LETTER: Bader: shot down or collided?

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The Independent Online
From Mr R. G. Gregory

Sir: Wing Commander Douglas Bader was not shot down over St Omer on 9 August 1941, neither did he unstrap his right leg in order to get clear of his tail-less aircraft.

Paul Brickhill's biography of Bader relates that, having dispatched the centre two of a formation of six Bf109s from astern, Bader used his overtaking speed to turn hard right to pass between the two on that side and "in sheer bravado, he held course to do so" - and didn't! There was a collision which left Bader's aircraft minus the complete rear fuselage and tail, presumably as a result of it being sliced off by the propeller of the rearmost 109.

The tail-less, but by no means engine-less, projectile which Bader's Spitfire had now become, went down very fast and, quite lacking any control, he decided to get out. In this he was helped to a degree by the high-speed airflow but found himself trapped by his right tin leg, the same wind pressure making it quite impossible for him to do anything constructive "till the steel and leather snapped".

Yours faithfully,

R. G. Gregory

Diss, Norfolk