Daily Archives: February 21, 2024

21 February 1961

Project Mercury astronauts with Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart 59-0158. (NASA)
Project Mercury astronauts with Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart 59-0158. (NASA)

21 February 1961: Final training begins for Mercury 7 astronauts. Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn are selected for the initial flights. Left-to-Right: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

The aircraft in the photograph is a Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart, 59-0158, a two-place supersonic interceptor trainer.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

21 February 1951

English Electric Canberra B Mk.2 WD932 (Mary Evans Picture Library)

21 February 1951: A Royal Air Force English Electric Canberra B Mk.2 bomber, WD932, under the command of Squadron Leader Arthur Edward Callard, D.F.C., A.F.C, A.R.Ae.S., took off from RAF Aldergrove, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and flew across the North Atlantic to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. Also aboard were Flight Lieutenant Edward Arthur Joseph Haskett, navigator, and Flight Lieutenant A.G.R. Robson, radio operator. The crew were assigned to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, RAF Boscombe Down.

WD932 departed Aldergrove at 12:43 p.m. local time (12:43 UTC), and arrived at Gander at 11:50 Newfoundland Standard Time (17:20 UTC), for an elapsed time of 4 hours, 37 minutes. Flying at altitudes above 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) they encountered head winds of 90 miles per hour (40 meters per second). The average speed of the flight was 444.042 miles per hour (714.616 kilometers per hour/385.862 knots).

For this flight, WD932 was equipped with jettisonable 250 gallon wing tip fuel tanks, giving the Canberra a total fuel capacity of 1,874 Imperial gallons (2,250 U.S. gallons/8,519 liters).

The flight had been delayed to repair an 8-inch (20 centimeters) hole in the leading edge of the right wing, caused when the airplane struck a seagull on takeoff the previous day.

Great Circle route from RAF Aldergrove, Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Gander, Newfoundland: 2,067 statute miles. (Great Circle Mapper)

The RAF had not requested observers from Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, so no official world record was set by this flight.

Crew of Canberra: E.A.J. Haskett, A.E. Callard, A.G.R. Robson (Mary Evans Picture Library)

British Jet Flys Atlantic in Record 4 Hours 37 Minutes

     GANDER, N. F., Feb. 21 (UP) — A twin-jet British Canberra bomber, flying at better than seven miles a minute, set a record of four hour and 37 minutes today on a 2050-mile flight from Ireland to Gander.

     The Canberra, piloted by squadron leader Arthur E. Callard, left Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, at 7:43 a.m. E. S. T. and landed here at 12:20 p.m., averaging 444.042 miles an hour despite headwinds of 90 miles an hour.

     A crew of two accompanied Callard on the transatlantic flight, which better by two hours the only comparable record of six hours and 40 minutes set in 1947 by a Pan American Constellation flying here from Shannon Airport, Ireland.

     “It would be hard for anyone to convince us that they had a more pleasant trip than we,” Callard said as he stepped from the sleek bomber, claimed by the British to be the fastest plane of its type in the world.

     He described the trip as “perfect from start to finish.”

     Callard, Flight Lt. Edward Haskett, the navigator, and Flight Lt. A. J. Robson, radio operator, agreed that they would have completed the flight sooner had it not been for heavy headwinds.

     They declined to give any details of the flight because the performance of the plane is top-secret.

     “But we can say it feels grand,” Callard said. “The trip was quiet and one of the things about flying a jet bomber is that‚in this case anyway—there was no vibration like you’d find in an old-type plane.”

     The Canberra flew most of the distance at altitudes greater than 40,000 feet. The plane roared into sight of this Newfoundland outpost as 12:16 p.m., touching down on the airport seven minutes later.

     The jet bomber will go to Andrews Air Base, Washington, D.C., for tests by the United States Air Force. If the tests are successful, the plane may be mass-produced in the United States for Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Atlantic Army Air Force.

