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The Douglas Bader Mystery

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posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 06:08 AM
Here’s a conspiracy mystery that is a little different from usual ones we see, I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

It begins innocently enough, in the memoirs of Kenneth Williams, a Royal Navy medic who recounts how, in 1942, he was asked to assist the illustrious Bader whilst he was staying at the Stork Hotel in Liverpool;

One morning before breakfast, Mr.Giles the manager, came and asked me if I knew of Douglas Bader. I looked at him and asked him was there anybody who didn’t know of Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader. He then told me that Bader was going to be a guest in the hotel for a couple of weeks whilst he was working on some project. Giles then looked at me apprehensively and said “Ken, how would you feel about, like, going up to his room every morning before breakfast to give him some help to put his legs on?” I looked at him and said “You must be kidding, you want me to put Douglas Bader’s legs on every morning?” “Yes, Ken,” he replied, “he finds it very difficult to cope on his own and I would appreciate it if you could help him each morning.”

from here

The problem with this is that Bader, completely unbeknownst to the author, had been shot down (possibly by one of his own men) the year before and we now know that Bader was PoW from then until the end of war, finishing up in Colditz. How could this be?

This link takes you to Ken Williams own, condensed, account of the whole story so far, see what you make of it.

I can tell you that much has been removed, maybe to make it more digestable, but many of the salient points are all there. I have been following the story for at least three years and I recall many instances where help was offered regarding facts and records, only to be withdrawn after conact from the MoD amongst others. Several papers regarding Douglas Bader from the war years are classified to this day under the 100 year rule, to what purpose?

Mr Williams was told by one source that he must have been mistaken and that he in fact met Colin Hodgkinson, a second RAF pilot who had lost both his legs but who is virtually unkown, however Ken Williams was introduced to Bader so this cannot be. Indeed in a telephone conversation with JKen Williams in 1976 Bader confirmed that he remembered being attended to by a young man in the Stork hotel in 1942. Fascinatingly however, Hodgkinson wrote his autobiography in the 1950’s and recounting his own experience as a PoW he wrote how he took delivery of a new leg dropped by the RAF, like Bader, but that due to tissue wastage there was no hope of it fitting and after several painful attempts with it he threw it away. Due to the severity of the situation ‘Hoppy’ was repatriated by the Germans in 1944 and he came home to be fitted with new legs, which was the only way . Now legend has it that the RAF dropped legs to Bader and he used them for the rest of the war, how can this be? He must have been measured up.

The idea that Bader might return to the UK to be fitted with new legs and then voluntarily return to Germany to see out his time in a PoW camp seems preposterous, yet that seems to be the only realistic explanation. So what was the deal? And why is it so secret that pressure has been brought to bear from official departments in the UK government?

If anyone can add any useful information it would be gratefully received and Mr Williams tells me that he will answer any questions you may have through myself, Mr Williams himself has received a huge amount of personal abuse on other forums through his quest to merely find the truth and so is unwilling to participate directly, and after some of the things I have seen directed at him I do not blame him. I hope and believe that ATS members are more respectful towards an 84 year old veteran than these other forum contributors?

The main question therefore is not whether or not this meeting took place, the fact of it was confirmed by Bader himself at a time when the author was unaware that it shouldn't have been possible, but rather WHY this meeting was possible, what was going on?

Edit; Mr Williams himself has looked at this post and in an email to me he comments;

That is indeed a very good a start to what may turn into a lively

You have not made any mistakes or posted any misinformation and have given a
good outline of the Enigma.

For which endorsement I am very grateful.

[edit on 17-7-2007 by waynos]

posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 08:45 AM
WOW.I have never heard of this.You just gave me something new and interesting to research.Thanks Waynos!Where is a good place to start?

posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 09:20 AM

Where is a good place to start?

Good question! If you are wanting to research this off your own bat, as it were, then the sites linked in my first post are a good introduction. The quest, I suppose, is to find any surviving veterans who would have first hand knowledge and are willing to speak about it, not an easy task. There are many classified papers which may or may not shed some light on these events but the last of these will not be revealed until 2042 and Mr Williams would, I feel, like to get some closure on this in the time he has left to him.

posted on Jul, 17 2007 @ 09:29 AM
A worthy quest. This being for the "peace" of an elderly gentleman, one would think that many would involve themselves in this.

Still, the chance of success is not high. Most veterans of that war are dead by now, so first hand accounts are hard to come by. And if all the records are sealed, then the project is likely doomed.

The only chance would be to look into the record, if any could be found, of the early Red Cross. Perhaps they would explain something.

posted on Jul, 25 2007 @ 11:17 AM

Originally posted by waynosNow legend has it that the RAF dropped legs to Bader and he used them for the rest of the war, how can this be? He must have been measured up.

