would come down with a cascade of bombs. The German grinned amiably. “We’ll see,” he said. “Let us hope that the next leg will not be shot down.” In London, RAF brass mulled over the contents of the Luftwaffe radio message. After much debate, it was decided to send the leg in a Blenheim bomber. Meanwhile, Bader’s comrades hurried to tell Thelma the good news: her husband was alive.

    A six-foot metal canister like these held RAF Squadron Leader Douglas Bader’s artificial leg when it was parachuted to him following a German request.

    [​IMG]

    Over St. Omer droned the Blenheim with a Spitfire escort. The bomb-bay doors opened and a canister, some six feet long and holding the spare leg, dropped out. A parachute billowed above the container and floated earthward. Around it were the angry bursts of black flak from puzzled German gunners on the ground. Inside the leg, Thelma had stuffed tobacco, chocolates, and other scarce wartime goodies. On the following morning at RAF Fighter Commander headquarters in England, Air Chief Marshal Sholto Douglas received a telephone call from Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The British Bulldog, as he was known, said, “I see by the newspapers that you have been fraternizing with the enemy, dropping a leg to a captured pilot.”
    “Well, sir,” Douglas replied, “We [also] managed to shoot down eleven German [airplanes]. I hope you might feel it was worth it.” Churchill grunted and hung up, his curiosity satisfied. No doubt the Germans regretted the role they had played in getting Bader his spare leg. He proved to be an incorrigible escape artist and finally had to be locked up in Colditz, a massive castle in central Germany that was deemed to be escape proof.
     

Share This Page