Bader, Douglas

Attempts at escape

The first PoW camp where Bader was interned, was Dulag (Durchgangslager or transit camp) Luft in Frankfurt. Despite his handicap, Bader made several attempts at escape. In Frankfurt he participated in digging a tunnel which was to stretch well outside the fence. Before the tunnel was finished though, Bader was transferred to Oflag (Offizierslager, officersícamp) VIb in Warburg. On January 9th, 1942 he made another attempt at escape. The German guards caught him and his fellow escapees even before they had climbed over the fence and Bader was sentenced to ten days of solitary confinement.

In the spring of 1942, Bader was transferred again, this time to Stalag (Stammlager) Luft III in Sagan in Poland nowadays. Here he met his former squadron leader Harry Day again. Bader was determined to escape. Stalag Luft III is known for a number of attempted escapes that took place there during the war, the best known being the Great Escape in March 1944 which was made into a movie. Before he could start something however, he was transferred again, this time to Stalag Luft VIII-B in Lamsdorf in the southwest of Poland. In August 1942, Bader managed to escape from this camp, along with Flight Lieutenant Johnny Palmer and three others. Bader and Palmer succeeded in disguising themselves as regular soldiers and joined an Arbeitskommando that was put to work outside the camp. He hoped to be able to escape from the outer camp in the direction of Poland. The Germans discovered his escape after a few days and five days later, after a massive manhunt, Bader and Palmer were arrested again. The other three did manage to escape though. Allegedly, the camp commander threatened to confiscate Baderís artificial legs to prevent him from escaping again but this threat was not carried through.

After his last attempted escape, Bader was transferred to Oflag IV-c on August 18th, 1942. This was located in a medieval castle named Colditz near Leipzig. This camp was reserved for senior Allied officers who had made numerous attempts at escape or were otherwise a security risk. Among the inmates were British, French, Dutch and Poles. In this camp, Douglas met his old friend Geoffrey Stephenson again. The camp was heavily guarded and because of its location in an old fortress on top of a hill, the Germans assumed that escape was impossible. Yet Oflag IV-c is known for the high number of escapes that took place there of which more than 30 were successful, according to some sources. Douglas Bader himself made no more attempts to escape from the camp. He assumed his legs would prove too much of a handicap.

The living conditions in this camp were rather good, although Bader did suffer from boredom. Bader managed to persuade the leaders of the camp to permit him to take a weekly walk outside the camp under guard to make his stay a little more bearable. The camp was liberated on April 15th, 1945 by the American 1st Army. Douglas Bader was flown from Paris to London in an AVRO Anson. Presumably, he asked Fighter Command HQ for permission to fly a few more combat patrols, either in Europe or in the Far East against the Japanese. His request was rejected though.


Prisoner of War.
A military unit in the Belgian navy usually six to eight small ships operating together under one command. The smallest military unit in the Dutch air force of about 350 men. In most countries is the designation of a military unit thesize of a company. It is either an independent unit, such as a battery, or part of a bigger Calvary unit. In the air force it is the designation of a unit of aircrafts.

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Stalag Luft III

RAF-officers in Colditz. Bader sits in the center of the front row.


Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Wesley Dankers
Published on:
Last edit on:
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