Douglas Bader Foundation Ambassadors are acknowledged for their outstanding support of the charity. We are greatly indebted to them all.
Meet them here in chronological order!
“To be asked to be an Ambassador for a Trust set up in memory of a man who epitomises inspiration and courage and who was a forerunner in displaying what you can do and not what you cannot, is an absolute honour.
To support the Douglas Bader Foundation and in particular the Bader Braves initiative, giving children with limb loss and other disabilities their first experience of flight in a light aircraft, fills me with immense pleasure and delight.
Giving children this opportunity provides self-belief, self-confidence, excitement and sows a seed of what they can do; I hope that those introduced to the Foundation will support this initiative and the aeronautical industry and pilots throughout the country will continue to be involved and assist to give more children this wonderful opportunity.”
Phil Packer remains committed to improving the lot of young people and and you can read more about his work by visiting his Website. Please click on the link to visit it and learn more about his inspirational plans.
His aim is: “To deliver inspiration, create greater inclusion and to influence in the areas of self-
Phil Packer MBE Founder of the British Inspiration Trust – Ambassador for the Douglas Bader Foundation
“I was reading a script for Julius Caesar when terrorist ringleader, Mohammed Sidique Khan, detonated a home-made bomb on a busy Tube train in London.” David Gardner
David’s injuries were so bad that he was the first Edgware Road survivor to be operated on at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
He was blown off his seat and onto the carriage floor where he lay for 45 minutes, drifting in and out of consciousness while fellow passenger, Jason Rennie, a former Army officer, ripped up a shirt and used it as a tourniquet for his badly damaged left leg.
During a 5-hour operation, David’s leg had to be amputated above the knee, his spleen was removed and doctors fought to save his left kidney. The following day he went through a further operation to remove shrapnel from his right leg.
He subsequently underwent operations on both ears for perforated eardrums. Despite the severe nature of his injuries, David returned to his day job as a management accountant within four months. He continues to pursue his acting career.
David Gardner, 7/7 survivor – Ambassador to the Douglas Bader Foundation
“I am very proud to be an ambassador of the Douglas Bader Foundation. I have been drawn into the world of aviation head first, and have felt first hand the ecstatic feeling of being in the air above the earth, and taking control of a light aircraft.
By giving young people in difficult circumstances the opportunity to do this, the foundation provides them with an experience they will never forget. I remember after my first flight, thinking; ‘if I can do this, I can do anything’. I have been inspired, and I hope many more children can be.”
Adam Layer. Amputee, Aircraft Engineer – Ambassador for the Douglas Bader Foundation
“I’ve always been a keen racing cyclist. Indeed I lost my lower limb (below the knee) through that very thing 40 years ago. I’ve seen many changes in prosthetics over the years as new components and materials have been developed. But at the end of the day, losing a body part is still traumatic. The false ones even now are still not like the original.
Coming to terms and living with it is a real challenge. Even the simple things can become a real chore. But there’s nothing like being able to contact someone who’s ‘got the T-shirt’ too. I found this really helped me when I looked at the internet Forum on the Douglas Bader web site.
The Helpline has consequently been birthed to give that extra personal touch to those in need.
Thankfully I’ve managed to overcome many problems in coming to terms with my new ‘self’, and adapting to cycling with a prosthetic leg, including riding with the GB Para Cycling Team.
My desire is to help other amputees to enjoy cycling, a wonderful sport, pastime and means of transport through the Douglas Bader Foundation.I hope I can be an inspiration to others in my role as an Ambassador.”
Margaret Biggs, racing cyclist, founder and organiser of the DBF LimbLine helpline, co-founder of Team Bader Cycling – Ambassador for the Douglas Bader Foundation
“I remember distinctly the first time I saw a false leg – I was 7 years old. I know that, because I was attending a 7th birthday party at a friend’s house and he was the same age. I can’t describe my emotion at the time but it must have been a shock as I can still vividly see the image of this “thing” against the wall with a shoe stuck on the end.
