Reach for the Sky | Douglas Bader

Google returned a link to Douglas Bader in the hit list while searching for information on an old friend, Stuart Love of Kenley.

Image of Douglas Bader's trapped prosthetic leg

Douglas Bader's trapped prosthetic leg

Curious as to why this should be returned I took a look.


On a completely different tangent what was remarkable is the independent research since done by air historian Andy Saunders who wrote a book Bader’s Last Flight, later made into a Channel 4 documentary.

Douglas Bader Portrait

Douglas Bader

In the film, Reach for the Sky, based on Bader’s true life history, Bader is shrouded in a mystical field of protection that leads people to believe he is invicinble to the enemy. What does ‘down’ Bader for real was having a mid-air collision with a Messerschmitt Bf 109. This crash chops off the tail of the Spitfire and results in Bader parachuting to earth over enemy territory, so resulting in his capture and eventual imprisonment to Colditz Castle. His difficulty in bailing out is caused by his trapped prosthetic leg. This is based on Baders own belief that this was how he was ‘shot down’ – the result of mid air collision.

Andy Saunders research does not support this.

From his research it appears the most probable reason is based on F/L “Buck” Casson of No. 616 Squadron RAF description of an attack he made on what he thought was a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The description stated the tail of the plane broke off and Casson watch the pilot trying to bailout with some difficulty. This puts Bader as being the victim of a friendly fire accident.

The full story is well worth a read. From an investigative position they have not just examined period records, they’ve gone out with a shovel and dug up the aircraft with the occasional startling find leading to a soon to be found out red herring.

Maybe he was invincible from the enemy after all. Quite an incredible story with incredible research on one of our Few, from the Battle of Britain.

Although Andy Saunders wasn’t even born at the time of the events and therefore could not have been there, he seems to know more about what happened to Douglas Bader than Bader knows himself. What a man with a history book and a shovel can achieve.

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