Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Greatest Fighter Pilot I Ever Knew

I only wish he was around today to pass judgment on the F-35.   Douglas Bader.   He lost both his legs before WWII in a flying demonstration accident.  Bader struggled to get back into the RAF but with no luck - until Hitler sparked WWII.   Then the RAF welcomed him back.   With no lower legs he had to operate the rudder pedals by shifting his arse and he did it exceedingly well.  If memory serves, Douglas Bader might just have been the first person to walk on two artificial legs.

Shot down over France after the Battle of Britain, Bader was trapped in his Spit when the instrument panel crashed down against his leg.   But his legs were tin so he undid his straps, left his trapped leg behind and hit the silk.   I met Bader through an English girlfriend in the late 60s.  Her father, a retired RAF Wing Commander,  was a wartime comrade and I came to spend a couple of afternoons in his company at their Surrey home.

After the war, Bader was friends with his counterpart from the Luftwaffe, Adolf Galland.

I'm not saying Bader was the greatest fighter pilot ever, but he was the greatest fighter pilot I ever shared a beer with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was a young lad, I met my version of a great fighter pilot. He and his wife were still bright eyed and bushy tailed in their late eighties when I knew them.

He had flown Sopwith Camels with the Royal Flying Corps in France. He said they were 'tricky' to fly (torque problems), but went on to win three kills. He did not enjoy the fact that he had killed other human beings.

After the war, he studied theology and became a minister. I think he followed that path because to his wartime experiences.