The idea that Bader might return to the UK to be fitted with new legs and then voluntarily return to Germany to see out his time in a PoW camp seems preposterous, yet that seems to be the only realistic explanation. So what was the deal? And why is it so secret that pressure has been brought to bear from official departments in the UK government?

[edit on 17-7-2007 by waynos]


How did you find this unbelievable story?

A man with missing legs being sent back into combat. That alone sounds suspicious. As for the voluntary return to a POW camp that is unheard of.

In a sincere effort to help, I would like to pose some thought-provoking questions! While the questions may seem far out, give them some though:

1. Why was a man who lost his legs in the front lines of a war?

2. Who would go back to a WW2 German POW camp willingly?

3. Was he sent there for some other reason? perhaps to spy?

I don't know if any of these questions will help, but give them some though!


posted on Jul, 27 2007 @ 05:45 PM
I'll do my best Tim;

1. Why was a man who lost his legs in the front lines of a war?

Because he volunteered and fought like hell to get back into the RAF. Douglas Bader was a very VERY famous man here in Britain, think Charles Lindberg, Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong, that is the level of fame. He was a famous sportsman in the 1920's who, for example, played Rugby for England at Wembley stadium (footage where he is mentioned in the commentary still exists). Around this time he also joined the RAF but, due entirely to 'showing off' , he crashed a Bulldog fighter doing aerobatics while too low 'for a dare' in 1931 and as a result he lost both his legs and was invalided out of the Air Force. When war came in 1939 he rejoined the air force after battling to prove he was fit to fly and was one of the leading commanders during the Battle of Britain. He was eventually brought down in 1941 (under circumstances that are not entirely clear - he may have been shot down by one of his own pilots but he always claimed he collided with a Bf 109 , possibly to protect his comrade from the stigma) and remained a prisoner for the remainder of the war, eventually being imprisoned in the famous Colditz prison - at least that is the official version which is spoiled a bit by Bader being in Liverpool in 1942!

For a 'Hollywoodised' but basically correct illustration of Bader's life try seeking out the movie 'Reach for the Sky' which is the Douglas Bader biopic, it is available very cheaply on DVD or you may even find i8t on a cable movie channel or web download. I do recommend it if you have never heard of the man. A web search for 'Douglas Bader' will also furnish you with the story if you can't find the movie.

2. Who would go back to a WW2 German POW camp willingly?

Who indeed? Which is why the circumstances are such a mystery. If Bader was allowed back to the UK for new legs it is not unimaginable that the mans pride would make him go back so as not to be seen as a 'special case' or 'cripple', he was always determined to be just like everyone else even in the point of refusing to walk with a stick despite both legs being artificial. He never wanted pity and the other airman who was returned clearly came back as a cripple who's war was over, Bader would have hated that, but of course I am just surmising.

3. Was he sent there for some other reason? perhaps to spy?

This is a point to ponder. Even if my guess above is right and he went back because it was the honourable thing to do (not that the govt is even admitting he came back to Britain in the first place) then I am sure he would also have leapt at the chance to do some colandestine intelligence gathering. It is reported how Bader was even a bit of a celebrity with the Germans and visi8ted several squadrons as guest of honour, though his requests to 'have a go' in a Bf 109 were always politely refused.

posted on Jul, 27 2007 @ 07:52 PM
I read a book on fighter pilots as a kid that had Bader's story in it. If I recall correctly it stated that he escaped Germany in 1942 with the help of the underground and made his way back to England where he returned to his duties. He was only allowed to fly air defense over England because his knowledge of escape procedures and contacts made him a liability to the underground if he were to be shot down over enemy territory again. I believe his presence wasn't publicly announced because it would bring undue attention to the system. I don't recall the name of the book. Sorry.

posted on Jul, 28 2007 @ 04:10 AM
Bader is reputed to have made several attempts at escaping, hence his being put in Colditz. The odd thing about this is that the experience of the RAF 's other pilot with artificial legs 'Hoppy' Hodgkinson, pretty much makes it clear that escape attempts were impossible, a further twist to the story.

It is nevertheless a fact that when the US Army reached Colditz in 1945 Bader was there. He returned to the UK and led the victory flypast over London after the war.

I would be fascinated if you could remember the title of the book. It may be that you have mis-remembered the story or it might just be an additional piece to the jigsaw.

posted on Jul, 31 2007 @ 09:42 AM
I recently watched a WW2 German Newsreal called Die Deutsche Wochenschau (dloaded from a torent site)from around 1944 that showed German POW's returning after being exchanged for allied prisoners(something I don't think was widley publisized at the time),This was taking place in one of the Channel ports sometime after D-Day.Maybe this exchange program had been going on earlyer and Douglas had been exchanged because of his disability but this was kept secret to prevent other peoples relatives from demanding the same treatment for their loved ones?

posted on Jul, 31 2007 @ 10:25 AM
That is quite an interesting story. Young Master Bader seemed to be quite the hero. I wonder why he would go back to the camp though that just seems too weird for words. I will keep following this thread on Master Bader and I look forward to the climax to this story. Thanks.

posted on Jul, 31 2007 @ 11:23 AM
I've heard this story before and it's compelling simply because there is no apparent room for any shades of grey here, either Bader's official story is untrue or Williams' tale is nonsense.

