A 21-Month-Old Says As Many Words As An 18-Month-Old Douglas Bader – Legless Pilot, Inspirational Leader and Aviation Hero

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Douglas Bader – Legless Pilot, Inspirational Leader and Aviation Hero

In 1931, Douglas Bader, a 21-year-old distinguished aviator in the RAF, was selected as one of the elite pilots to perform at the prestigious Hendon Air Show. Although he regularly broke the rules by getting too close to the ground, he was an excellent aerobatic pilot, but on December 14 of that year his luck ran out.

While visiting Woodley Airfield, near Reading, he was too tempted to resist the temptation of fellow pilots to repeat his Hendon aerobatics. Just feet from the grassy airstrip, Douglas Bader was trying to slow his Bulldog biplane taxi; Lost both legs.

After a few months in the hospital, he had two tin legs fitted and retired 100 percent disabled, his career apparently ruined.

An ordinary man would hang up his flying helmet in no time, but not Douglas Budd. As soon as war with Germany broke out, he made his way back to the RAF with difficulty, convincing Air Ministry doctors, bureaucrats and flight instructors that he could fly like anyone with two legs, regained his wings, and in early 1940 Sent to No. 19 Squadron, RAF Duxford, with Mark I Spitfires. In June of the same year, he was appointed commander of 242 Squadron, which flew the Hurricanes, which he led with distinction in the Battle of Britain.

In March 1941, Douglas Bader was appointed to the new post of commander of the Tangmere Flying Wing on the south coast. Armed with Spitfires, Budd led the wing, and for the first time since the outbreak of the war the RAF was able to take the fight to the enemy across the English Channel. Flying without rest for 18 months—he declined the offer to rest—on August 9, 1941, Badr’s luck ran out again.

During a large melee at Bethune in northern France, he broke away from his squadron and engaged Messerschmitt fighters of Adolphe Garland’s JG-26 regiment and collided with one of them in the ensuing battle, his The Spitfire lost its entire tail. He has no choice but to jump out and be captured.

Douglas Bader was a constant thorn in the side of his captors, and he ended up in the notorious Colditz prison camp until the end of the war.

Returning to the UK after his release, Budd joined Shell as an envoy in 1946, continuing to fly himself and senior company officers around the globe in company aircraft. After his retirement in 1964, Shell gifted him the aircraft “to maintain his usual maneuverability”.

In all his peaceful years, Douglas Bader never ceased to inspire those who had lost a limb or were disabled in some way. He seized every opportunity to encourage others to approach disability with the same determination that made him one of the greatest warrior leaders of World War II, and whose infectious energy, vitality and indomitable spirit forever changed many of those he touched.

Douglas Bader was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976 for his commitment and inspiring work to the disabled.

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