Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 11:35 UK

Blue plaque for war hero Bader

Sir Richard Branson unveils the blue plaque - courtesy of Imperial War Museum and RAF Museum

Wartime hero and double amputee Sir Douglas Bader has been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque.

Sir Douglas played a key role as a pilot during the Battle of Britain in World War II despite losing both legs in a flying accident in 1931.

Subsequently, he raised money for disabled people and worked to change attitudes towards amputees.

The plaque was unveiled on Sunday at the pilot's former home in Petersham Mews, Kensington, west London.

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, a Bader family friend, attended the ceremony.

Sir Douglas lost his legs after an accident at Woodley airfield, Reading, in December 1931, while flying with the aerobatics team in a Bristol Bulldog.

He defied doctor's expectations by walking again using artificial legs and resumed his flying career in WWII.

His whole story was real Boy's Own hero stuff, and I think Britain needs more heroes
Sir Richard Branson

Having shot down 23 enemy aircraft, Sir Douglas was captured by the Nazis in August 1941. He remained at the prison camp in Colditz until 1945.

Sir Douglas died in 1982, aged 72.

Following his death, friends and family set up the Douglas Bader Foundation to carry on his charitable work.

His son-in-law, David Bickers, who is chairman of the Douglas Bader Foundation, said his relative was an inspiration.

"He overcame his disability and even now when you see disabled people coming back from war, doing the marathon, doing some extraordinary activities, I feel pretty sure that somewhere in their backgrounds the name Douglas Bader is something where there's a referral point - he did it and we wish to continue that."

Mr Branson said: "I was very fortunate to have known Douglas Bader as a child since my Aunt Clare was perhaps his best friend.

Blue plaque
Sir Douglas claimed numerous wartime honours

"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 the Nazis finally confiscated his legs."

Mr Branson told the BBC that as a "nasty little boy" he would run off with Sir Douglas's legs, requiring the airman to come "on his hands, screaming after me".

Mr Branson also he could not think of anyone he knew who was more deserving of a having a blue plaque erected.

"His whole story was real Boy's Own hero stuff, and I think Britain needs more heroes," he said.

"I was very privileged to get to know him, and always had enormous admiration for what he'd achieved, and was very fortunate to be able to know him as a friend."

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