Bader was certainly an enigma, despite his status as a revered war hero he was also roundly disliked by many as a selfish and arrogant individual. In fact, it is this which gives rise to an incident which makes Williams' story look questionable.

Whilst in Colditz Bader had the services of a dedicated batman to help him, Alex Ross, and Ross was, I believe, offered repatriation as a "non-combatant". Reputedly it was Bader who refused to allow Ross his ticket home because he demanded that he stay with him in Colditz. What appears strange is that if Bader was repatriated at some time why was Williams required to assist him rather than Ross who would presumably have returned with Bader as he had already been offered the chance to return home by the Germans?

Whilst posing that question I should also say that I believe that Bader, perhaps not entirely out of character, managed to arrange a ride home by air after the war with a reporter rather than travel with everyone else which would possibly allow for some opportunity to fiddle the story of his presence in the castle on its liberation?

So, which version of events is the correct one is anybody's guess and Bader's public persona as a hero is still deeply ingrained despite some less than savoury political views he expressed pretty forcibly after the war. I clearly recall seeing at least one interview with him on television where I was deeply disappointed to hear him coming across as a rather unpleasant individual.

I wonder how much public appetite there is for questioning the official story of an iconic figure?

[edit on 31-7-2007 by timeless test]

posted on Jul, 31 2007 @ 11:42 AM
In the biography "Reach For the Sky", Paul Brickhill makes reference to German Doctors measuring Bader's stumps and transmitting the measurements back to Britain through the International Red Cross. Bader would have been repatriated except that he wouldn't agree not to take up arms against Germany again. The Germans offered to allow safe passage for an aircraft to drop Bader's new legs, but the British refused. The legs were dropped as part of a bombing raid.

posted on Aug, 15 2007 @ 09:14 AM
This is an absolute cracker of a find waynos. I can see little reason why an old man would relate a story in the manner that he has, without there being something to it. Particularly telling is that Bader himself appears to have let the cat out of the bag in the 1976 telephone converstation. One thing here, is there any evidence to say that Williams did indeed have a telephone conversation with Bader in '76? Sometimes people embelish stories, sometimes the stories are so fantastic we don't want to believe. I myself have had a VERY scary conversation with an old "Digger" from WWII, that if true would rewrite the R&D history of chemical warfare and that the entire story surrounding the shipment of the atomic bombs to Japan was faked! Strange thing is I have seen other testimony over the years to corroborate some of these claims. Would you believe it if I told you that Australia was the leader in chemical and biological warfare research prior to and during WWII, so much so that Gen MacArthur seized the research? Probably not, but that is some of what I was told.

Can't help you I'm afraid waynos and I would love to. Please keep us posted if there are any developments. And U2U me if you would like the full story about the NBC revelations.


posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 05:24 PM
As a kid I used to go fishing with my father and one of his old pals.

One day my father offered him some turnips and he nearly vomited, it turned (he had never talked of the war before and my father only knew he was in the RAF like himself) that he was part of the first complete Wellington bomber crew to be capture, after being shot down in 1941. He apparently had turnips for breakfast, lunch and tea for 4 years.

Anyway to get to Bader, they were both in Colditz together, though he could not stand him as he would contantly bully escape committee to allow/support him in escape attempts that had little chance of success and each time other more worthy schemes would be rejected/sidelined because of precious resources allocated to Bader, and when he was caught their rations would be cut in half.

[edit on 21-8-2007 by Popeye]

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 03:40 PM
Thanks for the replies guys;

Timeless test, I emailed Ken about Alex Ross, this part of the story was covered in some detail on Kens site but was one of the casualties of ken having to scale it all back into a condensed version, I was unsure of exactly what it previously said and didn't want to try and guesstimate the content so heere is the full reply I received back;

Alex Ross was indeed acting as Bader's batman whilst in Colditz and yes,
Alex was advised by the Germans that he was eligible for repatriation, being
a medic and a non-combatant. It is also true that Bader refused to allow
Alex to come home and told him in no uncertain terms that he (Alex) was his
"Lackey" and he would be staying in Colditz to look after him.

I was hoping to speak to Alex Ross through a very good contact very early in
my investigations but he died before this happened and his story is now
silent for ever. It is well documented however, that whilst in Colditz and
when the war was over, Bader treated him very shabbily.

