Bader Academy – Soon to Open its Doors to Students

New academy for young people with special needs

We’re so proud on Sir Douglas Bader’s behalf to tell you that an Academy in his name is nearing completion and will soon open its doors to students. The Bader Academy, in Edenthorpe, Doncaster, will cater for young people with special educational needs.

The Academy, which will be opening in September 2020 has already got off to an interesting start with building work help up when the archaeological survey identified some Roman remains and some pre-historic pottery! How inspiring to have some on-site real life history.

The brand new Bader Academy website reads: “Bader Academy is an exciting new special school due to open in Edenthorpe in Doncaster. Our academy is being developed to meet the needs of children and young people, aged 5-19, who have an Education, Health and Care Plan with a primary diagnosis of Communication and Interaction Difficulties.

This is such an exciting project and one that will undoubtedly make a difference to the lives of its pupils and we know that Douglas would be wholehearted in his approval. The aim of the Academy is “to provide an environment where children have fun with their learning“, a phrase which encapsulates Douglas’s positivity and can-do attitude.

We will enthusiastically keep you up to date with developments!

Newsletters: The first 2 Newsletters have already been published and you can seen as pdfs via the links below:

We will add further Newsletter links and updates as we receive them.

  • Website Link: To learn more about the Bader Academy, you can visit the Website by clicking on the link.
  • Contact: Please follow the link f you have a query or would like further information.



Commemorative Article on Sir Douglas Bader by his Biographer, Paul Brickhill

The WWII classic film Reach For The Sky immortalised the legless hero Douglas Bader. To commemorate the centenary of the RAF, the Mail salutes Britain’s bravest (and craziest) Spitfire pilot


PUBLISHED: 01:01, 31 March 2018 | UPDATED: 01:05, 31 March 2018

Douglas Bader was the living embodiment of the RAF motto, ‘Per ardua ad astra’ (‘Through adversity to the stars’).

He lost both his legs in a catastrophic pre-war flying accident and was told he would never walk, or fly, again. Donning artificial legs, he fought to overcome his handicap.

Though reluctantly invalided out of the Air Force, he returned to operational duties when war broke out in 1939, as Britain was in desperate need of fighter pilots.

Fighter pilot Douglas Bader is photographed at North Weald Airfield getting into a spitfire ready to lead a flight over London commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Fighter pilot Douglas Bader is photographed at North Weald Airfield getting into a Spitfire ready to lead a flight over London commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

A domineering, dogmatic swashbuckler of a man, he became one of the RAF’s most famous characters — leading his squadrons in the Battle of Britain, devising new tactics that enabled the Luftwaffe to be beaten back, and encouraging the nation with his never-say-die attitude.

This was exemplified when, in August 1941, he was shot down over occupied France. He’d been riding his luck for a while, insisting on leading every sortie, driving himself to the limit.   

His superiors ordered him to go on leave and a hotel was booked in Scotland for him and his wife to play golf. But he insisted on one last flight.

Here, to mark the centenary of the RAF this weekend, his biographer PAUL BRICKHILL takes up the story in this edited extract from the classic 1954 book Reach For The Sky, which was made into a film starring Kenneth More as Bader.

With a high sun and patches of low cloud at 4,000 ft beneath a clear vaulting sky, it looked to Wing Commander Douglas Bader like a good day for a fight. But from the start everything went wrong.

First, there was a messy take-off from RAF Tangmere in Sussex. Then one of his three squadrons went astray somewhere over the Channel and he refused to break radio silence to call them. 

The speed indicator on his Spitfire also packed up, which wasn’t helpful.

Douglas Bader was the living embodiment of the RAF motto, ‘Per ardua ad astra’ (‘Through adversity to the stars’)
Douglas Bader was the living embodiment of the RAF motto, ‘Per ardua ad astra’ (‘Through adversity to the stars’)

He led the squadrons to 30,000 ft and, as they crossed the French coast just south of Le Touquet, he saw a dozen Messerschmitt 109s dead ahead and about 2,000 ft below. 

They were flying four abreast and not looking behind. They were sitting ducks.

Bader said tersely into his mask: ‘Dogsbody [his call sign — from his initials, DB] attacking. Plenty for all. Take ’em as they come.’

He plunged down at the leading four, picked the second from the left and closed startlingly fast.

Too fast! He’d badly misjudged. He was going to ram. At the last moment he brutally jerked stick and rudder and his Spitfire flashed past into the depths below.

Angry with himself for his error of judgment, he flattened out at 24,000ft and found himself alone, which could be deadly in this dangerous sky. Better climb fast again to join the rest of the pack.

But before he could do so, he was surprised to see six more Messerschmitts ahead, line astern, noses pointing the other way. More sitting ducks.

He knew he should leave them; repeatedly he’d drummed it into his pilots never to try things on their own. But temptation swept discretion aside.

He sneaked up behind and from 100 yards squirted a burst of gunfire at the back-marker. 

A thin blade of flame licked out behind it before it flared up like a huge match being struck. The other Germans flew placidly on. They must have been blind.

He aimed at another Messerschmitt, 150 yards in front, and gave him a three-second burst. Bits flew off it and then it gushed volumes of white smoke as its nose dropped.

Instantly, two enemy fighters were turning towards him, and, crazily elated as though he had just pulled off a smash-and-grab raid, he wheeled violently in their direction, intending to pass between them.

As he roared by them, something hit him. He felt the impact. It was as if his Spitfire was being held by the tail, pulled out of his hands and slewed round. 