Boston Evening Globe, Vol. CLIX, No 52, Page 1, Columns 5 and 6, Page 10, Columns 5 and 6

WD932 continued to Andrews AFB where it would be demonstrated to the U.S. Air Force, and to be used as a pattern aircraft for the B-57 Canberra, produced by the Glenn L. Martin Co., Middle River, Maryland. It would be assigned the USAF serial number 51-17387.

English Electric Canberra B Mk.2 WD932 (Mary Evans Picture Library)

On 2 December 1951, WD932 disintegrated in flight during 4.8g maneuver at 10,000 feet, near Middle River. Major Harry M. Lester and Captain Reid Johns Shaw ejected, though Shaw was killed when his parachute failed to open. The accident was believed to have resulted from a problem with fuel management which caused the airplane’s center of gravity to shift aft.

English Electric Canberra B Mk.2 WD932, flown by Wing Commander Roland P. Beamont, during a demonstration flight at Martin Airport, Middle River, Maryland, home of the Glenn L. Martin Company, 11 March 1951. (Mary Evans Picture Library)

WD932 was the fourth production Canberra B Mk.2, with manufacturer’s serial number 71012.

The English Electric Canberra B Mk.2 was the first production variant of a twin-engine, turbojet powered light bomber. The bomber was operated by a pilot, navigator and bombardier. It was designed to operate at very high altitudes. The Canberra B.2 was 65 feet, 6 inches (19.964 meters) long with a wingspan of 64 feet, 0 inches (19.507 meters) and height of 15 feet, 7 inches (4.750 meters). The airplane’s maximum takeoff weight was 46,000 pounds (20,865 kilograms).

The wing used a symmetrical airfoil and had 2° angle of incidence. The leading edges of the outer wing panels were swept back 13° 33′, while the trailing edges swept forward 19°53′. The inner wing had 2° dihedral (+/- 10′), and the outer wing, 4° 21′. The total wing area was 960 square feet (89.2 square meters). The variable-incidence tail plane had 10° dihedral.

The Canberra B.2 was powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon RA.3 Mk. 101 engines. The RA.3 was a single-spool axial-flow turbojet with a 12-stage compressor section and single-stage turbine. It was rated at 6,500-pounds-thrust (28.91 kilonewtons).

The B.2 had a maximum speed of 450 knots (518 miles per hour/833 kilometers per hour). It was restricted to a maximum 0.75 Mach from Sea Level to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), and 0.79 Mach from 15,000 to 25,000 feet (7.620 meters). Above that altitude the speed was not restricted, but pilots were warned that they could expect compressibility effects at 0.82 Mach or higher.

The Canberra was produced in bomber, intruder, photo reconnaissance, electronic countermeasures and trainer variants by English Electric, Handley Page, A. V. Roe, and Short Brothers and Harland. In the United States, a licensed version, the B-57A Canberra, was built by the Glenn L. Martin Company. The various versions were operated by nearly 20 nations. The Canberra was the United Kingdom’s only jet-powered bomber for four years. The last one in RAF service, a Canberra PR.9, made its final flight on 28 July 2008.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

Group Captain Sir Douglas R. S. Bader, C.B.E., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar (February 21, 1910 – September 5, 1982)

Group Captain Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar. (Paul Laib)

21 February 1910: Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, Royal Air Force, C.B.E., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, FRAeS, DL, the legendary fighter pilot of the Royal Air Force during World War II, was born at St. John’s Wood, London, England. He was the son of Frederick Roberts Bader, a civil engineer, and Jessie Scott MacKenzie Bader.

Bader attended Temple Grove School, Eastbourne, East Sussex, and St. Edward’s School in Oxford. After graduating in 1928, he joined the Royal Air Force as a cadet at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. Bader was granted a permanent commission as a Pilot Officer, “with effect from and with seniority of 26th July 1930.”

Left to right, Pilot Officer Douglas R.S. Bader, Flight Lieutenant Harry Day and Flying Officer Geoffrey Stephenson, of No. 23 Squadron, during training for the 1931 Hendon Airshow, with a Gloster Gamecock. (RAF Museum)

Bader lost both legs in the crash of a Bristol Bulldog fighter while practicing aerobatics 14 December 1931 and was medically retired, 30 April 1933.

