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Bader's batman has died

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Bader's batman has died

Old 18th Sep 2003, 03:11
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Bader's batman has died

From The Times - edited

Alex Ross
Seaforth Highlander who stayed in Colditz Castle to help the wartime ace Douglas Bader

Alex Ross was not a celebrity but became well known through his close wartime association with Wing Commander (later Group Captain Sir) Douglas Bader.

Forced to surrender at St Valery in June 1940, he was taken prisoner, having been wounded in the ankle.

In 1942, he was sent to a prison camp in Lamsdorf, Germany, where he was detailed to look after Wing Commander Bader, then beginning a ten-day spell in solitary confinement for trying to escape.

On completion of his period in “solitary”, Bader was warned that he was to be moved to Oflag IVC — Colditz Castle in Saxony. Ross offered to accompany him, but Bader told him that it would not be possible as Colditz was a “bad boys’ camp”. Nonetheless, at four the next morning Ross carried Bader’s bags on to a train for the journey. They arrived at Colditz railway station after dark on August 16, 1942, and were marched over the river and through the town up towards the castle. Bader could not manage the steepness of the last part of the cobbled hill, so Ross gave him his hand and pulled him along.

Ross’s duties in looking after Bader were certainly onerous. Each morning he carried him, without his artificial legs, on his back down a stone spiral staircase to a salt-water bath that had been prescribed to harden his leg stumps. After placing Bader in the bath he would wait outside, until it was time to lift him out of the bath and on to a stool to dry himself. He would then would carry him back up the stairs to the second-floor room Bader occupied in the senior officer’s quarters in the Saal Haus. Ross was short and found carrying Bader a struggle. Nine times out of ten, Bader had not fully dried himself, and so by the time the pair had reached Bader’s room, Ross would be soaking wet.

A room-mate of Bader, Major Will Anderson, formed a high opinion of Ross and wrote home in November 1942: “ He (Bader) He brought a most excellent man with him as batman, which makes all the difference in his case.”

In late 1943, Ross was handed a letter from the Red Cross by Hauptmann Püpcke, of the German staff of Colditz, informing him that he was to be repatriated, along with several other non- combatants. Delighted, Ross went up to Bader in the castle courtyard exclaiming: “I’m going home! I’ve got this letter”. “Oh no, you’re bloody not,” Bader retorted, in an exchange witnessed by a British officer. “You came here as my skivvy and that’s what you’ll stay.” Other Colditz prisoners said he should show the letter to the Senior British Officer and claim his rights, but it seems that he decided against this and remained in Colditz until released with the other prisoners in April 1945.

On the liberation by the US Army, Bader succeeded in hitching a lift with an American woman journalist and got back to England the next day. The rest of the ex-prisoners followed two days later. While on leave with his family in Tain, Ross was summoned to the local post office to take a long-distance telephone call from Bader. “Ross — did you bring back my spare legs?” Bader demanded. “No sir, the Americans would not allow us to bring anything back.” At this point Bader swore at Ross and put the phone down. This was the last occasion on which the two men spoke to each other.

Alex Ross, Seaforth Highlander, was born on August 14, 1917. He died on September 3, 2002, aged 86.

I have always had a lot of respect for Bader, although he was obviously a stubborn and arrogant man - not necessarily a disadvantage in a war. Nevertheless this obituary has lowered him in my estimation. The way that a man treats his subordinates says a lot about him, and this was just unforgivable.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 03:34
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Indeed I had read about Baders treatment of Ross elsewhere,a lot of stuff has come out about Bader since his death that paint him in a different light, even his tactics in the BOB have been questioned and subject to critisism.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 05:02
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I saw him on television once many years ago. I forget the occasion now.

I had read his book and I suppose looked up to him a little. I felt quite let down when I saw him on the box as he seemed like a caricature.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 13:50
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I met Douglas Bader when he was an executive for Shell and he came across as an arrogant bastard then.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 15:25
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Just to chip in - Mr & Mrs YWIW senior met Bader at a dinning in Night in the late sixties / early seventies at a V bomber base in Lincolnshire. Not a very nice man exceedingly full of himself and insufferable to those he considered his junior.