It lurched suddenly and then pointed straight down. He pulled back on the stick, but it fell inertly into his stomach like a broken neck.

The aeroplane was in a steep downward spiral. He looked behind and was shocked and terrified to see that the whole of his plane behind the cockpit was missing.

On 9thAugust 1941 Douglas Bader was shot down over Le Touquet. He was captured by German forces and sent to the Colditz prison. He remained there until the end of the war. (Picture from the 1956 film Reach for the Sky)
On 9thAugust 1941 Douglas Bader was shot down over Le Touquet. He was captured by German forces and sent to the Colditz prison. He remained there until the end of the war. (Picture from the 1956 film Reach for the Sky)

Fuselage, tail and fin were all gone. Sheared off. One of the Messerschmitts must have run into him and sliced it off with its propeller.

He knew it had happened but, even as the altimeter was unwinding fast from 24,000ft, he hoped desperately and foolishly that he was wrong. 

Reality kicked in with a sharp gush of panic. Christ! Get out! Get out!

He tore his mask off and yanked the escape lever over his head. The hood ripped away and screaming noise battered at him.

He gripped the rim of the cockpit to pull himself up, wondering if he had the strength to get himself out without any thrust from his helpless legs.

He struggled madly to get his head above the windscreen and suddenly felt he was being sucked out as the tearing wind caught him. Top half out. He was free!

But no. The rigid foot of his right leg was hooked fast on something in the plane and holding him in.

The broken Spitfire, dragging him by the leg, plunged down and spun and battered him, the wind clawing at his flesh and cringing sightless eyeballs as it picked up speed to 400mph, then 500mph.

It went on, hurtling downwards, and all he could do was perch there, trapped in mid-air, timeless, witless, helpless, doomed.

Suddenly he felt the steel and leather of his artificial leg snap. In a flash, the brain cleared and he pulled the rip cord of his parachute, hearing a crack as it opened.

And then he was floating. High above, the sky was still blue, and right at his feet lay a veil of cloud. He sank into it. That was the cloud at 4,000ft. Cutting it fine! Seconds later he saw the earth, green and dappled, below him.

Something flapped in his face — his right trouser leg, split along the seam. Underneath gleamed the white skin of his stump. The right leg had gone. How lucky, he thought, to have detachable ones. 

Otherwise he would have died a few seconds ago in the burning wreck of his cockpit.

He heard engine noises and turned in the harness. A Messerschmitt was flying straight at him, but the pilot did not shoot. He turned and roared by, 50 yards away.

Grass and cornfields were lifting gently to meet him, stooks of corn and fences. Two peasants in blue smocks leaned against a gate looking up and he felt absurdly self-conscious.

A woman carrying a pail in each hand stopped in a lane and stared up. He thought, I must look comic with only one leg.

The earth suddenly rose up fiercely and he hit the ground, feeling nothing except some ribs buckle when a knee hit his chest and his consciousness snapped.

He came to with three German soldiers bending over him, taking off his harness and life jacket. No one spoke. 

They picked him up and carried him to a car in a lane, where he lay in dazed quiescence as he was driven away.

They came to a grey stone building in the town of Saint-Omer in northern France. The soldiers carried him up some steps and along a corridor and lay him on a padded casualty table.

A doctor in a white coat stared at the empty trouser leg before realising it was an old injury, not a new one from the crash. He was amazed. He’d never come across a one-legged pilot before.

Then he eased off Bader’s trousers and froze for a second time, staring transfixed at the leather and metal that encased the stump of the left leg. He looked once more at Bader, back at the two stumps and again at Bader, and said in a voice of sober discovery: ‘We have heard about you.’

His left leg was unbuckled and taken away, a nightshirt was rolled over his head and he was dumped in a bed like a sack of potatoes. He fell asleep and woke in darkness wondering where he was. 

Then he knew and sank into misery, black, deep and full of awareness.

He remembered he had a date to go dancing with Thelma, his wife, that night and longed to see her, feeling lonely and helpless without legs among enemies.

Back at base in England, there was stunned disbelief when Dogsbody did not return from the sortie. No one had seen him go down. He had vanished after the first dive and did not answer when they called him.

In the air, the other pilots had been chilled by the absence of his familiar rasping banter.

Now, back on the ground, as the realisation sank in, a gloomy hush seemed to fall over the place.

The mascot once owned by legendary World War 11 fighter pilot Douglas Bader sits on the wing tip of an RAF Hurricane at RAF Coltishall.
The mascot once owned by legendary World War 11 fighter pilot Douglas Bader sits on the wing tip of an RAF Hurricane at RAF Coltishall.

The news that he’d gone missing was broken to Thelma, with the hopeful prediction that: ‘He’s indestructible . . .probably a prisoner.’

Meanwhile, over in France, Bader had visitors at his bedside — two young Luftwaffe pilots, curious to see this warrior with no legs. 

They told him: ‘Of course it would never be allowed in Germany.’

He asked for the wreckage of his plane to be searched in case his lost right leg was still there and, failing that, for a message to go to England for a replacement to be sent. It was agreed.

Later, an officer returned, clicked his heels, saluted Bader and said: ‘Herr Wing Commander, we have found your leg.’

It was covered in mud, with a broken piece of leather still hanging from it. Bader unpeeled the sock and saw that the foot was bent away from the ankle and the instep smashed in. 

Turning on all his charm, he said: ‘D’you think your chaps at the aerodrome could repair this for me?’

They took it away and brought it back the next day, cleaned and polished and with the foot now pointing firmly in the right direction. 