Following his medical retirement, Douglas Bader joined the Asiatic Petroleum Co., a subsidiary of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Petroleum Maatschappij (Royal Dutch Petroleum Company) and the Shell Transport and Trading Company.

Mrs. Douglas R. S. Bader, 1942

On 5 October 1933, Mr. Bader married Miss Olive Thelma Exley Edwards at the registry office of Hampstead Village, London. Miss Edwards was the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Ivo Arthur Exley Edwards, R.A.F. On their fourth anniversary, 5 October 1937, a formal wedding ceremony took place at St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington, London.

In 1939, feeling that war with Germany was imminent, Bader applied to the Air Ministry for reinstatement. He was turned down, but was told that if there was a war his request might be reconsidered.

The Air Ministry did reconsider Douglas Bader’s request for reinstatement and after a medical evaluation and other tests, and on 26 November 1939, he was sent to refresher flight training at the Central Flying School where he was evaluated as “Exceptional,” a very rare qualification.

A page from Douglas Bader’s pilot log book, showing his “exceptional”evaluation. (Royal Air Force Museum)

Flying Officer Bader was posted to No. 19 Squadron, RAF Duxford, 7 February 1940. The squadron was equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire. In April, he was reassigned as flight leader of A Flight, No. 222 Squadron, also flying Spitfires from Duxford. On 24 June 1940, Bader took command of No. 242 Squadron at RAF Coltishall, Norfolk, in East Anglia. No. 242 operated the Hawker Hurricane.

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader with his Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, LE D, V7467, of No. 242 Squadron, RAF Colitshall, Norfolk, East Anglia, September 1940. (Royal Air Force)

On 24 September 1940, Flying Officer Bader was granted the war substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Distinguished Service Order

On 1 October 1940, George VI, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, appointed Acting Squadron Leader Douglas R. S. Bader a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. The notice in The London Gazette reads,

“This officer has displayed gallantry and leadership of the highest order. During three recent engagements he has led his squadron with such skill and ability that thirty-three enemy aircraft have been destroyed. In the course of these engagements Squadron Leader Bader has added to his previous successes by destroying six enemy aircraft.”

Acting Squadron Leader Bader, D.S.O., was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross 7th January, 1941: “Squadron Leader Bader has continued to lead his squadron and wing with the utmost gallantry on all occasions. he has now destroyed a total of ten hostile aircraft and damaged several more.”

In March 1941, Acting Squadron Leader Bader was promoted to Acting Wing Commander and assigned as Wing leader of 12 Group’s “Big Wing” at RAF Tangmere, just east of Chichester, in West Sussex. The Big Wings were large formations of three to five fighter squadrons acting together to intercept enemy bomber formations.

Acting Wing Commander Bader was awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Service Order, 15 July 1941: “This officer has led his wing on a series of consistently successful sorties over enemy territory during the past three months. His qualities of leadership and courage have been an inspiration to all. Wing Commander Bade has destroyed 15 hostile aircraft.”

Douglas Bader climbing into the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire.

On 9 August 1941, Bader was himself shot down while flying his Supermarine Spitfire Mk Va, serial W3185, marked “DB”, along the coast of France. His prosthetic legs caught in the cockpit and made it difficult for him to escape, but he finally broke free and parachuted to safety.

Transcript of message giving status of Bader and requesting a replacement prosthetic leg. (from Bader’s Last Flight: An In-Depth Investigation of a Great WWII Mystery, by Andy Saunders, Frontline Books, 2007, Appendix L at Page 214)

Bader was captured and held as a prisoner of war. He was initially held at a hospital in occupied France and it was there that he met and became a life long friend of Adolf Galland, also a legendary fighter pilot—but for the other side! After arrangements were made for replacement legs, Bader escaped.

