Sir Douglas Bader

5:54 AM Amer Bekic 0 Comments

Sir Douglas Bader lost both his legs after crashing his fighter in 1931 - one above and one below the knee. Bader almost died. His logbook entry reads in its entirety,

"Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show."

During his two-year convalescence he wooed and married a local barmaid. His attempts to rejoin the Royal Air Force were rejected.

Seven years later, Germany invaded Poland, and Bader was permitted to rejoin the RAF. Eight years after the accident, he made his first legless solo - choosing to fly part of it upside down at extremely low altitude. In the Battle of Britain he shot down twenty-six (26) Luftwaffe aircraft in a little over a year. During one fight, he ran out of ammunition, and so sliced off a German bomber's tailfin with his propellor.

He was promoted to Wing Commander, and led fighter sweeps over enemy territory, despite attempts to pull him back from the front line. He suffered a severe head wound and wrecked a Spitfire in a crash during takeoff, but continued to fight. In August 1941 (while attacking six Luftwaffe fighters by himself) Bader destroyed one Messerschmitt but then accidentally sideswiped a second. Both planes were severely damaged.

Bader's Spitfire went into a flat spin at 400 mph. As he struggled to bail out of his aircraft, one of his prostheses (shown above) got stuck under his seat. His life was saved when the straps connecting his stump to the prosthesis snapped, allowing him to bail out. But the prosthesis was damaged when the disintegrating Spitfire hit France. Bader was captured by the enemy. His gallantry had made him a legend in the Luftwaffe, and Hermann Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe, offered safe passage to a British bomber to deliver a replacement leg by parachute.

Göring's offer may not have been such a good idea. With the replacement prosthesis, Bader made numerous escape attempts and in 1942 succeeded in escaping from Stalag Luft III. Nazi "Wanted" posters printed during the escape described Bader's disability and said, "Walks well with stick." (Bader never used a cane).

Bader was recaptured, and rehoused in the "escape proof" Colditz Castle for the remainder of the war. On Germany's unconditional surrender, Bader returned to England and led the RAF's 300-aircraft victory flypast over London.