The body belt and straps which held it in place were beautifully repaired with good-quality leather. A dent in the shin and another in the knee had been carefully hammered out.

Bader was impressed and rather touched as he strapped both legs on, eased off the bed, feeling unsteady for a moment, and went stumping round the room, a ludicrous figure with the shoe-clad metal legs sticking out from underneath the nightshirt.

Beaming with pleasure, the Germans left. Bader lurched over to the window and looked thoughtfully at the ground three floors and 40 ft below. 

To the left of the grass courtyard he could see the gates of the hospital, open and unguarded. His thoughts immediately turned to escape.

By now he’d been put in a ward with a handful of other injured Spitfire pilots who’d fallen into German hands. 

The routine, they told him, was that, as soon as any of them could walk, they were taken away and transferred to a POW camp in Germany.

If he stood any chance of getting away, it had to be soon.

Working in the hospital was a French girl named Lucille whose sympathies, he gathered, lay with the British. 

In his schoolboy French, he asked for her help and she whispered back that she could put him in touch with ‘agents Anglais’ living in the area.

When she came back on duty the next day she smiled and slipped a note into his hand. It read: ‘We wish to help a friend of France. Someone will be waiting outside the hospital gates every night from midnight until 2am. He will be smoking a cigarette.’

But how the hell to get out of the hospital? No good just walking down the corridors and stairs. The guards would frog-march him back and he’d lose his legs again.

As he pondered this problem, there were two events that demonstrated Bader’s fame even here among his enemies.

First, the Germans told him that the British were indeed sending him a spare leg, and Field Marshal Hermann Goering himself, head of the Luftwaffe, had approved it being dropped by plane.

Second, he was invited to a local air base by General Adolf Galland, a renowned Luftwaffe ace and clearly an admirer of his.

Bader was intrigued. It would be churlish to refuse, and in any case it brought a breath of the chivalry lost from modern war.

And it was a chance to spy out the country, to see the other side, life on an enemy fighter station, to weigh it up and compare.

The two duly met — Bader now back in his uniform — and chatted like old friends. They had tea in the mess, with waiters in white coats bringing sandwiches and real English tea. 

He reflected to himself that it could have been an RAF mess, except that all the other uniforms were wrong.

Galland even allowed Bader to climb inside the cockpit of a Messerschmitt, which he did, hauling himself on to the wing and swinging in unaided. 

As the German leaned in and pointed out the controls, reckless thoughts surged through Bader’s mind.

What if he just started up the engine, slammed the throttle and took off? England could be no more than 40 miles away.

Longingly he thought he could get away and be back in his own mess for dinner, if only they would leave him for a moment.

But they didn’t and the moment passed.

Only years later did Bader discover that, all the time he sat in the cockpit, a German officer was covering him with a loaded pistol.

Back at the hospital, Bader was given the news he’d been dreading — the next morning he would be on his way to Germany. 

The words left him stunned for a moment before he resolved: ‘Well, I’ve got to get out tonight then.’

He lurched over to the window and pushed it open. It seemed a long way down, and on to flagstones. If he fell awkwardly, with his rigid legs, especially the right one, which was amputated close to his groin, he could easily split himself down the middle.

He turned back and scowled round the room, until his eyes lit on the bed linen. Knotted sheets! That was the answer.

With his room mates, he stripped the beds, ripped each sheet in two and began knotting the corners together in a double ‘granny’ with three hitches, jerking tightly to make them fast and hoping they would stay so when the test came.

Then he waited for nightfall.

It was not quite dark when the door handle rattled and a German soldier stuck his head in and looked round. 

Beneath his blankets, Bader could not breathe. The guard muttered ‘Gute nacht,’ and the door closed behind him.

Three hours passed before a clock somewhere out there in the darkness of Saint-Omer chimed midnight. 

Bader eased on to the edge of his bed, vainly trying to stop the creaks, and strapped his legs on. Then his clothes.

Praying that the guard on duty outside was asleep in his chair, he took a step towards the window. His right leg squeaked and thumped with a terrifying noise.

At the window he quietly pushed it open and leaned out. With one end of the sheet rope tied to a bed, he lowered it out, hoping desperately that it was long enough, but could not tell if it reached the ground.

He leaned his chest on the windowsill and tried to winkle his legs out sideways. They seemed fantastically clumsy, more than ever before, huge, disjointed and swollen.

Sweating, he took a hand off the rope to grab his right shin and bend the knee. Then, somehow, he was through, legs dangling, hands clutching the rope on the windowsill.

He started easing himself down, hand under hand, reached a ledge and took a breather, then eased himself off and went on down. Very gently his feet touched the flagstones.

Piece of cake, he thought, cursing the noise from his legs as he headed to the gates.

They were closed, so he forced a gap between them, just a foot or so, and squeezed through. He made it, stepping out on to the cobbles of the road. On the other side, he saw the glowing end of a cigarette.

A dark shadow whispered urgently ‘Dooglass?’ in a strong French accent. ‘Oui,’ he replied, and the two of them moved off through the town, the clatter of his steel legs echoing into the darkness.

They walked for 40 minutes, Bader limping, his right stump chafing badly. The leg had rubbed the skin off his groin and every step was searing agony.

Stumbling and exhausted, he hung on to the Frenchman’s shoulders until he was virtually being carried piggy-back.

Eventually, they reached a gate in a wall, went up a garden path and into a little, low-ceilinged room with flowered wallpaper, and a tin oil lamp on the table. 

An old man and a woman in a black shawl got up from chairs and the woman put her arms round him and kissed him.

