Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader born 21 February 1910 in St John’s Wood London, was a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying ace during the World War II. He was credited with 22 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged.
Bader joined the RAF in 1928, and was commissioned in 1930. In December 1931, while attempting some aerobatics , he crashed and lost both his legs. Having been on the brink of death, he recovered, retook flight training, passed his check flights and then requested reactivation as a pilot. Although there were no regulations applicable to his situation, he was retired against his will on medical grounds. After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, however, Douglas Bader returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot. He scored his first victories over Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940. He then took part in the Battle of Britain and became a friend and supporter of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and his “Big Wing” experiments. The Big Wing, also known as a Balbo was an air fighting tactic proposed during the Battle of Britain by 12 Group commander Air Vice-Marshal Leigh -Mallory and Acting Squadron Leader Douglas Bader. In essence, the tactic involved meeting incoming Luftwaffe bombing raids in strength with a wing-sized formation of three to five squadrons. In the Battle, this tactic was employed by the Duxford Wing , under Bader’s command.
The name “Balbo” refers to Italo Balbo, an Italian air force officer and patriotic national leader famous for leading large formations of aircraft on long distance flights before the war.
In August 1941, Bader bailed out over German occupied France and was captured. Soon afterward, he met and was befriended by Adolf “Dolfie” Galland, a prominent German fighter ace. Bader and Galland remained friends for ever
The Germans treated Bader with great respect. When he bailed out, Bader’s right prosthetic leg became trapped in the aircraft, and he escaped only when the leg’s retaining straps snapped after he pulled the ripcord on his parachute. General Adolf Galland notified the British of his damaged leg and offered them safe passage to drop off a replacement. Hermann Goering himself gave the green light for the operation. The British responded on 19 August 1941 with the “Leg Operation” — an RAF bomber was allowed to drop a new prosthetic leg by parachute to St Omer, Despite his disability, Bader made a number of escape attempts and was eventually sent to the prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle
. He remained there until April 1945 when the camp was liberated by the First United states Army. under command of General Courtney Hicks Hodges.
Bader left the RAF permanently in February 1946 and resumed his career in the oil industry. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky , chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War. Bader campaigned for the disabled and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1976 was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to disabled people” and continued to fly until ill health forced him to stop in 1979.
Three years later, at the age of 72, Bader
died on 05-09-1982, after a heart attack.