This negative mental image stayed with me until I went to the cinema to see “Reach for the Sky”. All my friends went and being children of post-war Britain we were riveted by the heroics of our pilots in their Spitfires and Hurricanes – we watched all the war films of that era.
I remember squirming when Douglas Bader found out he’d lost his legs in the aeroplane crash but I also vividly remember how my feelings of unease changed during the film to one of admiration as I watched this hero battle not only the enemy but his disability.
Watching the screen adaptation depicting his enormous strength of character and the way he overcame adversity was a significant moment in my life – it’s still one of my favourite films and I’ve shown it to my children and grandchildren who also love it!
Imagine how I felt therefore when, by a strange quirk of fate, I lost my own leg and ended up meeting members of Sir Douglas’ family at a meeting in Bath to discuss ways in which the Foundation could assist in setting up a Peer Support programme to help new amputees and their families.
For me, it was a huge pleasure to be amongst people who were determined to carry on the good work of Sir Douglas who spent much of his time helping other amputees and people with congenital limb-loss.
When I was invited to become an Ambassador of the Foundation I felt extremely honoured and felt a connection that cannot be adequately described.
The Foundation represents the spirit of a man who had a ‘can do, will do’ attitude to his own life but who was also selflessly committed to improving the quality of life for people living life with limb loss. It’s a charity that I am proud and honoured with which to be associated”
Wyn Jenkins, sportsman, cyclist, co-founder of Team Bader Cycling – Ambassador for the Douglas Bader Foundation
Nathan ‘Reached for the Sky’ to achieve his Private Flying License at Goodwood Airfield on Monday 13th August 2012.
Supported financially by a number of private individuals and selected for the Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, The Douglas Bader Foundation awarded a 2012 Bader Grant to Nathan to enable him to achieve his goal of gaining his Private Pilot’s Licence.
Nathan will be flying in to visit us at our 2013 Bader Braves Flying Days at White Waltham, Goodwood, Dunkeswell, RAF Cranwell and Bodmin.
“Congratulations on a great pass on your GST today. I thought your flying was well above average! Apart from the fact that you flew really well, it was even more special for me considering you had an ASI failure after the first circuit and you flew the rest of the circuit detail, on a test, without any airspeed information!!! Simply outstanding! It just goes to show, you can fly by attitude and power!
I feel very confident in your ability to deal safely with a similar situation should one ever occur… As you know, it subsequently transpired we had a “Bee Strike!”, the attached photo shows it was a direct hit on the pitot head! It’s just as I said, every flight is different and you always have to be prepared for an unexpected situation! ATC said your landings were good….. well they were…. and even better considering some were without an ASI! A good glide approach without an ASI is exceptional for anyone!’’ Steve Bradd – Examiner.
Nathan was born with cerebral palsy and is passionate about flying. At the moment he is thought to be the most profoundly disabled solo pilot in Britain. Nathan, 32, lives in Hayle, Cornwall.
’’Regarding your question about whether I’m finding it more difficult than I expected, I’d have to answer ‘Yes and No ‘, considering I began hoping to get my licence within the four weeks of my scholarship and it’s now two and a half years later, the answer is a resounding yes!’’ Nathan responded.
“There have been many hurdles along the way I’ve found extremely difficult to overcome and everyone else has often seemed to have had more faith in me than I have, particularly since my first solo.”
’’While this is nice,’’ he continued, ’’the downside I’ve often found is this added a lot of extra pressure on me to succeed. With just about everything else I’ve done throughout my life, I’ve become more used to believing in myself and having to fight to convince everyone else, with the exception of my parents, of my ability. The downside I’ve often found is this added a lot of extra pressure on me to succeed.