She led him upstairs into a room with a huge double bed. He flopped on it, unstrapped his legs with enormous relief and sank into a gloriously soft feather bed, thinking: ‘That’s foxed the bloody Hun. I’ll be seeing Thelma in a couple of days.’

The next morning he woke refreshed, though his stump was raw and bloodstained and terribly sore. No help for it. Just have to bear the pain. Done it before. He strapped his legs on and went wincingly downstairs for a breakfast of bread and jam.

Madame had been out and returned with news that ‘les Boches’, convinced he could not walk far, were hunting for him around the hospital, but not here. He was nonetheless afraid for them.

If the Germans came and found him, he would be sent to a prison camp, but his hosts were liable to be shot. He should leave them and hide somewhere else, he told them.

They wouldn’t think of it. The Germans would never find him here, they insisted. That evening, their son-in-law would come and they would make a plan to get him to the Resistance.

At noon he heard the familiar drone of Spitfires and Hurricanes overhead and went out into the walled back garden to look up at the trails in the sky. Soon he’d be back up there too, he thought.

He sat twiddling his thumbs as the day dragged on and he waited for the son-in-law to arrive.

Suddenly, there came a sudden, terrifying banging on the front door and a chill swept through him. The old man jumped as though he had been shot, whispered ‘les Boches!’, grabbed Bader’s arm and together they stumbled into the garden, moving as fast as the legs would let him.

Against a wall stood a rough shed of galvanised iron nailed on posts. Bader lay down inside and the old man piled straw and baskets on top of him before hurrying back into the house.

Within a minute he heard voices and the tramp of jackboots by the back door. The boots clumped along the path and into the shed. He heard baskets being kicked about. 

The straw over him started moving with a loud rustle. Miraculously the footsteps retreated, diminishing down the garden path. Elation filled him.

But now the boots were coming back up the path. Suddenly they clumped again into the shed, then stopped about a yard from his head. 

There was a strange metallic clang, a movement in the hay and he saw a bayonet flash down an inch from his nose and stab through the wrist of his battledress jacket to hit the stone floor.

He guessed that the next stroke would go into his neck or back.

Bader jerked up on his hands, heaving out of the hay like a monster rising from the sea, straw cascading off his back. A young German soldier, bayonet poised, leapt back in shock and stared pop-eyed, yelling for help.

Boots pounded and more German soldiers clattered round him in a semicircle. Slowly he raised his hands. 

A sergeant ran up and covered him with a pistol as he stood there, feeling like King Lear, with straw in his hair and all over his battledress.

Looking pleased and quite friendly, the sergeant said in perfect English: ‘Ah, Wing Commander, we have caught you again.’

He stumped out of the shed and back into the cottage. The old man and woman were standing there and he stiffly walked past them, showing no sign of recognition. 

He told the sergeant: ‘Those people did not know I was in their garden. I came in last night through that gate in the wall.’

[His attempt to exonerate them did not work. They were arrested, along with Lucille, and sentenced to death. But this was commuted to prison in Germany, from which all three eventually returned home.]

He was driven to headquarters in Saint-Omer, where a German officer questioned him and got no answers. Then into a room where he was surprised and delighted to see the box containing his spare right leg.

They explained, smiling, that it had been parachuted that very afternoon in a long wooden box from a British bomber, and took his photograph standing by it.

Then, to his annoyance, they refused to give it to him. Instead, they sat him on a bed as an officer and a soldier stood over him with a pistol and a bayonet, and made him take down his trousers and unstrap his legs.

They took them away, all three of them!

They were taking no chances with Bader any more. He was taken by train to Germany, his legs placed out of reach in the overhead rack.  

Bader spent the rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps, but never gave up. He made numerous escape attempts and was a constant thorn in the side of his captors.

Eventually, they locked him up with the other hardened trouble-makers and would-be escapers in the virtually impregnable fortress at Colditz, from which he was liberated by the Americans in 1945.

Group Captain Douglas Bader DSO, DFC – he is remembered as one of Britain’s bravest and craziest Spitfire pilots
Group Captain Douglas Bader DSO, DFC – he is remembered as one of Britain’s bravest and craziest Spitfire pilots

We can’t believe that this excellent article has only just come to our notice but we thought it was worth bringing to your attention, albeit a bit after the event!

Please click on the link to open the original article which was published with more photographs and an additional extract from Paul Brickhill’s classic book, ‘Reach for the Sky’. Click HERE to open the article as a pdf which will open in a new tab. 

This article is now part of the permanent content in the Sir Douglas Bader page of the DBF website where you will find other interesting articles and information about this very courageous man. 

Phil Oakley tackles the world’s deepest caves

We’re proud and delighted to publish the latest adventure from indomitable Bader Grant recipient, Phil Oakley. Phil, who possesses the Bader spirit in spades and personifies the motto: “…it’s what you can do that counts”

Phil apologised in his email that this adventure wasn’t as exotic as previous ones (which can be found by entering Phil Oakley into the Website Search Engines). However, reading this fascinating and personal article makes one acutely aware of the extra problems faced by amputees when undertaking sports such as caving even when as experienced as Phil. It also leaves you in no doubt as to the courage and determination required to complete these personal challenges. Many, many congratulations and much admiration to Phil for succeeding and I’ve no doubt that the “full” descent will be completed at some point in the future! From someone afraid of heights, this report was pretty gruelling for me and I was only reading it

Caving the World’s Deepest Caves – August 2014


Phil Oakley and companions before the caving trip
Phil Oakley and companions before the caving trip


