From The Daily Echo – 13/09/2012
AN EXTRAORDINARY photograph has been uncovered of RAF hero Douglas Bader on Bournemouth beach, the year before he lost his legs.
The photo, taken in the summer of 1930, shows Aileen Grace Wise being held aloft by Bader on the sands.
Aileen was just 17 at the time and the photograph was found by her daughter Diana Ruffell amongst her late mother’s papers.
She said: “I feel that a large part of the significance of the photograph lies in the fact that his legs are still visible.”
At the time the photograph was taken, Bader was 20 and had only just been commissioned into the RAF.
In December 1931, he had both legs amputated after crashing while attempting low-level aerobatics.
He was then incredibly re-commissioned in 1939 and went on to become one of the most revered pilots of the Second World War.
In 1941, he bailed out of his Spitfire over German-occupied France.
He made a number of attempts to escape German captivity and was sent to the notorious Colditz Castle prison camp, where he remained until it was liberated in 1945.
A 1956 film, Reach for the Sky, told the story of his flying career.
Aileen went to Singapore in the early 1930s, where she met and married Diana’s father Forbes Wallace, a commissioner in the Federated Malay States Police Force. When the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941, Aileen and her daughter escaped via Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and were later evacuated to South Africa. Diana’s father fought down the Malayan Peninsula before the Allies capitulated and he spent the rest of the war in Changi POW Camp.