Philip Oakley Rain Forest Expedition

Bader Grant Recipient, PHILIP OAKLEY was selected as a leader for a 5 week British Schools Society (BSES) expedition to the Amazonian Rain Forest during July/August 2012.

Phil is a below the knee amputee keen to show that it is possible to take the ‘dis’ out of disabled. His challenge is to remain an effective ‘able’ leader on an ‘able-bodied’ expedition as a canoe and jungle leader. We are very grateful to him for sending a report of his experience.

Please read his inspirational article and enjoy his photographs below. Philip hopes his experience “inspires others to get out there to explore and discover“.

Up the creek with one foot!

Last summer, I was a canoe/jungle leader with the British Schools Exploring Society expedition to the Peruvian Amazon Rain Forest.  This five-week scientific expedition involved 50 teenagers from various schools across the UK.  “The Object of the Society is to advance the education of young people by providing inspirational and challenging scientific expeditions to remote, wild environments and so promote the development of their confidence, teamwork, leadership and spirit of adventure and exploration.”


Everyone on expedition had to pay their own way, including leaders. The Douglas Bader Foundation supported me by contributing towards my costs. This was my first major expedition since becoming a below knee amputee, four years after loosing my foot to cancer. Before amputation, I organised and lead on various expeditions and was actively involved in outdoor education.  I was determined to continue as normal.  This was a mainstream expedition and I was part of the “able-bodied” leader team.


This expedition provided support for British and Peruvian scientist assessing the biodiversity of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve through wildlife population surveys.  The size of Wales, this national park is one of the few pristine jungles in the world, home to some of the most endangered species on the planet.  It was a real privilege to spend five weeks living in and helping the indigenous Cocama people protect this special environment.


The heat and high humidity did not cause any problems with my stump or fitting and it did not stop me from performing as a leader.  Walking in the jungle was much easier than I thought and when I stood on a coral snake, it improved my odds of being bitten. Sleeping in a hammock was more of a challenge.  After one night sleeping with a foot inside the hammock, frequently waking-up with it sticking into various parts of my anatomy, I decided to leave it underneath the hammock, hoping it did not attract too much attention from the wildlife.


I have been involved in expeditions and outdoor adventure for many years and have not come across amputees. It would be great to see more (especially young people) getting involved in outdoor adventurous activities, as amputation should not stop adventure and discovery.


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Many congratulations from all at the DBF, Philip, for undertaking and completing this fascinating and challenging journey and our thanks for sharing your experiences.

We always love to receive first-hand reports of events and challenges so please send yours in so that others may be inspired or at least do a bit of vicarious travelling!

A DBF Grant for Nathan Doidge

Nathan Doidge Reaches for the Sky to achieve his Private Flying License.

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 who lives in Hayle, Cornwall, has flown many times over the past two years and logged a lot of pilot hours including 8 hrs. 40 minutes solo.

The Douglas Bader Foundation has awarded a 2012 Bader Grant to Nathan Doidge to enable him to achieve his goal of gaining his Private Pilot’s Licence.


Supported through the Bader Grants scheme, Nathan is attending the Aerobility facilities at Blackbushe with the intent of achieving his Private Pilot’s License. Nathan recently completed flying training including a return solo flight from Blackbushe to Goodwood where he had to complete landing and take-off procedures. He then went on to pass his NPPL NST (Navigation Skills Test) during his recent week there in April.

Aerobility is a charity offering disabled people, without exception, the opportunity to fly an aeroplane. Aerobility removes barriers and offers disabled people a real sense of achievement and genuinely changes people’s lives. Aerobility’s specially adapted aircraft fly from various airfields around the UK providing life changing trial flights and flight training. Supporting all disabilities, participants range from disabled kids through to soldiers recently wounded on active duty.

With this stage under his belt the tasks Nathan will have to complete upon his return in May include: a practice qualifying cross-country (QXC) flight with an instructor flying at least 100 nautical miles and landing at two different airfields before returning; the real QXC (solo); practice for the general skills test (GST) and the real GST. The GST itself is a practical flying test conducted by a qualified CAA examiner. Nathan will be expected to demonstrate a high degree of proficiency in all aspects of flying.

With his GST and Ground School exams passed, and the requisite number of flying hours completed, Nathan will finally be a qualified pilot and can apply for his license! When Nathan gets his licence he will be thought to be the most profoundly disabled qualified pilot in the UK!

Nathan’s speech is affected and so special procedures have been adopted to allow him the same air traffic services as everyone else. (Thanks go to air traffic controllers at Blackbushe, Farnborough and Goodwood for his recent solo flights.)

’’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. All that said, the theory exams were generally easier than I expected, as was making the progress I made while at Blackbushe over the past few weeks. Now, thankfully, my instructors say I’ve done the hardest part and the last couple of hurdles are relatively easy to overcome. I’m hoping that’s true.’’