My adventure this summer was caving in France. I have been caving and potholing for over 20 years before losing my foot. In the RAF I caved with the Combined Services Caving Association (CSCA) who every 10 years organise a major expedition to the Gouffre Berger in the Vercors, France. Discovered in 1950, it was the first cave to pass 1000m deep and contains some of the largest and best cave formations in the world. At 1123m deep, it is still one of the world’s deepest caves and is one of the classic cave trips.   I went to the bottom in 2004 (pre-amputation) so I knew how hard and technical it was. Caving with one foot is not easy as I have discovered. Being throw off-balance is a major problem, as is wading through waste deep water which makes my prosthetic slowly slip off. I also need to be particularly careful when near vertical drops especially when not on a rope as balance is now that bit more difficult. Overcoming and adapting to new situations is a must when disabled and with every cave trip I learn something new. But, having a major problem at 1000m below the surface is not to be taken lightly, especially in a cave that is prone to flooding and in a region known for flash thunderstorms. With only six caving trips since amputation I hadn’t learnt enough about possible problems; also, I wasn’t cave fit.  This time I decided just to go to ‘Camp 1’ at 500m below ground.


On a pitch
On a pitch

On the vertical drops (or pitches), the method of SRT (single rope technique) is used. To get on and off the rope I found myself straddling across pitches of 40m. With all my weight (uncomfortably) pressing into the socket, while keeping in balance and while connecting into the rope, required all my concentration. Fitness and agility was required to swing out into the open shafts. I always felt my prosthetic was slipping off while dangling on the rope as it hung from my stump without support and the build-up of sweat meant it was becoming less secure each passing hour.

Drying the sweat
Drying the sweat


Going up the rope was especially hard as most of the power now comes from my good leg and arms. One of the most unnerving parts was in the ‘Meanders’ section where for about 40 minutes I was straddling across a rift with drops below of up to 20m with nothing but my feet and bum in contact with the rock to hold me in place. When one foot does not always make good contact with the rock, your mind is very focused on getting the other points of contact right.

In the Meanders
In the Meanders


Some formations in the Cave of Thirteen
Some formations in the Hall of Thirteen

After 9 hours of hard caving I was back on the surface – with my two other companions. But this is not the end of this trip: There is still an hour walk back – up hill – to the car park.   I was pleased I did this trip to Camp 1 and back. My apprehension about going into one of the most hostile environments for adventure sport does help push my mental strength to new boundaries. Once on the surface, I did feel ‘if only’? Maybe I should have pushed myself to go to the bottom? But it’s always there to be done again – in 10 years time?

Phil and companions successfully back on the surface
Phil and companions back on the surface after their successful descent


Phil Oakley



* If you’ve been inspired by Phil’s adventures and would like to apply for a Bader Grant to help you to pursue your personal goals  you can find out more by visiting the dedicated page by clicking HERE

DBF Support KartForce with BADER GRANT

KartForce logo screenshot

The Douglas Bader Foundation is delighted to have been able to support KartForce (Kart Racing for Injured Troops) through its Bader Grants Scheme. You can read more about the contribution below:

We’re very proud to SHOUT out LOUD that the hand control’s we designed with OMS are RADICAL!
The hand controls met the Jaguar… and they fit like a glove!
The Online Motorsport Solutions technicians have taken the steering wheel and paddles away to get it all married up connected.
The “box of tricks” will then be fitted in the car and connected to the brakes, throttle, gear shifter, etc.

Next Stage – road test and get the hand controls inspected by the MSA.
These hand controls are the most advanced hand controls in existence – there are no other hand controls like them.
We’ll be able to fit them to any race car that has a sequential gear box which means, for the first time, hand controls can be fitted to any race car and removed after.
The lads can therefore race in almost any car, as solo racing drivers or as a team.
The road test can’t happen soon enough!
All this has only been made possible by the amazing support and grant given to us by The Douglas Bader Foundation – a WWII double amputee hero making it happen for another generation of amputee heroes.


KartForce do a fantastic job and we are proud to be associated with them. Please visit their Website to learn more about them and what they do.

Phil Oakley reports from Borneo expedition

Phil with his dive buddies

We are very grateful to Phil Oakley for sending us a report of his recent amazing trip to Borneo with Camps International.

Phil, a lower limb amputee, and Bader Grant recipient, doesn’t let his amputation stop him travelling all over the world. He has already written a report from the Amazonian Rain Forest where he was in July/August last year and is now heading off to Morocco in 2 weeks to climb Jebel Toubkal. He has kindly offered to send us a report of that climb on his – probably exhausted! – return so check in to see it. All at the Douglas Bader Foundation wish Phil the very best of success with this climb – his first since becoming an amputee.



Phil is an inspiration in true Bader spirit, which is why the DBF was delighted to be able to help him to achieve his goals with a Bader Grant. We will be expanding our Bader Grant initiative next year so please do contact us if you’d like to apply for a Grant to help you achieve one of your own goals.


 BORNEO 2013 – A Report by Phil Oakley

After last year’s adventures in the Amazon rain forest, this year I found myself in Borneo with the charity organisation called Camps International.  I went with four students from my school, who were teamed-up with two others schools.   Camps International provides young people with the opportunity to help with worthwhile projects in various countries around the world. Our projects included helping to complete a community centre in a rural village, laying bricks for a kitchen and toilets (including making the bricks) for a new kindergarten and painting at a new rural school.  A more adventurous project for the teenagers was to spend three nights in the jungle, sleeping in hammocks.  With great anticipation and nervousness, they were taken into the jungle by boat along a crocodile infested river.  After several sightings of crocs lying on the mud banks, everyone was nervous sleeping so close to the river.  But their fears were soon forgotten once they got stuck into the re-forestation project.


