Widow of Doncaster flying ace Douglas Bader dies at 97

Lady Joan Bader (centre) plants a tree in memory of Sir Douglas Bader in Sprotbrough in 2000.
Lady Joan Bader (centre) plants a tree in memory of Sir Douglas Bader in Sprotbrough in 2000.

The widow of famed World War Two flying ace Douglas Bader has died at the age of 97.

Lady Joan Bader passed away peacefully in her sleep before Christmas at the care home where she lived in South Wales.

She had married Battle of Britain hero Sir Douglas in 1973 - his second wife.

She was a former nurse who worked during World War Two and become his second wife after the pilot, who spent his childhood growing up in Doncaster, had been widowed.

Sir Douglas lost both of his legs in an RAF plane crash, while he was performing acrobatic stunts in 1931, but he didn't let it stop him from flying and he rejoined the air force in 1939 to fly with the 19 Squadron's Spitfires.

A message on the Douglas Bader Foundation's Facebook page said: 'We are sad to announce Bader Joan Eileen Lady, OBE passed away peacefully on 18th December Wife of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader.'

She leaves three children, Wendy, Michael and Jane, and grandchildren Charley, Tessa, Adam, Russell, Jeannie, Hattie, Jojo, Robin and great grandchild Luna.

In 1941 Sir Douglas was shot down and captured by the Germans, who treated him with great respect - even allowing the Brits to drop in a new prosthetic leg.

He became such a nuisance for the Germans, who were becoming increasingly annoyed by the number of attempted escapes he made.

Sir Douglas wasn't a free man until the war ended. His bravery was immortalised in the 1956 film Reach for the Sky, starring the late Kenneth More as Sir Douglas.

He died from a heart attack in 1982, aged 72.

Lady Bader gave much of her time to charities, including Guide Dogs for the Blind and Riding for the Disabled and was awarded an OBE for services to disabled people.

Sir Douglas spent his early years groing up at Sprotborough Old Rectory after his widowed mother married the rector and spent his holidays from boarding school there.