Reaching for the sky

Squadron Leader N G Pedley, the CO of No. 131 Squadron RAF, about to set out on a sweep in his Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB from Merston, a satellite airfield of Tangmere in Sussex, June 1942.

If you love watching old movies, you may well have seen that classic biopic about the incredible wartime exploits of fighter pilot, Douglas Bader. This 1956 film, entitled, Reach for the Sky, tells the story of how Bader, played by the wonderful Kenneth Moore, managed to succeed as a World War Two flying ace, despite being a double amputee.

Douglas Bader joined the RAF in 1928 and in 1931 he lost both legs after attempting some daredevil aerobatics. Bader almost died, nevertheless he survived and went on to retake his flight training. But it was only when war declared in 1939 that Bader was accepted as a pilot.

He went on to score victories over Dunkirk and then took part in the Battle of Britain. Then in 1941 he had to bale out over France and was captured. He was eventually sent to the prisoner of war camp in Colditz Castle (the subject of another great classic film!).

Having survived the war he went on to fly until ill health finally forced him to stop in 1979. Quite a man!

As I was reading a little more about Bader’s life I was fascinated to learn that in 1941 he was stationed in RAF Tangmere, near Chichester in West Sussex, acting as wing leader for a team of Spitfires. My interest was piqued because Tangmere is the setting for part of my Sussex Crime novel, Lost Property.

So, as we see the last of these short days pass by, why not snuggle up with a good book, followed by a couple of classic films!

Published by Isabella Muir

Isabella is passionate about exploring family life from the 1930s through to the 1960s and beyond. She has published six Sussex Crime mystery novels set during the 1960s and 1970s, a standalone novel dealing with the child migrant policy of the 1950s and 60s, several novellas set during the Second World War, and two short story collections. All available in paperback from your local bookshops, or online as ebooks. Her novels are also available as audiobooks, and have been translated into Italian.

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