A croc on the riverbank in Borneo. Photo by Phil Oakley


A marine conservation project took the teenagers to the remote island of Mantanani. Here they helped clear the beaches of washed up rubbish, helped educate the locals in marine conservation (as well as themselves), building communal village toilets (with a filtration system) to help prevent human waste ending up in their water source and building a craft shop from washed up water bottles so the locals can sell their crafts to visiting tourists. Some of their time on the island was spent gaining the PADI open water diving qualification. During their dives they found ‘Nemo’ (these are the reefs where this lives) and saw evidence of the very destructive practice of ‘blast fishing’ by some locals.  Being a PADI Advanced diver myself, I dived for the first time without a dry suit.  My fear was that my leg would come off being directly exposed to the sea water.  But, no problem.  It stayed on during each dive, even down to 17 meters (although I had it tied on with chord).

The group on Mantanini. Photo by Phil Oakley


During the trip I was very much involved in all the projects.  Initially the Camps International staff didn’t realise I had one foot and assumed I just had a bad knee!  Once they realised, they were impressed with how it didn’t stop me from being a fully able participant. Even the 45 minute daily walk to one of the project sites didn’t cause a problem, despite the numerous students and teachers in other groups who complained and tried to get lifts!


I would like to thank the DBF for supporting me on my latest adventure.


My next adventure during the October half term will be mountain trekking with some of my students in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains.  The main objective is to summit Jebel Toubkal.  At 4167m (13,672ft) it is North Africa’s highest peak. This will be my first major peak since becoming an amputee.


Phil Oakley


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Phil Oakley – Borneo Community Expedition 2013

During August 2013 I will be going to the Sabah region of Borneo, to help with various work based community projects:  I will be going with four of my students from school and will be working along side 25 other students from the UK.  This four-week expedition will be a challenge with physically demanding projects, high daytime temperatures and humidity.  I will particularly find it challenging, being a below knee amputee.  Our projects have been planned and organised through the organisation Camps International, whom have established many long-term projects in remote village communities, helping improve everyday lives of these communities.  The projects employ local people throughout the year, who work alongside students from the UK.

Borneo – Orangutans


Although I do not yet know the projects I will be involved with until closer the time, previous projects have included assisting with ecology and wildlife conservation, re-forestation and helping protect the endangered wild orang-utans, design and construction of a safe outdoor kindergarten playground, a community recycling centre for collection of rubbish that would normally have been burnt. 


Borneo building project

Towards the end of the expedition, we will live in a remote island community to help develop their marine conservation projects, helping protect turtle nests and educate the people about the dangers of bomb and cyanide fishing, both prevalent aground the island.  Since losing my right foot to cancer 5 years ago, I have completed my PADI advanced diving qualification and this will allow me to help with the dive conservation projects. To go on this expedition I need to contribute to expedition funds and I am very grateful to the Douglas Bader Foundation in helping with a contribution towards my costs. 



Phil Oakley


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!

DBF Grant Recipient on the One Show

Nathan Doidge

32 year old Nathan Doidge, born with cerebral palsy, is described as  the ‘most profoundly disabled Pilot in the World’.

Nathan recently gained his Private Pilots’ Licence, funded and supported by the DBF Grant Scheme and trained by Aerobility at Blackbushe, and has flown over 14 hours solo. Chris Evans met Nathan and  was so taken with him that he rocked  up with a TV crew on Tuesday and they shot a piece with Nathan flying Chris and an interview for Friday’s One Show.

Nathan says on the Douglas Bader Foundation Facebook Page: ”If interested, please Like and share this page. I’ll be eternally grateful for DBF’s unwavering and continued support in getting me to where I am today. Thanks everyone” Nathan

You can click HERE to see a very cool Chris Evans being expertly piloted by an equally cool Nathan Doidge! Please make sure you have your sound turned on. (These links can be short-lived so please let me know if you’re unable to open it and I’ll remove it it prevent further frustration for others!)


The photo of Nathan is courtesy of the Aerobility Blogspot and clicking on it will take you to the page

3 Peaks Challenge – David McNamara’s Inspiring Report

David McNamara completed the gruelling “3 Peaks Challenge” to raise funds for the Douglas Bader Foundation

Reading David’s wonderful account may give you an idea of what you have to go through to complete a challenge like this – the lack of sleep; the discomfort; the constant psychological battle involved in being up against what must sometimes seem like an impossible time limit; the grim determination to keep going despite physical pain, exhaustion both mental and physical, and whatever the weather throws at you. The actual experience, of course, is David’s alone – the rest of us can only imagine. Imagine and be awed and inspired by his commitment, his endurance and his achievement. Because he did it. Despite all, despite getting lost on Scafell, despite inadequate footwear and unexpected snow and all the other obstacles, David made it back to the final car park – and what an extraordinary relief it must have been to see that – within the 24 hour time limit of the challenge. A great achievement executed with true Bader spirit.

The Douglas Bader Foundation is deeply indebted to David, and to Tony, his trusty driver, for their immense efforts to raise funds for the BADER BRAVES. David’s wife, Angela, has set herself a fund-raising goal for the challenge and we are indebted  to her also fo

r her efforts in attempting to achieve this. A hard battle and often a thankless one in this uncertain financial climate. Despite the efforts of the team, they still have a way to go to reach the fund-raising target. Please, please help them and thereby this very worthy cause by donating to David’s Just Giving Page. There’s only a short time left as the Page closes on the 23rd of the month. It doesn’t matter how small the donation – every penny helps – and it’s a small effort compared to David’s.

