Sir Douglas Badar: A True British Hero

Douglas Bader was an indomitable and inspiring figure, qualities that the coin design captures with flair and charm.  He is depicted in his flight suit, standing bold and undaunted on the wing of his Hawker Hurricane about to join the dogfight raging behind him.  The RAF’s motto, ‘Per adua ad astra’ (‘through adversity to the stars’) graces the outer ring of the design along with his name. 

Courageous, boundlessly energetic, headstrong and notoriously impatient with authority, Bader was the quintessential British hero of his time.  In 1931 he lost both legs in a plane crash whilst performing a dangerous roll at low altitude.  Determined not to let his injury hold him back he quickly learned to walk using artificial limbs and flew Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain, achieving the fifth highest total of ‘kills’ (22) by an RAF pilot.

Pure Silver and Double Thickness

The Douglas Bader Silver Piedfort Pound is double the thickness of a traditional pound.  These special commemoratives are known as ‘piedfort’ strikes and, as the name suggests, the custom originated in France.  In Britain, their history goes back to Henry VII, when the monarch would order double thickness  coins to be struck as gifts for a select chosen few to demonstrate their immense wealth, power and prestige.

It is particularly fitting that a piedfort coin, the traditional gift of kings, should be used to commemorate one of the true kings of the air, a man who refused to allow two amputated legs to interfere with his duty to protect and defend his country in her hour of greatest need. 

Operation Leg

The coin features a unique privy mark on the obverse alongside the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen.  A small RAF boot appears with the number 242, the number of the squadron that Bader flew with.  Underneath the boot are the initials “OL”, recalling one of the most astonishing missions of the Second World War.

As he was bailing out of his damaged plane over Northern France in August 1941, one of Bader’s artificial legs became jammed in the cockpit.  Fortunately, he was able to detach it and parachute safely to the ground, where he was promptly arrested transferred to a prisoner of war camp.  His German captors quickly realized how difficult life would be for a double amputee with only one prosthetic limb.  They notified the British of Bader’s predicament and granted safe passage for the RAF to drop a new tin leg over the Luftwaffe base at St Omer.  After Bader’s multiple escape attempts it is highly likely that the Germans came to regret their act of kindness.  Bader was warned that his legs would be taken from him if he continued to try to escape.   He continued to do so regardless.

With stories like these, it is hardly surprising that Bader’s daring exploits were immortalized in the movie ‘Reach for the Sky’. Starring Kenneth More as Bader, the film was a success on both sides of the Atlantic and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film of 1956.

Specifications
Metal:
Pure Silver
Quality:
Proof
Weight:
19grams
Diameter:
22.50mm
Issuing Authority:
Gibraltar
Denomination:
£1
Year of issue:
2017
Mintage limit:
499