A British fighter pilot
, one of the heroes of the Battle of Britain
, whose deeds* were made more remarkable by the fact that he had lost both legs in an air crash years before.
Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born on 21 February 1910, the son of an engineer whose work took him to India. Douglas stayed in England with an aunt and uncle; the uncle was a fighter pilot in the Great War, and later adjutant at the RAF Cranwell base, and encouraged Bader to enrol there. Bader joined the Royal Air Force in 1930, and excelled. he joined No 23 Squadron and flew the Gloster Gamecock. But on 14 December 1931 a crash during acrobatics destroyed both his legs, and he was invalided from the service in 1933.
From The Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd: Ludlow (n.) A wad of newspaper, folded table-napkin or lump of cardboard put under a wobbly table or chair to make it stand up straight. It is perhaps not widely known that air-ace Sir Douglas Bader used to get about on an enormous pair of ludlows before he had his artifical legs fitted.
With the coming of the next war in 1939 he rejoined the RAF in a combat role flying the Spitfire, and was swiftly given promotions, commands, and medals: Flight Lieutenant and DSO 1940, Wing Commander and DFC 1941. (Released from Colditz on its liberation in 1945 he became a Group Captain, then CBE in 1956 and knighted as a KBE in 1976.)
His first kill took place on 1 June 1940, a Bf 109, and by 1 August 1941 he had achieved 22 and a half kills (that is, one shared, and one or two probable). His arch-enemy, the legendary German ace General Adolf Galland, later became his good friend. On that final day he collided with an aircraft, or it shot him down: neither British nor German records nor any of their memories can be sure what happened.
Captured, he became the epitome of the indomitable Colditz prisoner driving his captors mad with repeated escape attempts. They eventually deprived him of his artificial legs.
With peace, he retired from the RAF in 1946, having led the victory fly-past over London the previous year, and worked for Shell Oil, retiring in 1969. In after years he did charitable work for the handicapped. He died on 5 September 1982. Paul Brickhill's book about his exploits, entitled Reach for the Sky, was filmed in 1956, with Kenneth More as Douglas Bader.
Basic facts for this were extracted from
which also has a detailed timeline of his kills. Then there's a very interesting interview with him at
which I strongly recommend if you're interested in his techniques and reminiscences. (Rats, neither of these sites works any more.) He goes into a lot of detail on his final crash. His answers are very long, chatty, discursive, full of fun, except the one to this question: "Did you ever engage anyone in a single combat that you thought might defeat you?
* oops, almost said 'feats'