Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born February 21st, 1910 in St. Johnís Wood, London. His parents were Frederick Robert Bader and Jessie Bader. He had an older brother, Frederick (Derick) who would die in an accident in 1935. Shortly after his birth, Douglas contracted measles from which he recuperated quickly though. A few months after his birth, his parents returned to India where his father was employed as an engineer. As his parents thought the local climate would be unhealthy for Douglas, he was left behind with familiy members on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
At the age of two, his parents had him come to India after all but his stay in this former British colony was of short duration. In 1913, Douglasí father decided to return to England in order to study law. The familiy settled in Kew, a suburb of London. In 1914, Frederick Bader was drafted into the British army. As an officer in the Royal Engineers, he left for France. During World War One he fought on the Western Front. After the war, Major Frederick Bader stayed in France due to his work for the War Damage Commission. He died in 1922 in a hospital in St. Omer of complications of previous injuries from shrapnel he had sustained in Arras in 1917.
People who knew him at that time described his character as lively and impulsive, he could not resist any challenge. Assumably he had a bad childhood. Bader often quarelled with his older brother and his mother often placed him at a disadvantage. During his years at boarding school in Oxford, Douglas displayed a talent for sports. He played rugby and cricket, practised boxing and regularly belonged to the best. He also did well in the rest of the subjects although he never exerted himself overmuch. His school records often stated his results were not bad in themselves but that he would achieve more if he would perform better.
After the death of her husband, Jessie married the priest William Hobbs and the family settled in Sprotborough near Doncashire in Yorkshire. Hobbs never managed to play the role of father to Douglas. His mother showed little interest in raising her son and often shoved him off to family. In 1923, Douglas stayed with his aunt Hazel Bader and her husband Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge, at that time adjutant at the R.A.F. College in Cranwell. Douglas Bader was very much impressed by the cadets whose sportmanlike attitude he admired. From that moment on, he also showed a keen interest in aircraft.
After primary school, Bader attended St. Edwardís School, a boarding school in Oxford, from the fall of 1923 onwards. Here, sports appealed to him very much as well. He played on the rugby and cricketteam of the school and excelled in athletics as well. He had more trouble with the other subjects. He did show interest in Greek, Latin and history and he did rather well in those. He had much trouble with mathematics and did little to earn higher marks in this subject.