Reach for the Sky

Date: 1956
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Production Company: The Rank Organisation, Angel Productions

Stars: Kenneth More, Muriel Pavlow, Lyndon Brook, Lee Patterson, Alexander Knox
Location(s): Buckinghamshire, London, Middlesex, Surrey

Region(s): ,

Storyline:

Airman Douglas Bader loses his legs in a 1931 flying accident and rejoins the RAF to become a successful fighter pilot and Wing Commander.

Additional Information:

Screen captures uploaded by Phil Wilkinson  

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Arriving to join the Air Force as a cadet, Douglas Bader rides up to the gatehouse of the RAF's college at Cranwell.

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Douglas rides away after being directed to the cadet's mess.

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On the parade ground where Douglas meets Johnny Sanderson (Lyndon Brook), the new recruits endure their first inspection by Flight Sergeant Mills (Eddie Byrne).

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After training is completed, new recruits wait outside Air Vice-Marshal Halahan's office as, inside, Bader is reprimanded for his disregard for discipline.

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Bader and Sanderson are posted to RAF Kenley. The Station HQ and parade ground at RAF Kenley in Surrey. Bill Martin tells us that "in the late 1980s I worked for a short time in the dance hall at Kenley Officer's Mess where the dance sequence was filmed. The minstrel's gallery was still in place at the time and the hall was used as a marine radio testing laboratory. Sadly it all burnt down around 2016."

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Continuing to excel at flying and sports, Douglas is chosen to take part in an aerial exhibition. The former RAF base located between Caterham and Kenley is now known as Kenley Aerodrome.

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At Reading Aero Club, Douglas is taunted by civilian members until he takes to the sky to show off his flying skills. Denham Aerodrome located by Paul Atkinsom.

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As the club members look on, the young airman performs low level aerobatics before crashing. Paul Atkinsom advises that the house to the left gives this away as Denham Aerodrome near Gerrard's Cross in Buckinghamshire.

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Douglas recovers in hospital after surgeon Mr. J. Leonard Joyce amputates first his right leg, then part of his left. The Royal Berkshire Hospital seen from from London Road in Reading.

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With Mr. Joyce and Matron watching, Douglas leaves the hospital.

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Douglas arrives at RAF Uxbridge to convalesce where he meets other injured airmen including Streatfield and Peel. This looks very much like the parade ground at RAF Uxbridge with the spire of St Andrew's Church to the right of centre.

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Peel takes Douglas and Streatfield for a drive into the countryside. This appears to be the entrance of RAF Uxbridge to the north of Manor Way on the opposite side of Hillingdon Road, Uxbridge in Middlesex.

After a short distance Douglas takes over driving the Bentley, using the hand throttle and his peg leg on the clutch. Sarah Reed identifies this as opposite The Green on Bradenham Wood Lane in Bradenham, Buckinghamshire.

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Peter W provides this closer view of the cottages.

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When they stop for tea, Douglas meets waitress Thelma Edwards. The Pantiles Tea Rooms on London Road in Bagshot, Surrey. The building ended up as a night club before closing in 2007 to be demolished soon after.

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At the Ministry of Pensions Hospital at Roehampton, Douglas has tin legs fitted and within three weeks is able to walk without the aid of a stick. Queen Mary's Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital on Roehampton Lane in London SW15.

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In his new car, Douglas sets off from Uxbridge to court Thelma.

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Douglas drives through the gates of RAF Kenley where his old pal Flight Lieutenant Harry Day accompanies him into the sky in an Avro training aeroplane. The gateway to RAF Kenley on Salmons Lane West in Kenley near Caterham. The road ahead is now called Victor Beamish Avenue.

After failing his medical, Douglas tells Thelma that he's been grounded. The bridge over St. James's Park Lake in London SW1. Also seen in 'Britannia Mews'.

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Peter captured the replacement bridge, with Buckingham Palace hiding behind the trees.

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Even though Bader proves that he can still fly, he is grounded because there are no regulations to cover his case. The Station HQ and parade ground at RAF Kenley. The base was operational between 1917 and 1959.

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Preferring to quit rather than take a ground job, Douglas leaves Kenley and the RAF to take up civilian work.

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In his MG M-Type Midget, Douglas drives through the gates of RAF Kenley. Looking onto Salmons Lane West from the gateway of the base near Caterham in Surrey.

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On a rainy day, Douglas leaves the Registry Office with his new wife, Thelma Bader (Muriel Pavlow).

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Following his acceptance back into the RAF prior to war starting, Douglas rises through the ranks to take over command of 242 squadron in Norfolk.

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Initially meeting resistance from the men who have suffered losses in France, the new Commanding Officer ensures that his squadron gets the tools and equipment that it needs.

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Douglas asks Warrant Officer West (Michael Ripper) to make repairs after receiving a few bullet holes during a battle.

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After the Battle of Britain, Bader is promoted and sent to RAF Tangmere as Acting Wing Commander.

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Group Captain Alfred 'Woody' Woodhall (Howard Marion-Crawford) welcomes his friend to the base.

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At home, Thelma learns that her husband has been shot down over France and captured.

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After escaping from the hospital where he's being held, Douglas makes his way into a nearby village where he is met by Gilbert De Glacerer of the resistance. Robin Brooks points out that this same location, Church Street, Twickenham is also seen in 'Dunkirk'. (RL)

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The two men hide from the occupying troops as they march along the street. Robin Brooks again points out that this same location appears in 'Dunkirk'. (RL)

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De Glacerer leads Douglas on their 3km walk to a safe house.

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Following a grueling walk, Douglas is carried the last few yards into a canal-side cottage. Cowley Lock near Uxbridge in Middlesex where Fray's River passes beneath the Grand Junction Canal.

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Antony Blair returned to the location.

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The following morning, soldiers arrive and discover Douglas in an outbuilding. Looking along the Grand Union Canal from Cowley Lock towards Iver Lane, Cowley near Uxbridge with the Malt Shovel public house in the centre distance.

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Antony Blair provides this shot of the same location.

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The householders are lead away as Douglas tells his captors that they didn't know he was there. Alongside the Grand Union Canal off Iver Lane, Cowley near Uxbridge, Middlesex.

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Douglas Bader shows defiance towards the enemy when they move him from prison camp to prison camp after several escape attempts.

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