A UNIQUE war hero who battled to serve his country despite losing both his legs is celebrated in an exhibition opening in Colindale today.
The RAF Museum’s Sir Douglas Bader Anniversary Exhibition, including medals, letters and log-books, marks 100 years since the famous Wing Commander’s birth and the start of his charity’s latest campaign to help children through limb loss.
On Wednesday modern-day amputee heroes Major Phil Packer and 7/7 survivor David Gardner, helped launch the collection, honouring Bader’s ongoing legacy for his integral roles in the Battle of Britain and German air-raids.
Peter Dye, Acting Museum Director, said: “No-one could call Douglas Bader ordinary, but what he did was make the extraordinary seem ordinary.
“People still cite him as someone who has driven them on to recover from their disabilities.”
Post-war, Bader offered practical advice to the disabled and helped change attitudes towards limb-loss.
Mr Dye added: “We are very proud to be putting on this display. Douglas did all this at a time when disability was seen as something that disabled the person and their ambitions.
“He was very human and continues to inspire people who respect his integrity, service and excellence.”
Peter Elliott, the Museum’s Senior Keeper, said: “To be involved in telling the Bader story is very exciting. I grew up with all this sort of stuff, it goes back to my primary school days.”
Mr Elliott recalls meeting Bader, who spent 1941-1945 as a prisoner of war, as a boy.
“I was a bit in awe of the guy,” he said. “He was very much a man of action.”
The Douglas Bader Foundation, set up after Bader’s death in 1982, hopes new Bader Braves challenge weekends and flying days will help disabled youngsters grow in confidence.
Keith Delderfield, Director of Operations, said: “It’s about getting youngsters to believe that if they put their minds to it they can do anything.”
Major Packer, 36, who has rowed the English Channel, walked the London Marathon and climbed a mountain since losing a leg in Iraq in 2008, pledged his help.
He said: “To survive through an accident like that all those years ago and then rejoin the RAF afterwards is absolutely amazing. It’s a real joy and a privilege to help with funding.”
David Gardner, 55, said: “After my accident I just wanted to get back to normal life, my work and my family. With the help of the Foundation I could not really go wrong.”
David Keen, Museum historian, said: “The film Reach for the Sky did it for me.
“It was one of those stories which emerged in the 1950s when I was a child, it all had glamour.
“We’re looking a bit more carefully and objectively now at this hugely determined man.”
The free exhibition is being hosted at the museum in Grahame Park Way until March 31.Tags: Bader, Bader Braves, Battle of Britain, Colindale, David Gardner, Douglas Bader Foundation, hero, Major Phil Packer, Peter Dye, Reach for the Sky, Sir Douglas Bader, War, Wing Commander