years ago a film company was researching for a film about Douglas
Bader, the famous Second World War fighter pilot. Agents were sent
to Australia to find the man who saved Bader's life in an air
crash in 1931. After interviewing several Cruttenden families and
one or two Jack Cruttenden they did not find the elusive saviour. To
quote from 'Reach for the Sky', Paul Brickhill, Collins,
The crash 1931. Bader's shoes can be seen in the right foreground.
A big ruddy faced young man stood there instead of the man in the
white coat, and leaned in and started undoing his harness, saying
things in a gentle voice. He let him go ahead, and then became
unconscious for a while.
Jack Cruttenden, the big man, an
Australian student pilot at the club, found he could not lift
Bader out of the crushed cockpit. He started tearing bits of the
wreckage and other men did the same. Someone brought a hacksaw and
cut away a twisted centre-section strut. Bader partly came to and
sensed more than knew that Cruttenden was gently lifting him out.
Consciousness was lapping and
receding in waves. He was lying on the grass. Someone was taking
his shoes off. Cruttenden's hands were doing something to his
right knee: they felt very strong and were covered in blood. He
felt no pain. A little to one side two white doors with red
crosses opened and the crosses went out of sight. He supposed it
was an ambulance.
Then he was lying on a stretcher
and men were bent over his legs. He tried to sit up but could not
get very far and watched the men with detached interest. The legs
of his overalls and trousers had
gone somewhere, and Cruttenden's
fingers seemed to be in his right knee
(holding the femoral artery). After a few moments he got bored
with watching. He could feel the ambulance was moving and wanted
to see what was happening outside. He said to Cruttenden:
"Look, I think I'll get up now. I want to get out of
He started struggling up on his elbows and Cruttenden said:
"Take it easy. Won't be long now."
Bader said petulantly: " Oh, to hell with this. I want to get
out now. This is damn silly."
He tried to struggle up again, and Cruttenden took one hand from
the knee and pressed it gently against his chest to hold him down.
Being held down by a stranger was irritating. He twisted a
shoulder off the stretcher, hooked his right fist up and hit
Cruttenden on the chin. He felt he could not hit very hard lying
Cruttenden, looking at him with a pacifying grin said: "Ease
it up mate."
Having hit him, Bader felt suddenly feeble and foolish. But honour
was satisfied - he'd made the gesture - and anyway he'd completely
lost interest in getting up now. He lay back and did not remember
The ambulance weaved swiftly through the Reading traffic, swung
into Redlands Road and stopped in front of the Casualty door of
the Royal Berkshire Hospital. …
Bader's Log Book (now at the RAF
Museum, Hendon) records that he was flying a Bulldog serial K1676
from Kenley X-country to Reading at 1.05 pm. Bader then notes.
'Crashed slow rolling near ground. Bad show'.
A little research in the Reading
local paper would have revealed:
The Reading Standard - Saturday,
December 19, 1931
AIR CRASH AT WOODLEY
Plane Smashed and Pilot Seriously Injured
WELL-KNOWN RUGBY PLAYER'S LEG AMPUTATED
A Royal Air Force single-seater aeroplane was smashed and its
pilot seriously injured when it crashed at Woodley Aerodrome on
Monday morning. The pilot was Pilot Officer D.R.S. Bader the
well-known Rugby footballer, and he was taken to the Royal
Berkshire Hospital with multiple internal and other injuries. It
was found necessary to amputate his right leg, and he is in a
"SLOW ROLL" AT LOW ALTITUDE
Eye-witnesses state that the aeroplane belonging to the 23rd
Fighter Squadron at Kenley, was doing a "slow--roll" at
a low altitude when it nose-dived to the ground. That he escaped
alive is regarded as remarkable.
Pilot G.J.W. [sic] Cruttenden, who pulled Bader out of his
machine, said he was badly injured but conscious. "I was
standing on the aerodrome," he said "and saw Bader
attempt a 'slow-roll' at an impossible height - as low as 120
feet. I dashed towards the circling machine, for I knew he must
crash. His machine nose-dived to the ground, which it struck with
Mr P.W. Adams, secretary of the Harlequins told a reporter that
Bader had played for the Harlequins for two years. "He was a
fine player and one of the most popular members of the team. I
think his game at Teddington on Saturday against Old Merchant
Taylors was the best of his career. He played magnificently. He is
keenly interested in sport generally and has played cricket as
well as football. He represented the R.A.F. at cricket on many
occasions. He seems to have a genius for everything he takes up.
He is one of the most brilliant officers in the R.A.F., and I have
heard him described as the finest stunt pilot in the service. It
is a tragedy that he should have lost a leg. It means that one of
the best Rugby players we have is out of the game."
PROMISING RUGBY PLAYER
Mr Howard Marshall, in the "Daily Telegraph" writes -
"Bader was one of the most promising of the younger players
and he had represented the Combined Services, the R.A.F., and the
Harlequins in the centre and stand-off half. Strong running and
speed off the mark were his particular assets and I remember
particularly a brilliant break through last year which started a
scoring movement and turned the tide for the Air Force against the
Army. It was obvious that a new and potentially great stand-off
half had arrived."
On Friday morning it was stated that Pilot Officer Bader showed
some improvement although his condition was still critical.