Adolph Galland arranged for a replacement prosthetic leg for Bader to be airdropped at a Luftwaffe airfield at St. Omer, in occupied France.

On 9 September 1941, Acting Wing Commander Bader was awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross. “This fearless pilot has recently added a further four enemy aircraft to his previous successes; in addition he has probably destroyed another four and damaged five hostile aircraft. By his fine leadership and high courage Wing Commander Bader has inspired the wing on every occasion.”

Prisoners of War held at Colditz Castle, a maximum security prison during World War II. Wing Commander Douglas Bader is seated, center.

He was recaptured and taken to the notorious Offizierslager IV-C at Schloss Colditz near Leipzing, Germany, where he was held for three years. Units of the United States Army 273rd Infantry Regiment, 69th Infantry Division, and the Combat Command Reserve, 9th Armored Division, liberated the prison 15 April 1945 after a two-day battle.

Schloss Colditz, April 1945. (United States Army)

Douglas Bader was repatriated to England. On 28 August 1945, Squadron Leader D.R.S. Bader, DSO, DFC (Ret) was promoted to Wing Commander (temp), and in September, Wing Commander Bader was assigned as commanding officer of the R.A.F. Fighter Leaders School. On 1 December 1945, Wing Commander (temporary) D.R.S. Bader DSO DFC (Ret.) is granted the rank of Wing Commander (War Substantive).

On 21 July 1946, Wing Commander Bader reverted to the retired list, retaining the rank of Group Captain.

During World War II, Group Captain Bader was officially credited with 22 enemy aircraft destroyed, shared credit for another 4; 6 probably destroyed, shared credit for another probable; and 11 damaged. (26–7–11). Group Captan Bader was appointed a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur by France in 1945, and awarded the Croix d’ Guerre.

Group Captain Bader’s medals at the RAF Museum: Distinguished Service Order and Bar; Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar; 1939-1945 Star with clasp BATTLE OF BRITAIN; Air Crew Europe Star with clasp ATLANTIC; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-45 with Mention in Despatches; Legion d’Honneur, Chevalier, badge; and Croix de Guerre 1939-1940

Bader received civil aviator’s license 3 July 1946. He returned to work for Shell in a management position which involved considerable travel. He flew the company’s Percival Proctor around Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He remained with Shell until 1969, having risen to managing director of Shell Aircraft International.

Bader with a Percival Proctor which he flew while working for Shell.

In the years following World War II, he also worked unceasingly to better the lives of other disabled persons. He would tell them,

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.

In the New Year’s Honours, 2 January 1956, Douglas Bader was appointed an Ordinary Commander of the Most Excellent Order (C.B.E.), by Her Majesty The Queen, for services to the disabled.

He was the subject of Reach For The Sky, (Collins, London, 1954) a biography written by Paul Brickhill, who also wrote The Great Escape. (Brickhill had been a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III.) In 1956, a movie of the same name was released, starring Kenneth More as Bader. Bader was the author of Fight For The Sky: The Story of the Spitfire and Hurricane (Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1973).

Bader and companion in his 1938 MG TA Midget roadster, circa 1945. He was the original owner, but sold it in 1948. This car was recently offered for sale by Bonham’s.(Getty Images)

Thelma Bader died in 1971 at the age of 64 years. The couple had been married for 38 years.

Bader later married Mrs. Joan Eileen Hipkiss Murray. She had three children from a previous marriage, Wendy, Michael and Jane Murray.

4 June 1976: The London Gazette announced that The Queen would confer the Honour of Knighthood on Group Captain Robert Steuart Bader, C.B.E., D.S.O., D.F.C., “For services to disabled people.”

Sir Douglas Bader, Knight Bachelor, and Lady Bader, 1976. (Daily Mail)

Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, CBE, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar, FRAeS, DL, passed away 5 September 1982, at the age of 72 years.

Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, by Godfrey Argent, 12 May 1970. (© National Portrait Gallery, London)
Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, by Godfrey Argent, 12 May 1970. (National Portrait Gallery, London)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes