Military Biography WWII Flight Commander Douglas Bader Part 2

About the World War II British flight commander Douglas Bader, history and biography of the military figure and hero.


DOUGLAS BADER (Great Britain, W.W. II)

Once fitted with metal legs, Bader quickly overcame his handicap and was ready to return to the RAF as a pilot. The RAF turned down his request because there was nothing in King's Regulations covering his case. Bader was infuriated, pointing out that he had already passed his RAF flying test. But RAF bureaucrats considered a legless pilot an impossibility.

In the following years, Bader worked for Shell Oil Company, settled down, fell in love, and got married. He took up golf and was soon an expert. When he had a special pair of legs made for golf, with one leg shorter than the other, his doctor protested that they might cause curvature of the spine. Bader smiled and said golf was worth the risk. He also loved to race his MG sports car through the countryside, collecting speeding tickets in the process.

In 1939 he got his chance to fly again when Britain went to war with Germany. Critically short of trained pilots, the RAF now ignored King's Regulations and assigned him to a fighter squadron. He was soon in the skies above Dunkerque, scoring his first of 22 downed German planes. Bader, the legless ace, became a popular hero, despite the fact that there was a warrant out for his arrest for not appearing in court on a number of automobile speeding charges.

In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Bader defied official RAF instructions on air warfare and evolved his own tactical system. As commander of a squadron--12 Spitfires--he took his men up to high altitudes. When they spotted a cluster of German bombers, they would dive into their midst, machine guns blasting. The German pilots always panicked and broke their close formation, which made them easy prey for Bader and his men. This tactic proved so successful that the RAF adopted it for the rest of its squadrons. Next Bader advocated the concentration of fighters into large packs. The RAF decided to experiment with this idea and placed him in command of a unit of 60 fighters. Again Bader's tactics paid off, and his special unit knocked down 152 German planes in a month. Soon these tactical innovations spread throughout the RAF, contributing greatly to the victory in the Battle of Britain.

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