View Full Version : Bader

6th Sep 2002, 01:28
Just noticed that yesterday, 5th September was the 20th Anniversary of the death of Douglas Bader. One of my boyhood hero's.

My young son caught the movie Reach for the Sky on TV a couple of months ago and this prompted him to read the book. He was quite fascinated by Baders story.

This was one gent that I would dearly have loved to meet.

6th Sep 2002, 03:52

I remember my fascination as a child with him and on one occasion actually seeing him when he visited Hobart. The film was certainly one of my favourites at the time, although when it was shown recently on ABC, I realised how badly dated it was.

A few years ago, another biography of Bader was published, and although I have not yet read it I believe that unlike "Reach for the Sky", it took a far more disinterested view of both his theory on big formations and his activities regarding the politics that went on between 12 Group and 11 Group.

This new biography also looks at the circumstances of his being captured. As you probably know, the stated reason was that he had been in a mid-air collision with a Me-109. The Luftwaffe records of their losses was meticulous (as oppossed to the propoganda figures), and reveal no loss of aircraft in that sector on the day due to a mid-air. The book concludes that it was far more likely that Bader was shot down but that this was unacceptable to the British public and perhaps Bader.

There is some suggestion of this in "Reach for the Sky" as Bader states that he saw 2 Me-109s approaching from his left (I think) but that he thought he had the time to chase another 2 that were on his right. He turned away from the attacking aircraft which I am told (not being military trained) is an absolute no-no in a dogfight.

Anyway, I am delighted to hear that there are still some young children out there who are fascinated enough by a subject to actually read about it rather than wait for the video or should that now be DVD.

6th Sep 2002, 05:11

I picked up another biography about Bader in our local library a few months back which was simply called "Douglas Bader: a biography" by Robert Jackson. This was written just before his death and covered more of his life.

This was not as sycophantic as Reach for the Sky and did query the reasons for his capture in a bit more detail.

I quite enjoyed this other view of his life and it was worth the read.

I just wish that people such as this got as much recognition as the Elvis' etc. but I guess that's not how this sad old world works.

John (Gary) Cooper
6th Sep 2002, 06:26
To me, no matter what caused his 'downing', this man will go down in the annals of history in the same breath (eventually) as the likes of Wellington, Nelson, Churchill etc. I once met him at El Adem 1964, he flew in a Cessna with his wife, only two of us were allowed to see his kite in, he refuelled and off he went again (working for Shell or BP at that time). There is a memorial to him at Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk, the pub named after him sits in the middle of the old runway, a fitting tribute to a CO of 242 Hurricane Squadron when he was stationed on the Heath. His wife Lady Bader two years ago opened the newly restored MH control tower.

6th Sep 2002, 06:49
John (Gary) Cooper

Please do not think by my previous post that I was being dismissive or denigrating the man. Far from it. His ability to motivate his men was enormous, and there are many examples of this ranging from what he was able to do with 242 Squadron to those who flew with him over Northern France. He was a superb leader.

However, I suspect that he was also like a lot of people who only see the world in black and white terms, bloody difficult to get on with when you disagree with them. There is a hint of this in his introduction to Johnny Johnston's book (the name of which escapes me for the moment, "Squadron Leader" ?), as Johnston disagreed with Bader over the tactics employed during the Battle of Britain.

I have spoken to someone who was a prisoner of war with Bader and whose views on him are much at odds with the public view. This, I was told, was primarily due to his irrepressible enthusiasm for trying to break out, even though his lack of mobility was putting others at risk.

I believe that we are now far enough away from the events to take a more reasoned look at history, not to re-write it to conform to some absurd political correctness but to provide a balanced view of the participants. None of us are without fault and I for one, enjoy the more critical view that some of the present biographers are taking.

John (Gary) Cooper
6th Sep 2002, 07:02
I wasn't having a pop at anyone...........it's just the way I see the man.........a boyhood and a Senior Citizen hero.........if there were a few Political Leaders in this country today that had his guts and could STAND UP AND BE COUNTED our country could have the GREAT put back in it again.

Kermit 180
6th Sep 2002, 11:21
Sir Douglas Bader was a hero of his time, and continues to be an inspiration to those who know their history. Agree entirely with JGC's sentiments. Bader is a man truly worthy of idol status, however I fear with a 'dumbing down' of education, in particular history involving conflict in the 20th century, heros such as he will blend into the annals of history along with the other greats.


6th Sep 2002, 13:50
Bader was certainly one of the greats - a personal hero. Reach For the Sky (what a superb title!) was one of the books that I read as a young lad and which gave me the yearning to fly that still impels me. It isn't a warts and all account by any means, but that isn't in itself a bad thing. I don't hold the view that it is particularly sycophantic, maybe just rather inclined to a level of hero worship, much in the same way that Brickhill treated Guy Gibson.

Bader comes in for a lot of flak these days for his difficult nature and perceived mistakes. Certainly had Bader been less of the man that he was, he probably would not have survived the crash at Woodley or had the grit to fight his way back into the service.

There is a story that Kenneth Moore, who was invited to speak after dinner at a lot of RAF stations in the wake of Reach For The Sky, told one Staish that he would tell a few stories about Bader and was surprised to get the reaction: "Christ! Don't mention that b*******'s name in this mess. There are several here who were in the bag with him and they were always losing their privileges because of Bader winding the goons up".

Maybe Bader wasn't perfect, but none of us are. However if it had not been for men such as him, we would probably not have the liberty to express our opinions today with such freedom.

Airways Ed
7th Sep 2002, 02:03
I'll be the second from Ipswich (Suffolk) on this thread to say that I met the man. He inspected No 188 Squadron ATC on one occasion and I received the accolade 'very smart' when he looked me up and down. That's what a week's worth of polishing and pressing can do. Gave a rousing address--the man had great presence and charisma, especially to a lad--and I treasure the memory.

