Douglas Bader file photo [15491]

Douglas Bader

Given NameDouglas
Born21 Feb 1910
Died5 Sep 1982
CountryUnited Kingdom


ww2dbaseThe younger of the two sons of Frederick Bader, an engineer, Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born on 21 February 1910. At an early age, Douglas was separated from his parents when his father departed to work in India. Unable to travel with his family, Douglas was left in the care of his uncle and aunt, which he enjoyed immensely. In 1917 Frederick Bader died as a consequence of a head wound received whilst fighting as a sapper in France. His mother and step-father, the Reverend E. W. Hobbs, paid little attention to the young Douglas and he was soon sent away to St Edward's Public School where he was soon noted as being an exceptionally gifted scholar.

ww2dbaseIn 1928 his uncle, a former fighter pilot and now the adjutant at RAF Cranwell in England, United Kingdom obtained for Bader a place at the academy. Here his outstanding academic achievements and outgoing personality soon led to a desire to learn to fly, to which end he began to allocate a considerable amount of his free time.

ww2dbaseCommissioned into the RAF in 1930, Douglas Bader was posted to No. 23 Squadron at Kenley, England, which was equipped with Gloster Gamecock aircraft. His natural flying abilities were quickly recognised by his superiors but with tragic consequences. On Monday, 14 December 1931, whilst giving an aerobatic demonstration Bader was involved in a serious crash which resulted in the amputation of both legs; and he was invalided out of the service.

ww2dbaseFitted with artificial legs Bader reapplied for flying duties in 1939 and having been given the rating "exceptional" from the review board was accepted. On 7 February 1940 he joined No. 19 Squadron flying Spitfire fighters.

ww2dbasePromoted to flight lieutenant, Bader was transferred to No. 222 Squadron as Flight Commander, achieved his first kill, a Bf 109 fighter, on 1 June 1940. Promoted in July, Bader was given command of No. 242 Squadron. A succession of victories during the Battle of Britain resulted in Bader being awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 13 December 1940 and in early 1941 he was promoted Wing Commander, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and given command of the Tangmere Wing comprising three Spitfire squadrons.

ww2dbaseWith the RAF now going on the offensive the Tangmere wing was now tasked with making fighter sweeps over occupied France to engage the Luftwaffe in battle. These sweeps had some success but, on 9 August 1941, having shot down two German Bf 109 fighters, Bader collided with a third and was obliged to bail out of his stricken aircraft over enemy territory. His tally of enemy aircraft destroyed had reached 23.

ww2dbaseCaptured by the Luftwaffe Bader would be entertained by his German counterpart, General Adolf Galland, before being handed over to the German Army. Even in captivity Bader continued to cause havoc with the Germans which led, eventually, to a transfer to the maximum security prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle, where he assisted his fellow inmates in frequent escape attempts.

ww2dbaseBader retired from the RAF in 1946 and took up a senior position with the Shell Oil Company which frequently involved making "Goodwill" flights around the world for the company (often accompanied by his wife Thelma and his dog Shaun). When Bader finally retired from Shell in 1969, aged 59, the company presented the famous ace with a specially adapted Beech Travelair light aircraft. Having flown the world (and having his story made into a successful movie), Douglas Bader finally passed away on 4 September 1982.

World Aircraft Informarion Files (Bright Star Publishing)

Last Major Revision: Jun 2012

Douglas Bader Interactive Map


No. 23 Squadron RAF acrobatic pilots Douglas Bader, Harry Day, and Geoffrey Stephenson at Hendon, England, United Kingdom, 1931Douglas Bader posing with his Hurricane fighter, 1940Hugh Dowding and Douglas Bader, circa 1940Douglas Bader and a Czechoslovakian pilot in England, United Kingdom, date unknown
See all 12 photographs of Douglas Bader

