The younger of the two sons of Frederick Bader, an engineer, Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born on 21 February 1910. At an early age, Douglas was separated from his parents when his father departed to work in India. Unable to travel with his family, Douglas was left in the care of his uncle and aunt, which he enjoyed immensely. In 1917 Frederick Bader died as a consequence of a head wound received whilst fighting as a sapper in France. His mother and step-father, the Reverend E. W. Hobbs, paid little attention to the young Douglas and he was soon sent away to St Edward's Public School where he was soon noted as being an exceptionally gifted scholar.
In 1928 his uncle, a former fighter pilot and now the adjutant at RAF Cranwell in England, United Kingdom obtained for Bader a place at the academy. Here his outstanding academic achievements and outgoing personality soon led to a desire to learn to fly, to which end he began to allocate a considerable amount of his free time.
Commissioned into the RAF in 1930, Douglas Bader was posted to No. 23 Squadron at Kenley, England, which was equipped with Gloster Gamecock aircraft. His natural flying abilities were quickly recognised by his superiors but with tragic consequences. On Monday, 14 December 1931, whilst giving an aerobatic demonstration Bader was involved in a serious crash which resulted in the amputation of both legs; and he was invalided out of the service.
Fitted with artificial legs Bader reapplied for flying duties in 1939 and having been given the rating "exceptional" from the review board was accepted. On 7 February 1940 he joined No. 19 Squadron flying Spitfire fighters.
basePromoted to flight lieutenant, Bader was transferred to No. 222 Squadron as Flight Commander, achieved his first kill, a Bf 109 fighter, on 1 June 1940. Promoted in July, Bader was given command of No. 242 Squadron. A succession of victories during the Battle of Britain resulted in Bader being awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 13 December 1940 and in early 1941 he was promoted Wing Commander, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and given command of the Tangmere Wing comprising three Spitfire squadrons.
With the RAF now going on the offensive the Tangmere wing was now tasked with making fighter sweeps over occupied France to engage the Luftwaffe in battle. These sweeps had some success but, on 9 August 1941, having shot down two German Bf 109 fighters, Bader collided with a third and was obliged to bail out of his stricken aircraft over enemy territory. His tally of enemy aircraft destroyed had reached 23.
baseCaptured by the Luftwaffe Bader would be entertained by his German counterpart, General Adolf Galland, before being handed over to the German Army. Even in captivity Bader continued to cause havoc with the Germans which led, eventually, to a transfer to the maximum security prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle, where he assisted his fellow inmates in frequent escape attempts.
baseBader retired from the RAF in 1946 and took up a senior position with the Shell Oil Company which frequently involved making "Goodwill" flights around the world for the company (often accompanied by his wife Thelma and his dog Shaun). When Bader finally retired from Shell in 1969, aged 59, the company presented the famous ace with a specially adapted Beech Travelair light aircraft. Having flown the world (and having his story made into a successful movie), Douglas Bader finally passed away on 4 September 1982.