With just about everything else I’ve done throughout my life, I’ve become more used to believing in myself and having to fight to convince everyone else, with the exception of my parents, of my ability. ’’
Nathan Doidge, believed to be the most profoundly disabled solo pilot in Britain – Ambassador to the Douglas Bader Foundation
Gautam Lewis was born in Kolkata, India in 1977. At three years old he was abandoned after contracting polio and spent two years at Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. He then had a further two years of operations at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children just outside the city, where he was introduced to Dr. Patricia Lewis, a nuclear physicist. Patricia adopted Gautam and they moved permanently to England, where Gautam attended the prestigious Bedales School.
After obtaining a business degree, Gautam became immersed in the music industry and worked for a number of renowned management agencies, including Ricochet Artist Management, Creation Management and Poptones Records. While working at Alan McGee’s Creation Management, he co-managed bands such as The Beta Band, Kathryn Williams, The D4 and the notorious The Libertines, during Pete Doherty’s time in the band.
In 2007, Gautam fulfilled his childhood dream and became a qualified pilot, passing all his ground and air examinations in just six months. Still dependent on crutches from his childhood battle with polio, he was inspired to find that the world of aviation had catered for his condition. In October 2007, he founded Freedom in the Air, a flying school for people with a range of disabilities.
Freedom in the Air currently have a training facility in Elstree, Hertfordshire, where they offer disabled people a spectrum of experiences and qualifications – from sample flying lessons to flight instructor courses. They work with Modifly, a purpose built facility in Birchwood, Yorkshire, where aircrafts are modified to cater for the bespoke needs of their pilots. The not-for-profit organisation is committed to empowering disabled people through the freedom that flight offers, benefitting on an emotional, physical and professional level.
Gautam is keen to highlight that Britain has a tradition of inclusive aviation, dating back to Sir Douglas Bader, the double amputee and Royal Air Force fighter pilot who flew a number of aerial victories during the Second World War. ‘Essentially anyone can fly with the right teacher’ Gautam says. ‘It is about challenging stereotypes’. The British Women Pilots’ Association awarded him their Special Recognition Award in 2013, for his work towards making the world of aviation a more democratic place.
Gautam is also committed to the fight against polio, as brand ambassador for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a partnership of UNICEF. He has highlighted the need for immunisation, especially in communities where the culture resists vaccinating against preventable diseases. In 2009, the Al Jazeera TV network aired a documentary entitled Passport from Polio, which followed Gautam’s return to Kolkata to promote the immunisation of babies against polio, working with a mobile immunisation team in local communities. Gautam photographed his trip and the images were shown internationally as part of an exhibition entitled Full Circle.
For further information please see:
Official website for Freedom in the Air:
Passport from Polio documentary by Rageh Omaar for Al Jazeera:
Gautam’s Keynote speech about polio eradication at the Rotary International Conference:
Leadership in charity award, BBC News interview:
Gautam Lewis, Polio survivor and Founder of Freedom in the Air – Ambassador to the Douglas Bader Foundation
Gemma is an above-knee amputee who lost her leg following a car accident when she was a teenager. After many operations she became one of the first amputees to trial the osseo-integration system. She wanted to become a fitness instructor/personal trainer who would teach group fitness classes and became the first Les Mills instructor in the world to teach as an amputee in 2012. Cycling is her huge passion which started off 14 years ago with spin classes. To this day, she still attends between 4-5 a week as well as regular body pump classes.
Gemma has helped and supported amputees through her own efforts and through LimbPower. She has been a long-term supporter of the DBF, joining Wyn Jenkins and Maggie Biggs for the famous Tandem Challenge Wales in February 2013.
You can read Gemma’s story here.
I couldn’t live without sport, health, fitness and competition and would like to help others achieve their goal in getting involved. Gemma Trotter
Gemma Trotter, fitness instructor/personal trainer, cyclist – Ambassador to the Douglas Bader Foundation
Paul McNeive is a double amputee and is believed to be the first double amputee in the world to gain a helicopter pilots license. As a boy Paul was fascinated with aviation and the story of Douglas Bader and coincidentally Paul suffered the same injuries as Douglas Bader (right above knee and left below knee amputations) following a fire, aged 20.
