Sir Douglas Bader is a WWII British fighter pilot ace with at least 22 confirmed kills. However, what’s more fascinating is that he managed all of that as a double amputee with no legs.
Here are ten interesting facts that you need to know about the RAF’s legless anti-hero:
1. His father and brother-in-law served during World War I
Bader was born in 1910 and grew up when WWI was still going on. His father was an engineer and his older brother-in-law was a fighter pilot.
At a young age, young Douglas knew that he wanted to be a fighter pilot too.
2. He was known to be an absolute daredevil while being extremely talented
He can pull off any aerial maneuver at this point including those that are banned. Not only did he do these maneuvers, but he also did it below 2,000 feet which was extremely dangerous.
3. He got into an unfortunate accident that changed his life
He got to represent his squadron in a flying competition and won. Later that year in 1932, he prepared to defend his title when he tried a dangerous maneuver that got too close to the ground, and the wing of his plane caught on the ground, crashing his plane, and crushing his legs.
Both of his legs were amputated – one above the knee, the other just below. He was then told that he’ll never walk again without crutches.
4. He did the impossible
Bader of course, wasn’t a stickler for rules. During his rehabilitation, not only did he regain his ability to walk without crutches, but he was able to do golf and dance all on dual prosthetics.
He managed to do all of these in four months all by himself because experts thought it was impossible!
5. 5 months after losing his legs, he showed back up to the RAF
He argues with the RAF, and the latter eventually agrees to have him on a test flight with another pilot.
He then gets cleared by a medical board declaring he’s fit for active duty and he is reinstated as a pilot. However, he was grounded a year later, and he was forced to get a desk job.
6. He finally got his chance to fly again when WWII kicked off
Fast forward to 1939, WWII kicks off and the RAF finally decided to call him back.
He went back to flight school, and when he was finally allowed to fly a plane on his own, the first thing that he did was invert it and fly it upside down at a low altitude right past all the instructors.
7. In a weird twist of fate, his disability turned into an advantage inside the cockpit of a fighter plane
Bader realized that when pilots take a turn or do a maneuver, they’re exposed to the G-force wherein if they do it too fast or too tight, they’re exposed to too much G-force all the blood in their body rush down their legs and they lose consciousness. But Bader has no legs for the blood to rush to!
This quite literally gave him a leg up in the competition.
Throughout his career, he was credited with 2 aerial victories, 4 shared victories, 6 probable, 1 shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged.
8. When he was captured, German officers allowed the British to send Bader new prosthetic legs
When he bailed out from his plane in 1941, he lost his prosthetic legs. The German officers had high regard for him so they arranged with British officials to send him new prosthetic legs.