Flying ace

05th February 2020

Flying ace Douglas Bader flew his last sortie from RAF Westhampnett (now Goodwood Aerodrome) on 9 August, 1941. Having joined the RAF in 1930 at the age of 20, he tragically crashed his Bristol Bulldog fighter a year later which lead to the eventual amputation of both of his legs in 1933. He was discharged from the RAF, but was determined to keep flying.

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He learnt to walk again using prosthetic legs and in 1935 was allowed back into the RAF. His first solo flight back in action was over the Dunkirk evacuation in which he successfully shot down a Messerschmitt 109.

Bader arrived at RAF Westhampnett on 18 March 1941 to take command of three Spitfire squadrons of Tangmere wing including 610, 616 and 145 Squadrons. He flew with 616 Squadron from then on leading the formation with his personal Spitfire marked ‘DB’, in the ‘finger four’ formation he adapted from the Luftwaffe tactics.

Bader had lost one of his false legs when he was shot down, and the Germans offered free passage to an RAF aircraft to drop a replacement near St.Omer, where he was being held. The RAF refused, and a few days later mounted a bombing operation during which a new false leg was dropped by parachute.

Bader was released after the war and won a DSO and bar (Distinguished Service Order) and DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and bar.

A statue to Douglas Bader is positioned outside of the Aerodrome Building.

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