If one man truly embodied the motto of the Royal Air Force, it was Douglas Bader. The basic outlines of his story are known: pilot loses legs, goes on to become an ace in the Second World War, only to be shot down and spend the rest of the war in captivity. But what is not so well-known is Bader's struggle from his pre-war flying accident in which he lost his legs to "reach for the sky" once more. Brickhill strikes just the right balance in describing Bader's life--each part is detailed but not too much that the reader gets bogged down. Bader's rehabilitation is truly inspirational. Bader lived in a time when modern prosthetics were in their infancy. People then had a hard enough time just learning to live with them and do every day tasks--Bader was determined to drive and fly again. And he did. It is some mark of the man that when Bader was freed by Allied forces, his first request to the RAF was to find a flying squadron and get back to the war before it ended. Brickhill's account on suffers from two minor points. First, it was written in the 1950s. Bader died in 1982. This edition sorely needed a forward or epilogue written by an intimate or a historian which highlighted the man's life afterwards. The second point is that Brickhill's account is slightly dated in tone. For instance, in his relating of Bader's courtship of his future wife, whom he met while she was a waitress, Brickhill felt compelled to explain to the reader that his wife was only working as a waitress to get over a lost pet! (Working as a waitress apparently was not something a "respectable" woman would do!)
The stirring story of the war hero, Douglas Bader, who lost both legs in a plane crash before the war but came back to become one of the great flying aces of the Battle of Britain. This respectful biography does not disguise the fact that Mr Bader must have been a forceful, difficult personality to deal with. The Germans who imprisoned him after he was shot down certainly found him hard to cope with. After numerous escape attempts they resorted to taking away his artificial legs, and eventually sent him to the POW camp for perennial bad boys, Colditz. After the war Bader went on to a successful career with a petroleum company and continued to fly his own plane all over the world. This is not a dirt-digging, exposé biography such as is fashionable in these days of media overload, but it is a bare-bones, well written story of a remarkable man's remarkable life.
Bought as a Christmas present for my Dad. Previously I was vaguely familiar with Bader's story, but I read the first few chapters of this and my Dad and I are now having to share it! He reads a bit, I sneak a bit and then we discuss where we're upto and how remarkable the man was. A highly recommended read, will probably buy Barefoot Soldier to follow it.
Follow Douglas Bader from the trauma of his near-fatal flying accident to the skies of southern England and the hilarious escape of this legless man from POW custody.I met Douglas Bader in the 70's and can understand why he was an inspiration to RAF pilots and disabled people everywhere.
A wonderful story of a man that knows his dream and goes all the way to make it come true. The story is fluent and very readable - I enjoied reading it again and again. Falling in love with flight and with the woman of his life, fighting to fly, to fight the war a to keep his dignity during captivity come to a great saga of heroism and humanity.
The true story of a remarkable man who epitomises the grit and sheer bloody minded determination of the British during the Battle of Britain and thereafter. An amazing story of a man who on the verge of being picked to play Rugby for England has a 'dink' with his aeroplane and looses both his legs and hence his RAF flying career. Refusing to give up and with an annoying degree of persistence he manages to bounce back to get his wings at the start of the war and goes on to become a legendary fighter pilot with 22 'kills' to his credit before being shot down and captured. He causes havoc trying to escape and eventually ends up in Colditz for the remainder of the war. All who know the story of Bader realise he had something special, something within him inspired everyone he met. His story has been an inspirational legacy for years and will be for many more. A great fighter ace and an even greater inspirational character ....simply a legend!
I knew, before I opened the book, that I would read about Bader losing his legs and finding a way to live the rest of his life with artificial limbs. But I still found it very moving and inspirational.
Paul Brickhill's style of writing is quite matter of fact and objective. He uses quotes from people who were there at the time to make judgements about his subjects, and never expresses his own opinion. He also refrains from identifying the high-ranking RAF officers who pushed Bader out of the airforce following his accident, and made it difficult for him to return. But gives full credit to those who cut through the bull' to make Bader's return possible.
An excellent work, which I shall pass on to my family for them to read, and return to read again myself.
Know your heritage, find out where you come from, understand what the bulldog spirit is. Read this book and wonder, how on earth the country that created this man could have become the one you live in now.
I first read this book as a child and it totally captured my imagination. I re-read it so many times that the book eventually fell apart. It proves that with sheer determination almost anything is possible - even against almost overwhelming odds. Bader's grit and courage shine through the narrative and make it a very human story of someone who was truly a hero.