Paul is a chartered surveyor and was 28 years in the property business, latterly as managing director of Savills in Ireland. He now works internationally as a motivational speaker, author and journalist.
Paul is on the board of Ireland’s National Rehabilitation Hospital and the National Rehabilitation Foundation.
“I am honoured and delighted to be an Ambassador for the Douglas Bader Foundation and look forward to helping to inspire people with disabilities, as I am inspired by Douglas Bader and many others.” Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive, speaker, author and journalist and Board Member of Ireland’s National Rehabilitation Hospital and Foundation – Ambassador to the Douglas Bader Foundation
MARI DURWARD AKHURST
Riding changed my life; I used to get bullied a lot when I was younger as I was different to other children but I discovered that I was extremely good at riding and this has led to me competing Nationally and Internationally at Para Dressage. Horses are my legs and together we excel.
I compete two horses Sky O’Hara (who is kindly on loan from Glesni Owen) and Lebensfreude. This year I beat a Paralympic gold medalist to win Hartpury 3* International and I retained my National Para Dressage title. I am 100% committed to winning a gold medal at future major championships with my eyes firmly set on being selected for next year’s European Championships. My ultimate goal is to be selected for and to compete at the Tokyo 2020 and future Paralympics.
I was originally diagnosed with cerebral palsy, hypermobility and lax ligaments. Due to the deterioration in my condition over the last few years I have been under investigation and my latest diagnosis is progressive spastic ataxia.
The Douglas Bader Foundation (DBF) has made a massive difference to my life and sport as their grant has allowed me to have monthly strength and conditioning sessions at Performance Hertfordshire which has meant I have been able to keep my core as strong as possible so that I am still able to ride. It has also helped in trying to slow down my deterioration. Everyone comments on how much straighter I look in the saddle and judges have commented on how strong my core must be to keep upright. I cannot thank DBF enough.
Living with a changing condition is hard but my motto “is everything happens for a reason” and I’m a fighter!! I really enjoy inspiring others to get involved in Para sport in particular Para Dressage; acting as a mentor for a young para rider. The feeling that sport gives me is indescribable; horses are my life.
I am honoured to have been asked to be an Ambassador for The Douglas Bader Foundation. I really enjoy being involved with this fantastic charity and having the support of the DBF team on my journey. I have been inspired by the ‘I can do it and will do it’ attitude shown by Douglas Bader. I am looking forward to continuing to work with the Douglas Bader Foundation to inspire others to achieve their dreams.
Mari Akhurst, Para Dressage Rider and Inspirational Speaker – Ambassador to the Douglas Bader Foundation
THOMAS TALBOT – DBF JUNIOR AMBASSADOR
We were delighted when Thomas Talbot accepted our invitation to become our first ever DBF Junior Ambassador.
Thomas, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, has shown tremendous courage and determination in pursuing his dream to get to the top of his chosen sport of RaceRunning and has, in the past year, represented Great Britain at the Cerebral Palsy World Games in Spain returning with a Silver Medal, subsequently being awarded the North Kesteven District Council’s Community Champions Young Achiever of the Year; the Sports Achiever of the Year Award with Cerebral Palsy Sport and the Active Lincolnshire County Disabled Sportsperson of the Year Award. A fantastic year and justly deserved as Thomas works extremely hard and with a determination and commitment that is an inspiration to people of all ages.
I’m really humbled to be asked and proud to give something back to a Foundation who has supported me so much. Thank You. Thomas Talbot – DBF Junior Ambassador
Thomas Talbot, RaceRunner – DBF Junior Ambassador
Link: Thomas has written an enlightening and inspiring series of articles on his Sporting Journey for the DBF Website. You can access it here: https://www.douglasbaderfoundation.com/?s=My+sporting+journey&from=dbf