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Group Captain Douglas Bader

World War 2 flying ace Douglas Bader lived in Little Shelford while stationed at nearby RAF Duxford.

Bader stayed at the King’s Farmhouse in High Street along with Air Commodore James Coward.

Bader joined the RAF in 1928. In 1931, while attempting some aerobatics, he crashed and lost his legs. Despite having been on the brink of death, he recovered, retook flight training, passed his check flights and then requested reactivation as a pilot. However he was retired against his will on medical grounds.

After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Douglas Bader returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot. He scored his first victories over Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940. He then took part in the Battle of Britain and became a friend and supporter of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and his "Big Wing" experiments.

In January 1940, Bader was posted to No. 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford near Cambridge. It was thought that Bader's success as a fighter pilot was partly because of his having no legs; pilots pulling high g-forces in combat turns often blacked out as the flow of blood from the brain drained to other parts of the body, usually the legs. As Bader had no legs he could remain conscious longer, and thus had an advantage over more able-bodied opponents.

In August 1941, Bader baled out over German-occupied France and was captured. Despite his disability, Bader made a number of escape attempts and was eventually sent to the prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle. He remained there until April 1945 when the camp was liberated.

Bader left the RAF in 1946 and resumed his career in the oil industry. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky, chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War. Bader campaigned for the disabled and in the Queen's Birthday Honours 1976 was appointed a Knight Bachelor "for services to disabled people". He continued to fly until ill health forced him to stop in 1979. Bader died, aged 72, in September 1982, after a heart attack.

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