Douglas Bader Timeline

21 Feb 1910 WW2 RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader was born at St. John's Wood, London, England, United Kingdom.
13 Sep 1928 Douglas Bader took his first flight together with flight instructor W. J. "Pissy" Pearson.
19 Feb 1929 Douglas Bader made his first solo flight.
26 Jul 1930 Douglas Bader was made a pilot officer of No. 23 Squadron RAF based at Kenley, England, United Kingdom.
14 Dec 1931 Douglas Bader suffered an accident at the Reading Aero Club in Reading, England, United Kingdom. His legs, severely injured, were amputated by surgeon J. Leonard Joyce.
5 Oct 1933 Douglas Bader married Thelma Edwards.
27 Nov 1939 Douglas Bader made his first solo flight since his 1931 air accident that cost him both of his legs.
7 Feb 1940 Douglas Bader joined the British No. 19 Squadron RAF flying Spitfire fighters.
1 Jun 1940 Douglas Bader achieved his first kill, which was a German Bf 109 fighter.
4 Jun 1940 Douglas Bader, while attacking a German Do 17 aircraft, nearly collided with the target.
28 Jun 1940 Douglas Bader was named the commanding officer of No. 242 Squadron RAF, flying Hurricane fighters, based at RAF Coltishall at Norwich, England, United Kingdom.
9 Jul 1940 Douglas Bader's No. 242 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Coltishall at Norwich, England, United Kingdom, was declared fully operational.
11 Jul 1940 Douglas Bader shot down a German Do 17 aircraft off the coast of Norfolk, England, United Kingdom.
21 Aug 1940 Douglas Bader shot down a German Do 17 aircraft off Great Yarmouth, England, United Kingdom.
30 Aug 1940 Douglas Bader's No. 242 Squadron RAF was moved from RAF Coltishall at Norwich, England, United Kingdom to RAF Duxford at Duxford, England. On the same day, the squadron claimed downing 10 German aircraft, with two of which, Bf 110 heavy fighters, claimed by Bader.
7 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader shot down two German Bf 110 heavy fighters; his Hurricane fighters was heavily damaged in a subsequent encounter by a Bf 109 fighter, but was able to return to base despite the damage.
9 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader shot down a German Do 17 aircraft and damaged the rudder of a He 111 aircraft using his propeller.
14 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
15 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader shot down a German Do 17 aircraft and damaged a Do 17 aircraft and a Ju 88 aircraft over southern England, United Kingdom.
18 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader shot down a German Do 17 aircraft and a Ju 88 aircraft.
24 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader was promoted to the war time rank of flight lieutenant.
27 Sep 1940 Douglas Bader shot down a German Bf 109 aircraft.
13 Dec 1940 Douglas Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
18 Mar 1941 Douglas Bader was promoted to the rank of wing commander.
7 May 1941 Douglas Bader shot down a German Bf 109 aircraft and claimed another probable.
21 Jun 1941 Douglas Bader shot down a German Bf 109E aircraft off Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France.
25 Jun 1941 Douglas Bader shot down two German Bf 109F aircraft.
2 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader was awarded the Bar to his Distinguished Service Order. Later on the same day, he claimed one Bf 109 fighter destroyed and another damaged.
4 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader collided with a German Bf 109E fighter during a dogfight; the German fighter was scored as a probable kill.
6 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader shot down a German Bf 109 aircraft.
9 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader claimed one probable German aircraft shot down and another damaged.
10 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader claimed one German Bf 109 aircraft over Bethune, Pas-de-Calais, France, and later shot down a Bf 109E aircraft over nearby Calais.
12 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader shot down a German Bf 109 fighter and damaged three others over Pas-de-Calais, France.
23 Jul 1941 Douglas Bader shot down a German Bf 109 aircraft.
9 Aug 1941 Battle of Britain ace Wing Commander Douglas Bader was involved in a mid-air collision with a German Bf 109 fighter over northern France. He parachuted from his crippled aircraft by releasing and leaving behind in his Spitfire fighter one of his two artificial legs.
19 Aug 1941 Replacement prosthetic leg for captured Douglas Bader was dropped by a British bomber over Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais, France with permission by German Luftwaffe leaders. After the delivery, the British bomber took the opportunity to surprise-attack a power station in occupied France (though the attack would fail to materialize due to weather).
14 Oct 1942 British Lieutenant Commander William Stephens and three pals escaped the notorious Colditz Castle in Saxony, Germany, prompted by signals from an orchestra conducted by legless RAF ace Douglas Bader, and with fake identifications fled Germany by trains and on foot.
1 Dec 1945 Douglas Bader was promoted to the permanent rank of wing commander.
21 Jul 1946 Douglas Bader retired from the British Royal Air Force at the rank of group captain.
24 Jan 1971 Douglas Bader's wife Thelma died of throat cancer.
3 Jan 1973 Douglas Bader married Joan Murray Hipkiss, daughter of a wealthy steel industrialist.
4 Jun 1979 Douglas Bader flew his personal Bonanza aircraft for the final time.
5 Sep 1982 Douglas Bader passed away from a heart attack.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
22 Dec 2012 02:05:15 AM

I admired Sir Douglas Bader from my reading of "Reach for the Sky". Quite some years later I noted a "This is your Life" story which I believe made no refererence to Thelma. Are you aware of this, and if true, given her contribution, why was Thelma not included?
2. Mark says:
17 Jun 2014 02:02:03 AM

Mr. Bader was a friend of our school headmaster Mr. G. Anstock. In the school, one of the 4 'houses' was named after Bader, (the other three were Hillary/Switzer/Churchill). In the late 1960s I remember Mr. Bader visiting my class at Peartree school, Stevenage. Something I remember was how fast he could move with his 'tin legs', apparently he could negotiate flights of stairs faster than everyone else.

Mr Anstock, our headmaster would often talk about the antics of Mr Bader his friend in morning assembly.
3. Knuteson Simpkin says:
22 Dec 2014 03:16:44 PM

I have watched the whole film of Douglas Bader, so I was so surprized when I saw this, my grandma has the film and I always watch it!
4. Una Adair says:
28 Aug 2018 11:12:00 AM

Was Douglas bader murdered?
5. Anonymous says:
5 Sep 2018 12:51:35 AM

On bbc there was douglas badger grandson , who was his son or daughter and why aren’t they ever mentioned
6. Nick H says:
5 Aug 2020 03:50:59 AM

I think the timeline should show DB moving from 19 sqdn to 222 sqdn between Feb and June - he was in 222 for Op Dynamo (late May-June), and moved from 222 to 242
7. Shaun Thompson says:
17 Feb 2021 05:56:45 PM

Can anyone tell me what Mk’s of spitfire DB flew or was it only the Mk5a
8. pop says:
9 Mar 2021 06:48:34 AM

this is great

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Event(s) Participated:
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Douglas Bader Photo Gallery
No. 23 Squadron RAF acrobatic pilots Douglas Bader, Harry Day, and Geoffrey Stephenson at Hendon, England, United Kingdom, 1931
See all 12 photographs of Douglas Bader

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