The Story …
In 1928, Douglas Bader joins the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a Flight Cadet.
Despite a friendly reprimand from Air Vice-Marshal Halahan for his disregard for service discipline and flight rules, he successfully completes his training and is posted to No. 23 Squadron at RAF Kenley where, in 1930, he is chosen to be among the pilots for an aerial exhibition.
Later, although his flight commander has explicitly banned low-level aerobatics (as two pilots have been killed trying just that), he is goaded into it by a disparaging remark by a civilian pilot. The wing tip of his bi-plane touches the ground during his flight and he crashes dramatically and is clearly badly injured.
Mr Joyce, the surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, has to amputate both legs to save Bader’s life. During his convalescence, he receives encouragement from Nurse Brace.
Upon his discharge from the hospital, he sets out to master prosthetic legs. Out for a drive with two other RAF pals, they stop at a tearoom, where he meets waitress Thelma Edwards.
Once he can walk on his own, he asks her out.
Despite his undiminished skills, he is refused flying duties simply because there are no regulations covering his situation. Offered a desk job instead, he leaves the RAF and works unhappily in an office. He and Thelma marry at a registry office on a wet afternoon.
As the Second World War starts, Bader talks himself back into the RAF where he is soon given command of a squadron comprising mostly dispirited Canadians who had fought in France.
Improving morale and brazenly circumventing normal channels to obtain badly needed equipment, he makes the squadron operational again. They fight effectively in the Battle of Britain.
Bader is then put in charge of a new, larger formation of five squadrons.
Later, he is posted to RAF Tangmere and promoted to wing commander.
In 1941, Bader has to bail out over France where he is caught, escapes, and is recaptured. He then makes such a nuisance of himself to his jailers, he is repeatedly moved from one POW camp to another, finally ending up in Colditz Castle.
He is liberated after four years of captivity but before the war ends Bader can have “one last fling” in the Far East.
On 15 September 1945, the fifth anniversary of the greatest day of the Battle of Britain, Bader, now a group captain, is given the honour of leading eleven other battle survivors and a total of 300 aircraft in a flypast over London.
Directed by : Lewis Gilbert
Written by : Paul Brickhill (book) – Lewis Gilbert (screenplay)
Produced by : Daniel M. Angel
Cinematography : Jack Asher
Edited by : John Shirley
Music by : John Addison
Distributed by : The Rank Organisation
Released : 5 July 1956 (world premiere, London)
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Philip Stainton, Eddie Byrne, Beverley Brooks, Michael Ripper, Derek Blomfield, Eric Pohlmann, Michael Gough, Harry Locke, Sam Kydd.
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