Bader joined the RAF in 1928. An enthusiastic pilot from the start, he had the misfortune of crashing during an attempted slow roll at minimum altitude. In this accident, he lost both his legs, one amputated below the knee, and the other above. However, by dint of extreme determination, he learnt to walk unaided despite his injury.
But his flying career had been cut short. However, on the outbreak of war, he succeeded in re-enlisting and had no difficulty in flying despite his legless state.
During the Battle of Britain, he became Commanding Officer of the mostly Canadian 242 Squadron at Coltishall in 12 Group. This was after Bader had had several successes during operations over Dunkirk in the previous month of May. As CO of 242 Squadron, Bader achieved 2 further kills, shooting down two Dornier 17s.
As the Battle proceeded, Bader continued to achieve more successes shooting down half a dozen enemy aircraft. However, by then Bader’s name was securely linked to the Big Wing theory. He had become the leading exponent of this tactic in aerial warfare as distinct from the methods used by Keith Park in 11 Group which favoured immediate interception by one or two squadrons.
After the Battle, Bader was promoted to Wing Commander and took over a wing flying from Tangmere. During the Summer of 1941, leading one of these attacking operations over northern France, he was shot down and became a prisoner of war for the rest of hostilities. After several attempts to escape he was taken to Colditz Castle. By then he had racked up a total score of 22 victories and had been awarded a DSO and Bar and a DFC and Bar.
After the end of the War, having achieved the rank of Group Captain, he left the RAF for a peace time existence. He died in 1982.