Please click on the link to go to David’s Just Giving Page (this may take a bit of time to download):

* You can learn more about the important work done by the Douglas Bader Foundation BADER BRAVES initiative by going to the BADER BRAVES section of the DBF Website *

Please read on for David’s personal report:

6 am Sunday morning, 22 April. Cold grey morning. Had 1 hr sleep and I’m getting closer to my neighbour than need be at this time of morning. Me and and my neighbour, Tony, are about to embark on our journey to Fort William, Scotland, from the borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. We are setting off earlier than planned on website due to poor communication on my part and Tony’s work commitments. We were originally planning on driving up slowly on the Sunday, staying in a hotel, then starting the challenge the following day at 6 pm on the 23rd, completing the challenge by 6pm on 24th, then on to a ni

ce pub for a beer, football and hotel for a good nights sleep before heading back to Berkshire. But now the task that faced us was driving up to Fort William, starting the challenge when we got there, completing it by the following day, then driving back to Berkshire straight after on the Monday night. So with that in mind we set off on our journey, which was going to be physically and mentally draining to both of us given the time frame which now faced us. It could only be done on that day – pulling out was not an option. We made good time with Stirling (Tony) Moss behind the wheel and before we knew it we were hitting Stoke with both of us surprisingly jolly despite the time.


As we were coming to the potteries I see a thick cloud of smoke coming from the bushes and thought it a bit early for a farmer to be having a bonfire by the side of the motorway but, as we passed, we see a car in the bushes with a lady by the side and the driver trapped. We pulled over onto the hard shoulder. Luckily Tony being a lorry driver knew the exact location and got onto the emergency services while I ran to the car to see what help we could give. There was already another lorry driver on the scene but none of us could risk moving the driver in case he had a spinal injury and he had suffered trauma to the head as there was a lot of blood. Luckily help was soon upon the scene and we left him in the hands of the professionals. We were in somber mood as we headed back off to Scotland but it shows you how quickly in this life you can be the one helping one minute and the one needing help the next and how important charities like the Douglas Bader Foundation are. It can only take a second for your life to be turned upside down. A few rest stops along the way and we were soon making our way through Scotland, through the outskirts of Glasgow, then on and past the beauty of Loch Lomond – with no time for fishing. We were both excited to be seeing the mountains as we headed into Fort William. Tony had made great time. We got to the Ben Nevis Centre full of curiosity to see what lay in store – pictures can never do natural beauty true justice. It was becoming grey above but dry. We talked to the lady in the Centre and I discovered I was not well prepared for the snow on top of Ben Nevis that was forecast. I was in old Timberland boots and had no walking poles. It was going to be fun… I bid farewell to Tony who was hopefully going to get some rest after a massive effort to drive from Berkshire to Fort William.


I started off across the bridge and on to Ben Nevis. I made good time and the views were spectacular. It was a hard slog up the rocks but was going well until I hit the ice and snow, that’s when it become fun. There was a few slips and tumbles as I started to regret not taking my footwear seriously. On top of that it was starting to snow heavily and visibility was very poor. I could barely see in front of me. Luckily for me there was boulders called cairns up near the top to guide you the way to the summit. I could just about make them out and followed them to the top through the thick snow my legs were sinking into. I was surprised by the amount of snow on top and probably very naive. It was a great feeling to get to the summit and a privilege to be there for the Bader Braves. Coming down was going to be fun and there was a few more tumbles in the snow and ice. It was a relief to get back to the ordinary boulders and was glad to see the back of the snow. Once on to the normal track and rocks I skipped down in no time. Four hours and forty minutes had passed since I last saw Tony and I was back pestering the poor man to drive again. A quick change and we were on the road back to England and Scafell Pike. It was going to be a tough long drive through the night.


The night was a bit of a blur filled with dark roads and service stations. Maybe we got 20 minutes sleep. We rolled into Wasdale Campsite at an ungodly time and I was quickly lost not knowing where to start. It took my tired brain some time to work out where to start my trail and again bid farewell to Tony and leave him to the hygienic delights of the campsite shower, which he got for a bargain 20pence (10 pence cheaper than the toilets at Paddington Station!). Again I was making good time but the walk I had chosen seemed far more isolated than my time on Ben Nevis where I had come across some different characters. Despite the solitude and rocks going up I was lucky enough to stop for a drink of water and to take in the stunning views. It was dry so far and that was a relief. I had reached the end of my path and had to start making my way over some big boulders and was starting to wonder if I had gone the wrong way which would not be the first time on Scafell. Luckily I see a couple of walkers in the distance walking towards the summit so I knew I was heading in the right direction. It gave me a focal point to focus on. That’s a good motivation to have when you’re feeling a little mentally tired and starting to feel a few blisters. It was a bit deceptive at the top as I kept thinking I had made it and again I suffered from poor choice of footwear as, near the top, the boulders and track become slippery with ice.