Mike Miller-Smith, Chief Executive of Aerobility, who is profoundly disabled himself comments: “Nathan never ceases to amaze me with his positive spirit, a can-do attitude coupled with a will to live life to the full. At Aerobility we are lucky enough to support all sorts of disabled people, and as disabled people ourselves we know just what determination and effort it takes to achieve incredible things like flying. Nathan stands out from the crowd, and is a really inspirational character that we really enjoy working with. We too have worked hard to provide aviation opportunities for the disabled community and seeing Nathan’s achievements makes it all worthwhile.” Mike goes on to say: “We are also very pleased to be working with the Douglas Bader Foundation, an organisation with which we share many common attributes, and of course an organisation which also believes in the spirit of flight through its founding in memory of Douglas Bader.”

Philip Oakley is another new 2012 Bader Grant recipient selected as a leader for a five week British Schools Society (BSES) expedition to the Amazon Rain Forest during July/August 2012. Phil is a below the knee amputee keen to show that it is possible to take the ‘dis’ out of disabled. His challenge is to remain an effective ‘able’ leader on an ‘able-bodied’ expedition as a canoe and jungle leader. Philip added: ‘’It’s brilliant news about Nathan going for his PFL. He must have a lot of guts and determination to spend the time and effort into even going solo let alone for his PFL. Having done some flying while I was in the RAF (I did a posting at the Empire Test Pilot School many years ago, but not as a test pilot) I know the exhilaration and feeling it is to fly and how liberated he must feel while up there. Also how much pressure and the workload needed to achieve the standard required. I hope he achieves his goal and he can set new levels of ability.’’

The Final words will be with Nathan who is currently writing his biography and knows the ideal ending to this chapter. Those words will be added later this month !

Please follow the links to see clips of some of Nathan’s flying achievements:


Nathan was first enabled to fly through charities Flying Scholarships for the Disabled and Aerobility in 2009 – The Royal International Air tattoo Flying Scholarships for the Disabled Trust was first established in 1983. Inspired by the achievements of the famous disabled WW2 fighter ace, Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader CBE DSO* DFC*, it aims to transform and improve the quality of life of disabled people by providing scholarships enabling them to learn to fly . The FDS has now rebranded themselves as Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP). Aerobility’s specially adapted aircraft and instructors helped Nathan to solo in 2010. For more information about Aerobility visit

Nathan’s flying progress following his disabled flying scholarship was supported and funded by Aerobility and a number of private individuals who wish to remain anonymous.

DBF met Nathan when he attended our Bader Braves Flying Day for children with disabilities at Bodmin last year. We were so impressed with him and his goal that we agreed to support him through the Bader Grants scheme.

DBF met Nathan when he attended our Bader Braves Flying Day for children with disabilities at Bodmin last year. We were so impressed with him and his goal that we agreed to support him through the Bader Grants scheme.

Douglas Bader was commissioned as an officer in the R A F in 1930 but after only 18 months he crashed his aeroplane and became a double amputee caused by “my own fault” in an aeroplane accident in 1931. Douglas was discharged from the RAF and after the outbreak of the Second World War Douglas re-joined the RAF. Douglas was a member of 222 squadron and was promoted to lead 242 squadron. His skill as an aviator and contribution as an outstanding leader and fighter ace during WW2, along with his continuous attempts to escape prisoner of war camp after he was shot down, was immortalised in the book and film ‘Reach for the Sky‘.

The Douglas Bader Foundation is a charity organisation, formed in honour of Sir Douglas Bader in 1982 by family and friends, many of whom had flown side by side with Douglas during World War 2. Douglas was honoured in 1976 with a Knighthood for his contribution and work on behalf of the disabled. The mission of the foundation is to continue Douglas’ work in conjunction with and on behalf of individuals with a disability.

‘A disabled person who fights back is not disabled….but inspired’

It is this maxim that our charitable foundation established in Douglas’s name immediately following his death in 1982, seeks to replicate and develop. 2012 /2013 is our 30th Anniversary year.

Our Work: What We Do

Losing a limb is a terrifying, life-changing experience. Over the years we have developed a number of important initiatives and projects to support and inspire the amputee population including:

 The first online information hub for amputees & their families:

 The inaugural Amputee Games at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire

 “The Bader Braves” initiative which gives young limb deficient and disabled children the chance to fly, participate in adventure week-ends.

 Bader Grant scheme has assisted countless disabled individuals and groups throughout the UK to achieve a variety of goals in diverse areas ranging from education, the arts, sport and recreation to small businesses. We will look at all applications and, depending on the nature of the request, the scheme may help towards or provide the equipment, training, services, further education or other practical support required by the successful applicant.

 The Bader Cup is now in its 25th year and widely recognised as the largest National Mixed Greensome Stableford Golf Tournament in Europe

For further information please contact:

David Bickers Chief Executive Officer

The Douglas Bader Foundation

Mobile:+44(0)7836552536 Email:


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