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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in St. John's Wood, London, England, UK
Died in Chiswick, London, England, UK  (heart attack)
Birth NameDouglas Robert Steuart Bader

Mini Bio (1)

Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born in London on February 21, 1910. A good student, Bader won a scholarship to St Edward's School in Oxford. Following a visit to the RAF College at Cranwell, Bader set his sights on becoming a pilot and won a place as a cadet at Cranwell. During his time at Cranwell, Bader developed a reputation as a pilot of above average skill, albeit headstrong and inclined to challenge authority. An outstanding sportsman from school days, Bader excelled at rugby, cricket and also boxing and might have played rugby at national level, had it not been for his accident in 1931.

Bader was commissioned as an Officer in the Royal Air Force in 1930 and was posted to 23 Squadron at RAF Kenley. Bader's ability as a pilot was such that he was selected to fly in the Squadron's aerobatic display team at the prestigious RAF Hendon display in 1931 but he was also notorious for low level aerobatics. In December 1931, Bader crashed during an unauthorized low level aerobatic routine at Woodley while visiting the Reading Aero Club. Though Bader survived the crash, he came close to death in the days afterward and his injuries were so severe that both of his legs were amputated. He was fitted with artificial "tin" legs and soon learned to walk without the use of a stick and was not only soon driving his car but also flying - on an unofficial basis. Though Bader was passed by the Central Flying School as perfectly able to fly, the lack of any provision in Kings Regulations to deal with his case meant that he could not be passed as fit to fly and Bader was offered a ground commission. Unwilling to remain in the RAF as a ground based officer, Bader resigned and found work with the Asiatic Petroleum Company.

Never reconciled to civilian life despite marriage and becoming a first class golfer, at the outbreak of the Second World War Bader applied to rejoin the RAF. With pilots in short supply the Regulations were overlooked and by June 1940 Bader had been posted to command 242 Squadron, a unit that had suffered high casualties during the Battle of France. Determined to raise morale, Bader's methods were typically uncompromising and he was responsible for welding 242 back into an effective fighting unit.

During the Battle of Britain, Bader's aggressive and outspoken character and strong ideas on tactics brought him into conflict with his superior officers. Following the Battle, what became known as the Big Wing strategy favored by Bader became the chosen strategy of Fighter Command as it was better suited to the offensive posture of 1941, however undoubtedly Hugh Dowding had been right to reject the strategy in the desperate days of 1940.

The character of Fighter Command's operations during the summer of 1941 suited Baders' aggressive character perfectly. Promoted to Wing Commander, Bader was stationed at RAF Tangmere from where he lead the Tangmere Wing in sweeps over North West Europe aimed to bring the Luftwaffe into combat. By the summer of 1941 Bader had claimed 22 victories making him the fifth highest scoring pilot in the RAF. However, on 9th August 1941 Bader failed to return from an operation when his aircraft was downed near Le Touquet, France. The circumstances of Bader's loss are uncertain - Bader said that he thought that a German aircraft had collided with him, while Adolf Galland said that Bader had been shot down by one of his pilots. Modern research suggests that Bader may have been a victim of 'friendly fire', accidentally misidentified and shot down by one of his fellow RAF pilots. Whatever the cause, Bader bailed out from his damaged machine and parachuted to the ground but both his artificial legs were badly damaged.

Bader was captured by German forces and was taken to a hospital near St Omer where his damaged artificial legs were patched up. Unaware of the indomitable character of their prisoner, the German hospital staff allowed Bader to retain his clothing and with the help of sympathetic locals broke out from the hospital. He was taken to a hiding place at the home of a local farmer but was betrayed and was re-arrested. Taking no further chances, the Germans put Bader under close guard and he was sent to presser of war camp in Germany, eventually ending up in the infamous Colditz camp as a result of his constant and unremitting hostility to his captors. Bader remained in captivity despite numerous escape attempts until Colditz was liberated in 1945.

Bader was promoted to Group Captain following his return to the UK but left the Royal Air Force in 1946. He returned to his former employer where he eventually became managing director of a subsidiary, Shell Aircraft, serving until 1969 when he left to become a member of the Civil Aviation Authority Board.

Paul Brickhill's biography of Bader, "Reach for the Sky", was published in 1954 and was later made into a movie. Bader's autobiography, Fight for the Sky, appeared in 1973. He was knighted in 1976 for his work on behalf of the disabled. Douglas Bader died in 1982, but his heroic memory remains an inspiration to many throughout the world. The Douglas Bader Foundation, set up after his death to continue his work, continues to assist those who have lost limbs.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Greg Syers

Spouse (2)

Joan Murray (3 January 1973 - 5 September 1982) ( his death)
Thelma Edwards (5 October 1937 - 24 January 1971) ( her death)

Trivia (3)

A memorial service to honour the life of Douglas Bader was held at St. Clement Danes (the central church of the Royal Air Force) The Strand, London on October 22 1982.
15th September 1945. Group Captain Douglas Bader in a Supermarine Spitfire, led the 'Battle of Britain Day' Anniversary flypast over London flying from North Weald aerodrome.
He died as he was being driven home after giving an after-dinner speech at the Guildhall in London.

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