I was happy to be at the summit in very good time in anticipation of the third leg on to Snowdonia. I reached a point in my path where I could have gone one of three ways and either down to my own stupidity or tired mind – it was Monday and I’d had 1 hour and 20 minutes sleep since Saturday morning – but I was not sure which way to go and for love nor money could remember the way I had come. It all looked the same to my unprepared eye. I chose a path and chose badly. It was not long before I realised I didn’t have a clue where I was but kept on my merry way hoping for a go home sign. I had very little drink left and was worried about time. I didn’t want to jeopardise the next walk on Snowdon by wandering in circles. I could not get a signal on phone to use maps but could use compass and knew I should be going north, which made sense because that was the way the water was flowing. So I decided to go north than follow the water once I got to ground level. It seemed like forever as the pressure heated up in my mind that I was going to be ruining my time and compromising my challenge. I just kept following the trail of the water in blind faith. After a while I was on ground level but still without a clue where I was. ‘Phone was dead. After passing sheep and cows I come across some other walkers which was such a relief when time was becoming so precious a commodity. It was an even bigger relief when they told me I was close to my destination – maybe a 30 to 40 minute walk following some path and road. It was such great and motivating news that, now I knew I going in the right direction, I could start burning some energy by jogging so I could make up lost time even though I was a lot slower than normal because of the blisters. It seemed I had gone in one big circle rather than going up and straight down. I will go back soon to work it out – it still annoys me as I got up in such good time. In the end it took me five hours, having got to the summit in around two hours. I have never been so happy to see a campsite – not a feeling I normally get on seeing tents. I’m a man who likes his luxuries and a hotel room. As I walked through the campsite towards the car park I came across three lovely girls at a tent with a barbecue burning and they offered me tea and food which I had to decline as I had a driver to find and another country to get to. If that’s not giving to all to charity than I don’t know what is! I got to the car park and Tony was not in it. He was in the girls’ tent. (Only joking!) I wandered around with bottom lip quivering for a while and when I spotted him, ran and give a way big hug. Challenge was still on. Poor Tony had been kicked out into another car park by campsite and he had been worried I was taking too long so had been looking. Luckily his ‘phone was dead too so I avoided the embarrassment of the Royal Marines coming to find me. It was time to kick on to Wales.


It was great to be driving on to the final leg but again, whether it was down to adrenaline or excitement at seeing pastures new, I just could not sleep. More roads, more petrol, more Vaseline on feet and in no time it seems we was at Pen-Y-Pass. My feet were in bits – a harsh lesson on the use of proper socks and footwear for next time and for anyone who bothers to read this. The weather in Wales was shocking. The rain was falling and it was blowy and cold. I greased up the feet one last time, told Tony to get some needed shut-eye as, unlike anyone else I come across, there was no hotel room for us at the end but another long drive home. I started up the Pyg Track just wanting to knock it out as quick as I could and again started really well but the one which I thought would be the easiest was to become the one I felt hardest. My feet were killing me with every step and I was trying hard to ignore the slicing pain. The rain was starting to get harder and it was harder to think properly with the lack of sleep I had. My coordination and balance was also getting very bad when clambering over boulders and rocks. I was starving too and had not took the time to refuel properly as I was just too eager to start and thinking of time which had been more of an obsession of mine than the more important factors of sleep, food, hydration and proper mountain wear. I had only snacked on bars and my body was feeling it. I started to see people that I had sailed past at the beginning going by me as I was being slowed by blisters and lack of fuel. I was running out of petrol and starting to regret not making the most of pit stops and not taking more pit stops. I trudged on secretly angry with myself. I tried to get some raisins and bars out of my bag, which was soaked, but I could not open anything – my hands were just too cold and not working. Very frustrating. It wasn’t till after that I thought I should have used my teeth or the knife in my bag but, as I said earlier, the grey matter between my ears was not working properly due to lack of sleep. I tried putting on gloves, which were also soaked, to get some warmth. Another lesson – take waterproof gloves. Reading this back I must sound really stupid, but most of my mistakes were down to complacency and a total lack of interest in ever being organised as anyone who has ever known me would testify. The clouds come down and it was so misty at the top I could hardly see a thing which was surprisingly scary in my current state. It was just a relief, to be honest, to get it over even though due to awful weather conditions and mist, I couldn’t see a thing by now. I just wanted to get down safely as it was so narrow and slippery on ice near the top of the ascent. Coming down I decided to cut across a little waterfall and climb down the steep rocks so I could make my way to the Miners Track because it was mostly tarmacked and I could maybe get one last run out of my feet and body to chase time. It was great to see the car through the grey pouring rain sitting in the car park when it came upon my horizon. I banged on the window to a startled Tony who told me the time had flown by. If only he knew. Ha ha! He had got some good shut-eye and it was time to kick off the Timberlands one last time and warm the hands so I could use them to get some food in my body. Tony started the car and we bid adieu to the mountains. We didn’t say much on the way home – we were shattered. It had been a great shared effort and we had shared an adventure.


I want to say thank you to Tony for sharing his time and effort with me for the cause. I also want to thank Angela who has tried tirelessly to bang the drum for charity and has liaised with the help of Wendy, Keith and David. Angela has had a lot of knock-backs and her faith tested in people to try and help raise money. Perhaps we are finding out how hard it is for the smaller charities to keep existing in these times of austerity. Also Bader Brave, Morgan, and his brother, Sammy, who have rattled the tin and badgered adults for money. And, of course, everyone who has given a cent to the charity. Thank you. I’ve seen first hand what it does and the love and commitment that goes into it. The Flying Days, weekends away, the effort of the people involved. It would be easy to bury your head in sand and just enjoy the riches of your own life but they don’t, they share the most precious commodity of all and that’s time. They help change kids’ lives for a short time and I’ve seen the smiles and confidence that those kids take from those experiences. It’s a great reason and cause for people to give money to. Thank you to everyone that did. And lastly thank you to the bravery of the Bader Braves.


* You can see a selection of dramatic pictures taken during David’s adventure by visiting the BADER BRAVES Gallery *