Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Reach for the Sky

When Fantasy Bob was growing up - a phrase which implies that he may now have grown up, which is open to doubt. But certainly when FB was younger than he is now, the BBC seemed to have a library totalling 3 films which is used to show with commendable regularity on high days and holidays. One of those was Reach for the Sky, which starred Kenneth More and told the tale of air ace Sir Douglas Bader CBE, DSO & Bar,DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL and his determined response to losing his legs in a flying accident before the 2nd World War. The film showed how he mastered walking with artificial legs to the extent that he returned to active and heroic service in 1939.

The BBC's film library was all like that - full of stuff showing typical British pluck, indomitable spirit and stiff upper lipness and a distinct absence of bad language even under the most adverse of situation.
FB mentions this because 21 February is the birthday of Douglas Bader, who was born in 1910 and died in 1982.  Reach for the Sky may be accurate in many ways, it may be fictional in others (in particular the amiable and polite Kenneth More was nothing like the headstrong Bader in real life who used bad language with the enthusiasm of a contemporary comedian).  What the film does not show is Bader's cricket career.

As a schoolboy and young officer, Bader was an outstanding sportsman.  Although his preference seems to have been rugby, and he may well have been capped had his accident not ensued, he was a talented cricketer.  He played for the RAF in their match against the Army at the Oval in 1931, which had first class status, and so makes it to Wisden.  He scored 65 and 1.

Bader also played cricket in a German prisoner of war camp - despite his disability.  He had been shot down over France in 1941.  It is not known whether such close up experience of cricket had a significant impact on German morale.  FB would like to think cricket's contribution to the defeat of Nazism was important.  Bader certainly would have supported this - as a prisoner he was determined to make life difficult for his captors and was a serial escapee to the extent that the camp officers threatened to take his legs away.  Instead he was confined to the escape-proof Colditz - where there was no cricket pitch.  No wonder he wanted to escape.

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