13th Sep 2002, 20:32
The Kenneth More film is on the box this weekend BBC2, saturday afternoon.

Paul Brickhill's "Reach for the Sky", in a version abridged for younger readers, was my introduction to aviation. Later read the unexpurgated version along with Larry Forrester's "Fly for your Life" which deals with his contemporary Bob Stanford-Tuck. Both were written in the immediate post war glow, and when the full story, warts and all, would have been unacceptable, and probably compromised issues still regarded as militarily sensitive. Similar considerations apply to Pat Reid's accounts of Colditz, he wrote a third volume, warts and all, shortly before his death which IIRC was less than fullsome in its praise of Bader. Goon baiting affecting other's chances off pulling off an escape etc.

13th Sep 2002, 21:45
I met an old boy recently who was 'in the bag' with Bader. He had a certain amount of admiration for his achievements, but as a person he found him insufferably full of himself and arrogant.


14th Sep 2002, 07:07
But an arrogant, irrepressible manner was the sort of leadership quality needed in those dark days, surely?

I gather that, unlike Stanford Tuck, Douglas never made friends with his wartime enemies. During the filming of 'BoB' he was less than sycophantic towards 'Dolfo' Galland, I gather, when there was a gathering of ex-BoB pilots at the aerodrome where the film was being made. "You bŁoody huns - we won, you know" was reportedly his comment!

In later years he still enjoyed the odd wind-up. At a certain airport a spotty young security officer couldn't understand why a passenger thought it was highly amusing that the security machine was going bananas as he stepped through it - until an older, wiser security officer told the sprog who the passenger was and why the metal detector was going mad! It was, of course, Douglas!

At my UAS aerodrome (White Waltham), he used to fly G-APUB - a light twin. One day he landed and was mobbed by the ATC unit downstairs who were there for AEF flying. Though busy, he still found the time to chat to them about flying etc. before driving off. Unfortunately, one of the newer instructors didn't know this - all he saw was a big black car weaving through a flight line of Chipmunks with their engines running. So he picked up the phone to the Guard Room, ordered the barrier down and rushed off to administer a boll*cking! At the gate was Douglas - he wound the window down, smiled apologetically and said "Awfully sorry, old man, I know I shouldn't really have driven through your flight line but I was a bit late after chatting to all those cadets" Fg Off QFI just mumbled, saluted and watched as DB drove off!

On one squadron any luckless co-piglet crewed to fly with a certain greedy captain was always known as a 'Duggie B'. Why? Because he wasn't going to have any operating legs.......sorry, DB - aircrew humour!

tony draper
14th Sep 2002, 11:51
Reach for the Sky is on BBC2 5.15 PM today.
Never liked the movie myself,mainly because I could not stand Kenneth More for some reason.

Genghis the Engineer
15th Sep 2002, 12:59
I can't claim the privilege of ever having met Bader, but I have met one or two other people who might be regarded as household names through their own achievements.

The fact is, people with the attitude and drive that gets things done can often be difficult to get on with and most will pick up a few enemies en-route. This seems to be part and parcel of being a big-achiever, which his biggest critic (and lets face it, Bader doesn't have many) couldn't deny he was.

I've read the book and seen the film, there's no doubt that Brickhill (who himself made a few enemies I seem to recall from his obit. in the Telegraph) was somewhat sycophantic, and the rather bile-inducing last page should probably be buried at midnight in an unmarked grave. The film if anything portrayes him more as a slightly flawed human being than the book does.

But, notwithstanding that, his achievements and contribution to Britain's defence are undeniable and perhaps when somebody has made such a contribution to his country, it's not innapropriate to overlook a few upsets and crossed-wires. We know they were there, but are we really interested now?

I have heard it said that the Wright brothers upset quite a few people as well, the Americans at-least are better at not worrying about the fact and just looking at their achievement.


15th Sep 2002, 18:43
I was a great Bader fan as a schoolboy. I seem to recall that my parents acquired the Brickhill book through a book club. I wrote to the great man and I still have a personally signed photo of him standing on the wing of a 242 Hurricane.

You want it when?
15th Sep 2002, 19:35
Bader - Was and is a hero of mine, he overcame terriffic odds to do what he thought was right. He stood up and was counted in a desperate hour when it would have been easier not to. He put himself in harms way so that I and YWIW junior can enjoy life. He didn't know us or my family of the time but that is not important. My hats off to him and I'd deck anyone who badmouths the services then or now.

Having said that - My mum met him in person at a dining in night in the early 70's and thought he was a very arrogant bore so full of himself that it leaked and smelt.

Robert Cooper
15th Sep 2002, 22:21
When he flew into Leuchars, to play golf at St. Andrews, he invariablydropped a case off at the
tower. Last time I met him was in the 11Gp Ops room. He nogiated that long staircase on his own,
down and up, without aid. Marvelous chap.


Jet Dragon
17th Sep 2002, 04:47
I will never forget meeting the great man at our Apprentice Prizegiving (BAe Chester) where he was the guest speaker in about 1979/80.

I was lucky enough to talk to him for about 5 minutes , get him to sign my prize (an aviation book) - fascinating chap and a true hero to me.


17th Sep 2002, 22:36
But an arrogant, irrepressible manner was the sort of leadership quality needed in those dark days, surely?

Indeed. Therefore let's be a little more realistic about our heroes and not simply wallow in blind worship. He was a not particularly pleasant man, by turns arrogant, obstreperous and egotistical, but who made use of those qualities to do things which lesser men didn't have a hope of doing. He was certainly not an angel, but he was remarkable.