Who downed Douglas Bader?

My father was trained as an RAF fighter pilot towards the end of World War Two (although he was too young to see action) which is why I am called Roger. My wife’s father was the RAF’s most successful night intruder pilot and this weblog is called NightHawk in his honour (you can read his story here). So I have a lifelong interest in Second World War pilots and aircraft.
When I was a youngster, the fighter ace Douglas Bader was a hero of mine. I read the biography “Reach For The Sky” and saw the film of the same title (read my review here). When I became older and more political, I realised that Bader was a very Right-wing individual and the gloss faded somewhat, but I always maintained an interest.
So it was fascinating to see this week a Channel Four programme entitled “Who downed Douglas Bader?” The aviation experts in the programme never found Bader’s Spitfire, but Andy Saunders did make an original conclusion on the downing of the fighter.
In Paul Brickhill’s biography, “Reach for the Sky” (1954), and in Bader’s own 1973 autobiography, the war ace blamed a mid-air collision with a Messerschmitt 109, which he said had clipped his aircraft’s tail. But his story has always raised questions, and recent research by Saunders now suggests that he may have been a victim of ‘friendly fire’, shot down by one of his fellow RAF pilots called Buck Casson after becoming detached from his own squadron.
You can read a discussion about the programme here.


  • david sutherland

    hi rodger,
    im interested in some background on Douglas Bader which i cannot find in any stories on the web. My question arises from a recent purchase at auction of a silver box with a coin of some discription on the lid. Inside there is a note which reads “this box was given to a mrs saunders when she was still courting him by Sir Douglas Bader, hero of World War 2” I just havent quite made the connection here, any ideas? Thanks for your attention.

  • Roger Darlington

    Hi, David.
    I’ve tried the index to Paul Brickhill’s “Reach For The Sky” but nothing there either. Sorry.

  • Guy Manchester

    Does anyone know where I can get hold of a copy of the This is Your Life edition featuring Douglas Bader? It was broadcast in 1982 shortly before his death. Happy to pay.