The story of Virgin and it’s founder is inextricably linked to the world of flight. Whether it be spaceships, aeroplanes or hot-air balloons – the sky has never been the limit.
Richard Branson has always been passionate about getting people in the air – a passion that began manifesting itself in his early years, thanks in part to one of the Royal Air Force’s most famous pilots, Sir Douglas Bader.
Commissioned in 1930 as a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer, Douglas Bader was involved in a devastating plane crash, which left him a double amputee. Bader was soon discharged from the RAF, but would return after the outbreak of the Second World War as a squadron leader. He quickly became a house-hold name and a symbol of courage, hope and British resistance.
Throughout his time with the RAF Bader was captured on several occasions. Despite the loss of both his legs he made several daring escape attempts and as a result was repeatedly moved from one risoner of war camp to another, ultimately ending up in the notorious Colditz Castle until he was finally set free after four years of captivity. His life was later immortalised by Kenneth Moore’s Portrayal of him in the classic movie ‘Reach For The Sky’ and his position as a Great British hero. Bader had become an inspiration to disabled and able-bodied people alike, demonstrating an ability to stay driven, face challenges and ‘get on with your life’.
“I was very fortunate to have known Douglas Bader as a child, since my Aunt Clare was perhaps his best friend,” said Richard Branson. “He used to sit on the lawn and tell us stories of how he’d escaped on so many occasions from prisoner of war camps in Germany until they finally confiscated his legs. Being a seven-year-old ‘Nasty’ myself, I used to run off with his legs to hide them only to find out that he could use his arms just as well as his legs and I never got far! His spirit of adventure had an enormous influence in my life as he had on millions of others. He literally reached for the sky.”