Tag Archives: Croix de Guerre 1939–1945

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 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 and 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. Squadron Leader 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

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20 October 1920

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (FAI)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

20 October 1920: At Villacoublay, France, Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew his Nieuport-Delâge 29V to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 302.53 kilometers per hour (187.98 miles per hour) over a straight 1 kilometer course.¹

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe in the cockpit of his Nieuport-Delâge 29V racer, after winning the Gordon Bennett Trophy, at Orleans/Etampes, 28 September 1920. Under the terms of trophy, the nation whose team won the event three consecutive times took permanent possession. After Sadi-Lecointe’s victory, the Gordon Bennett Trophy was in the permanent possession of the Aéro-Club de France.

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delage NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delage)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delâge NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennett Cup, 28 September 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delâge)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes.

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspecteur général de l’aviation civile (Inspector General of Aviation) for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

MORT POUR LA FRANCE

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the SPAD S.VII C.1 fighter
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.VII C.1 fighter (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15499

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 September 1920: The Gordon-Bennett Air Race

Coupe Gordon Bennett
Coupe Gordon-Bennett d’ aviation, sculpted by André Auroc (airrace.com)

28 September 1920: The fifth Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy Races was held. The Trophy was sponsored by an American businessman, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald newspaper. Gordon Bennett had previously sponsored the James Gordon Bennett Cup for yachting, the Gordon Bennett Cup for automobile racing, and the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett for ballooning.

The airplane races were held annually from 1909 until 1913. In those years, the race had been one twice by France, once by the United Kingdom and twice by the United States. Like the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (the Schneider Cup) for seaplanes, the nation which won the race three times consecutively would be permanently awarded the trophy. Because of the World War, no races were held 1914–1919.

Flight reported:

THE GORDON-BENNETT RACE

It had been anticipated that this year’s race for the Gordon-Bennett Aviation Trophy would have been a much better contest than any of the five previous competitions. Great Britain and the United States had challenged France, and the teams of each of the three countries comprised very fast machines. But disappointment followed on disappointment, and in the end only one competitor—Sadi Lacointe, on a French Nieuport—completed the full course of 300 kiloms. without trouble, and he thereby won the trophy for France for the third time.

     During the early morning of Tuesday a thick mist hung over the ground, and it was not until 1.36 p.m. that the first competitor got away, this being Kirsch on one of the French Nieuports. He was followed by de Romanet on a Spad, and the third member of the French team—the favourite—Sadi Lecointe. The American team—Rinehardt on the Dayton-Wright and Major Schroeder on the Army machine—followed a few minutes after, and then there was a long wait before Raynham, on the Martinsyde “Semiquaver,” the only British representative, got away. Kirsch did the first 100 kiloms in 21 mins. 29 secs., while de Romanet took 22 mins. 52-1/5 secs., but both had to come down soon after they completed the second lap, and Kirsch retired. The Americans did not survive long, Rinehardt having to come down after a quarter of an hour, having difficulty with his steering, while Schroeder was put out of the contest by engine trouble at the end of the first round.

     Raynham was unable to complete one lap, apparently being in trouble with the engine of his machine.

     This left Sadi Lecointe, whose time for the 100 kiloms. was 21 mins. 36 secs., for 200 kiloms. 43 mins. 42-3/5 secs., and for the full course of 300 kiloms. 1 hr. 6 mins. 17-1/5 secs., his average speed working out to 270 kiloms. (168 miles) per hour. De Romanet completed the course in 1 hr. 39 mins. 50-3/5 secs.

     The Trophy remains in France, and as she has won it three times it stays there permanently. Sadi Lecointe also won the cash prize of 10,000 francs offered by the Aero Club of France, and a similar prize offered by the Aero Club of America.

     The French team had been chosen in an eliminating trial on Sunday, when the three pilots mentioned above were selected. Barault, on a Borel-Hispano, would probably have secured the third place if he had only flown the course as it was arranged.

     The American team was reduced by one owing to the accident to Rholfs on the Curtiss. On landing at Villacoublay the chassis collapsed, and the pilot was injured, but not very seriously.

FLIGHT, The AIRCRAFT ENGINEER & AIRSHIPS, No. 614 (No. 40, Vol. XII.), 30 September 1930, at Page 1038

Course of 1920 Gordon-Bennett Race

The 1920 air race, held on Tuesday, 28 September, over a course of 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) at Villecoublay-La Marmogne, France. It was won by Nieuport-Delâge’s chief test pilot, Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, flying a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V. As France had previously won the 1912 and 1913 races, the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy was permanently awarded to the Aero Club of France and retired.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delage NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delage)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delâge)

During the race, Sadi-Lecointe set a a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 200 Kilometers 274.60 kilometers per hour (170.63 miles per hour). The FAI official time for the distance was 43 minutes, 42-3/5 seconds. (FAI Record File Number 15494)

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

SPAD S.20 bis-5 flown by Barny de Romanet, Etampes, 25 September 1920. (Agence Rol 14625, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Flight commented on de Romanet’s airplane:

The Spad

As regards the French Spad flown by Bernard de Romanet, this had the standard Spad fuselage of monocoque construction, but an alteration in the wing arrangement was noticeable. Instead of carrying the top plane on centre section struts from the body, the G.B. Spad had its top plane attached direct to the fuselage. Judging by its performance, this innovation did not improve the speed, and the machine was obviously slower than Lecointe’s Nieuport. In the first place, the maximum cross section of the body is much greater than the Nieuport, and the large nose radiator probably does not make matters better, although one would imagine that the two Lamlin radiators fitted to the Nieuport offer quite a lot of resistance. However, these radiators are now very extensively fitted on French machines, so perhaps their resistance is less than one would be inclined to expect.

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 615 (Vol. XII, No. 41, 7 October 1920, Page 1058, Column 1

The SPAD Type 20 bis (Spad-Herbemont) was a single-seat, single-engine, single-bay biplane racer based on the two-seat S.XX fighter, designed by André Herbemont. The racer was 7.50 meters (24 feet, 7.3 inches) long with a wingspan of 6.48 meters (21 feet, 3.1 inches) and height of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.4 inches). The wings had a surface area of 14 square meters (151 square feet). The airplane had an empty weight of 890 kilograms (1,962 pounds), and gross weight of 1,050 kilograms (2,315 pounds). The racer carried 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of fuel.

The S.20s were powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated La Société Hispano-Suiza single-overhead cam 90° V-8 engine rated at 300 horsepower. (Specific variant unknown.)

Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet covered with oil, 28 September 1920. (Agence de Presse Meurisse 83837, Bibliothèque nationale de France)
The Verville-Packard R-1, A.S. 40126, flown by Major Rudolf W. Schroeder in the the Gordon Bennett Cup race, at Etampes, France, September 1920. (Tennessee State Library and Archives)
R.W. Schroeder

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes.

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspector General of Aviation for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

© 2016 Bryan R. Swopes

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