An ideal fighter pilot, gifted flyer and leader of men who play cricket and want a head boy to idolise. Sometimes people with one set of attitudes that are spot on for conflict just don't fit into a peace time role. He overcame a lot and was a success in his field - how many others can say that?

I may not chose to drink with him, but I'd support him.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 15:31
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I've read a fair bit about him and basically he was an arrogant pig. I think the above just enforces that belief.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 15:39
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Mr Bader

I met him at an airshow at Abingdon.
He was really arrogant....
So, he lost his legs in the War.... A lot of men died, at least he lived.
No excuse for being nasty to people...
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 15:51
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Different times I think. Bader's contribution to the War Effort and public morale was significant and the truly arrogant bastard also gave the Germans a few headaches to the point where they could have just shot him.

His raw courage, arrogance, obduracy, class consciousness and all the other dubious qualities of a flawed hero would be totally out of place today (?), wouldn't they ?

Why do we denigrate (post mortem) all our heroes in this way ? I don't think we can relate to the pre war era and the circumstances in force at the time and as we all know, time can either exaggerate or blunt the memory depending on who is telling the tale.

His arrogant self belief and attitudes around the time of his crash in 1933 (I think) when he lost both legs made him an accident waiting to happen anyway and I think most of his frustration was taken out on those around him when he could only blame himself. A complex man, but still a hero.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 16:02
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Bader lost his legs not in the War, but because of a stupid, low level aerobatic stunt, that sadly for him went wrong, I have always been full of admiration for this man, but after reading this thread one of my childhood hero's has been shown as being just like the rest of the more selfish and self centred people that you meet in normal life!

How very sad, the actual hero is the Soldier Alex Ross, now there seems a totally selfless and good hearted man, I hope he rests in peace and is remembered as the man who cared for the nations hero, during desparate times!
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 16:54
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I met Bader when I was 14-15, he was my hero till then.
I suppose, as a kid, I expected him to be like Kenneth More in the film, in reality he came over as an obnoxious git.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 17:56
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Devil Bad (?) Baader

In successive books on Baader (as it was actually spelt pre-WW2), including those written by himself, he comes across not unlike today's American arrogant, over the top, "high five", fighter "jocks". Undeniably these qualaties usually make the most outstanding fighter pilots in wartime (fail to believe in yourself and you're pretty much a dead man) with people like Rene Fonc and Richthofen in a similar vein.

What makes me look at Bader with disdain is his ready will to trample over others and to build himself up. He was downright lucky to get back into the RAF at all prior to the war, and when he did, he was an opportunistic bully and a coward. His advocacy of the "big wing" with Leigh-Mallory and Park and Downing's disagreement may have had a valid point at the time. The way in which post BOB that both these men vilified their former superiors - the two men in the firing line and with the most responsability of preventing our defeat to the Luftwaffe - for not having followed these tactics is ungentlemanly, a stab in the back and an attempt to raise their own profiles and standings, not just in the RAF but in public too.

What about our other "true" heroes? The ones who win the medals are usually the officers (no offence to the ruperts out there), their proteges or those who's acts of courage are to obvious not to be rewarded. The true heroes of that conflict (BOB and the rest of WW2) are all the folk who went to Britain's defence. How many squaddies, sailors, bomb disposal teams, ARP wardens etc. etc. did not get (or want to) recognised for their devotion to the line of duty?

I would say I'd put Baader in the same vein as Nelson (another self publicising so-and-so by all accounts), but I don't want to get done for treason here.

Well done to the man for coming back from despair and back into flying, but he loses my respect for his self publicity seeking, his arrogance towards others (if I am arrogant/harsh/or rude at work, I certainly don't take it home with me - ever) and his clear disrespect of those below him.

