Douglas Bader

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Douglas Bader

Douglas Bader was born in St John's Wood, London on 21st February 1910 and spent the early years of his life in India before returning to the United Kingdom.
His uncle was adjutant to the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell and, at the age of 11, Bader decided that he would join the RAF. 
Seven years later, he won a scholarship to Cranwell, graduating in 1930.
He was a keen sportsman, representing the College at Rugby, Shooting, Hockey, Athletics, Boxing and Cricket - the College Journal reported a boxing match in which "Bader in his usual 'no-time-to-spare' manner went straight at his opponent and knocked him out with two very hard rights. He took about the same time as he did last year, and is a very dangerous man to meet." 
From Cranwell Bader was posted to No.23 Squadron at Kenley, flying the Gloster Gamecock.

He developed a talent for aerobatics and in 1931 performed in the RAF Display at Hendon.
On 14 December, shortly after Bristol Bulldogs had replaced the Squadron’s Gamecocks, Bader crashed at Woodley aerodrome, near Reading and was seriously injured.
His right leg was amputated that day, and the left a few days later. 
Within six months of the accident Bader had not only learned to walk unaided on artificial legs, but was determined to fly again.
Although he was able to demonstrate that he could meet the RAF's demanding requirements, a medical board ruled that he could not continue as an RAF pilot.
He left the RAF in 1933 and joined the aviation department of the Asiatic Petroleum Company, soon to become part of Shell.
For such a keen sportsman the loss of his legs was a terrible blow, but he responded by taking up golf and rapidly achieved a very high standard.
He sustained his love for the game throughout his life.
 Second War - WW II

In the summer of 1939 Bader, aware that war was inevitable, set out to rejoin the RAF.  
He easily passed tests at the Central Flying School and then undertook a refresher course before joining No.19 Squadron in February 1940 at Duxford.
Here he first flew the Supermarine Spitfire, undertaking convoy patrols but without seeing action.
A posting to No. 222 Squadron, also at Duxford, brought action over Dunkirk in June 1940 and on the 24th he was promoted to squadron leader and given command of No. 242 Squadron at Coltishall. 
The squadron had suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of France and morale was low.
Bader immediately transformed his unit, concentrating on improving his pilots' flying, teamwork and confidence.
The Squadron's first major success came on 30 August when they claimed 12 enemy aircraft, of which Bader shot down two.
As the Battle of Britain progressed Bader led larger formations, with 242 and other squadrons forming the Duxford Wing.

By the end of 1940 Bader's squadron had shot down 67 enemy aircraft, for the loss of only five pilots killed in action. 
In March 1941 Bader left 242 and was promoted to lead the fighter wing based at Tangmere.
The RAF now mounted daylight raids on occupied Europe, with bombers escorted by large numbers of fighters, to draw German fighters up to be attacked. Bader's score rose to 20 confirmed as destroyed (plus two shared) but on 8 August he was forced to bale out of his Spitfire.
He recorded in his log book "Shot down 1 Me 109F & collided with another. POW" but opinions vary, and a more recent investigation suggests that he may have been the victim of friendly fire.

After War

After returning to the UK and a period of leave, Bader was promoted to Group Captain and took command of first the Fighter Leaders School, and then the North Weald fighter sector.
He was given the honour of leading the first Battle of Britain flypast on 15 September 1945.
Bader finally left the RAF in March 1946.
He had realised that his legs would make it difficult for him to serve in hot climates, which would limit his ability to gain the experience needed for further promotion.
It had also become clear to him that the post-war RAF would be very different to the one in which he had served. 
He rejoined Shell in July 1946, flying the company's aircraft around Europe, and the Middle and Far East. Bader became Managing Director of Shell Aircraft Ltd and retired in 1969.
Already a well-known pilot, his fame grew in 1954 with the publication of Paul Brickhill's biography Reach for the Sky and again when
the feature film based on the book was released the following year.
From 1972 to 1978 he was a member of the Civil Aviation Authority and chaired a committee set up to examine the effect of flying time on pilot fatigue.
The committee made a number of recommendations which would help to prevent accidents.
He was a keen supporter of the RAF Museum, and was closely involved in raising funds for the Battle of Britain Museum, now the Battle of Britain Hall.
Much of Bader's time was devoted to encouraging those who had lost limbs.
Many new amputees received unexpected visits or inspiring letters. In the course of a brief conversation Bader brought hope to replace despair.
A newspaper report of one visit quotes him as saying:
 "Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do this or that. That's nonsense.
Make up your mind you'll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything... never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible."

In addition to his wartime decorations, Bader was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1956 and Knighted in 1976, in both cases for service to the disabled.
The exertion of walking on artificial legs for over 50 years had placed extra stress on his heart, and he died suddenly in 1982 at the age of 72

Bader House

Douglas Bader was a famous World War 2 fighter pilot.
In the 1930s he became one of the best pilots around but was involved in a serious flying accident resulting in him needing to have both legs amputated.
Not deterred, he had artificial legs installed and a few years later was Wind Commander of a team of Hurricane pilots, fighting the Germans over Dunkerque and then in the Battle of Britain.
Having shot down scores of German planes, he was shot down himself and taken to a POW camp but escaped and returned back to England!
One third of the school population belongs to the blue ties of Bader House!  Mr Hobbs is the Head of House.
Bader House are current School Sports Day Champions (2017). They have won this 3 out of the 4 years since the school opened.
Their key word is ‘resilience’ which is defined as ‘the ability to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’
They will be linking up shortly with a chosen charity they would like to be associated with, namely The Air Ambulance service.


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