The story of my meeting with Bader in Liverpool in 1942 does not
automatically assume that he had been "Repatriated." The whole thrust of my
story is based rightly or wrongly on MY reasoning that he made this short
visit for some purpose that I am not au faix with, but have put forward my
theory that he came back to have new legs organized and then, according to
the generally accepted story, was later liberated by the Americans when his
war ended as a prisoner in Colditz.

If Bader had been "repatriated" in 1942 (as Hodgkinson was in 1944) as your
forum member apparently assumes, then there would not be any reason for the
whole drama of The Bader Enigma! His repatriation would have been widely
publicized and Alex Ross would have in my view, not automatically have been
included as part and parcel of any Bader repatriation to England.

Bader's Liverpool excursion was in MY view very obviously an arrangement
made between those in very high places as an expedient and I just happened
to be on the spot at that time.

Your members should fully understand that that whilst there is no question
whatsoever that Bader DID come to Liverpool in 1942 as I proclaim, but why
he came is just as big a mystery to me as it might be to them to fully
understand why these remarkable events took place.

Best Wishes

JimC, this is part of the reason why parts of the Bader legend look as if they might be fabricated. When Hodgkinson was measured up for new legs in exactly the way described they too were dropped by the RAF but were found to be useless due to muscle wastage in the intervening period. You cannot allow for this in the measurements as it is entirely unpredictable and if the strength is gone then it is simply gone, as was the case for 'Hoppy'. The does not automatically prove that it was impossible for Baders legs to be replaced the same way, but it does mean that lots of questions are thrown up about why this should be.

An example of the Bader legend unravelling for example is the account, clearly spelled out in Reach For The Sky, where Bader was brought down by a collision with a Bf 109. Research in 2005 finally proved that no such collision took place, no 109 was lost, nor did a 109 even claim a victory on that day. However a pilot from Baders own squadron claimed a a kill of a 109 (even though none was lost) and described the crash in exactly the way that Baders aircraft is known to have come down having lost its tail, the pilot concerned even described shooting the tail off and ghow the 'German' took ages to get out (Bader's leg was trapped).

This is not to the detriment of Bader however as it is entirely likely that he saved his subordinate from considerable shame, although some claim his arrogance led him to believe a collision was the only way he would be brought down, there is no evidence to support such a view, and Bader really did care deeply about his pilots whatever his personality defects may have been.

Likewise Kens story does not infer anything negative about Bader, if the facts were known who is to say that he wasn't an even bigger hero than we thought?

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 04:52 PM
Thanks for the update Waynos, I take Ken's point entirely about a temporary arrangement.

...but why would Bader return to Germany. Would he take his determination not to be treated as an invalid to such extremes as to return as a matter of honour?

I'm not really expecting an answer to that, just thinking out loud so to speak.

[edit on 22-8-2007 by timeless test]

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 05:26 PM

Originally posted by timeless test
...but why would Bader return to Germany. Would he take his determination not to be treated as an invalid to such extremes as to return as a matter of honour?

If the German's threatened retaliation against some of the other POWs I could see Bader returning. What I can't see is the British Government letting him or being able to keep the visit secret for all of these years. Sorry I still don't buy it. I can see Bader being taken to Switzerland under German guard to be fitted for his legs, but not to England. I could see doctors under the protection of the Red Cross being taken to the prison camp to fit Bader's legs.

I'll buy that Bader might have been shot down by one of his own people, wouldn't have been the first time or the last.

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 12:40 PM
Timeless test, that is the precise question that has been rattling round my head for the last three years

The possibility mentioned by Jimc has occurred to me, even fanciful notions of Bader being used as some sort of 'negotiator' on shuttle missions (without any foundation - just wondering aloud). The whole thing is a complete mystery and scepticism such as Jim's is easy to appreciate, but the fact that selected papers pertaining to Douglas Bader are classified to this day under the 100 year rule, which is a rare occurance suggesting the utmost secrecy, does keep me wondering.

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 01:41 PM

Originally posted by waynos
but the fact that selected papers pertaining to Douglas Bader are classified to this day under the 100 year rule, which is a rare occurance suggesting the utmost secrecy, does keep me wondering.

Well if the records were sealed in 1945 we only have 38 more years to wait.

I have to wonder if the classified papers might have more to do with how Bader was shot down than anything else. Bader was a pretty public figure and some might have taken it upon themselves to harass (or worse) the pilot (or his family) who may have accidentaly shot him down.

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 02:56 PM

My understanding is that the 100 year rule is most commonly used when there are people living who may be directly affected by earlier release. However, that doesn't mean that there could be other more dramatic reasons but it's pure speculation. The idea of some kind of communication route rattled through my mind as well - for no good reason whatever.

Do you know if Ken has tried using the FOIA? We don't have anything like the powers that they do in the USA but I believe release is still possible as long as you know what you're looking for.

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