A posting elsewhere (best advice one) has a good saying. "Be nice to those you meet on the way up, as you don't know who you'll meet on the way down". I don't think Douglas subscribed to that viewpoint and hence has emerged not as the hero he'd want to be remembered for.

Alex Ross's story, on the otherhand, is one of self sacrifice without any hope of reward or recognition. Something that Baader would not approve of himself, but nonetheless require of his servant - hmmmmm...... sounds like modern day senior management. Did Douglas ever open his own business school?

I know which of the two men I'd have rather met for a drink.

Alex Ross, Seaforth Highlander, was born on August 14, 1917. He died on September 3, 2002, aged 86 - like a true hero, didn't crave recognition for his actions.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 21:23
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I prefer Kenneth Moore.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 21:56
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Ah yes, the moore the merrier.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 22:28
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Yes, Weselfluren

Undeniably these qualities usually make the most outstanding fighter pilots in wartime (fail to believe in yourself and you're pretty much a dead man).

but on the other hand I have known many pilots of WW2 (taught to fly by them), including one of Canada's top fighter pilots, DSO and bar, DFC and bar, and I had a distant connexion with three of the very top WW2 Luftwaffe pilots. I cannot recall one who fitted the "Hero as SOB" description. The DSO, DFC, just mentioned was exactly what we understand by "a gentleman", literally a very gentle man, quietspoken, faithful husband, devoted father, mannerly, devout RC. It was hard to reconcile what one saw with the killer.

I knew one flight sergeant air gunner, commissioned in the field for shooting down two fighters on one trip, a flight-lieutenant and senior gunnery officer in the squadron by the time he completed the tour. He was returned to Canada for pilot training, and later discharged. By then surplus pilots were being churned out by the system. At the time of his discharge he was 19 years old. A quiet unassuming fellow.
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 23:15
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How your lifelong perceptions can be shattered!

I was aware that Bader was a strict disciplinarian, but had no idea of his real personality, if the comments on this thread are accurate (and I have no reason to disbelieve them).

I suppose my perception, like many, many others, was coloured comprehensively by Kenneth More’s portrayal of him.

Sad, really!
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 23:22
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I bet Kenneth More was a bastard ! - anyone read his biography ?
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Old 18th Sep 2003, 23:49
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Pilgrim - I think KM was more of a scally than a bastard

My Dad had dealings with DB in his Shell days (I think DB was a 'roving ambassador' and flew a light twin - maybe a Twin Com or Aztec). Dad appreciated his war feats but hated having to do business with him - says it wasn't his extreme arrogance that annoyed him so much as the fact that DB hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about....
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Old 19th Sep 2003, 01:29
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Was it a Miles Gemini ? I think I saw him in one when I was a kid.
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Old 19th Sep 2003, 02:13
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Bader flew a Percival Proctor G-AHWU for Shell, taking it over 20,000 miles to the far east and back. Not bad for a single engined aircraft...
This information was gleaned from the book 'Winged Shell' by the late Hugh Scanlan, a gentleman I had the honour to know when I lived in Cornwall.

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Old 26th Sep 2003, 13:27
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My old Dad spent a few years as a guest of the third reich, and shared a camp with Bader where he not only bumped the said Sgt pilot from an escape he had been on a waiting list for for a long time, but then so slowed the party down that they were all re-captured.

All the German civvies that had helped were traced and 'disposed of' - last escape from that camp for the war.

Prior to the escape, Bader had caused trouble in the camp by stirring up the guards, and was summoned to the Commandants office for a chat. He leapt into a frozen over pond, up to his thighs and would not come out. Having false legs, he felt no cold. The rest of the camp did though; 17000 of them paraded in freezing conditions until Bader climbed out - he took his time apparently.

How did I learn all this? Was watching 'Reach for the Sky' on tely one day, Dad came in and sat down to enjoy a classic WW2 B&W movie. That was until he realized who it was about - picked up TV and threw it out closed window in rage! (significant POW anger issues).

Then I got the brief. I was 8 years old.

This Scot must have been a bloo%^ saint!

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