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Best Foot Forward (Hardback)

The Autobiography of the RAF's Other Legless Fighter Pilot

WWII Aviation All Frontline Books World War Two Aviation Frontline: Aviation

By Colin Hodgkinson
Frontline Books
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781473897625
Published: 30th April 2017


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In the whole of the Second World War, only two men succeeded as operational fighter pilots in the RAF after losing both legs. Douglas Bader was one, and his story is well-known indeed, he has been described as one of the Royal Air Forces most famous pilots. The other was Colin Hodgkinson.

Colin was injured in a flying accident whilst training with the Fleet Air Arm in 1939. He awoke in hospital to find that his right leg had been amputated at the thigh, whilst his left leg was severely injured. His face was also damaged and he had trouble with the sight in one eye. In the weeks that followed, Colins remaining leg refused to heal. Coolly, calculatingly, he made his decision: Chop the damned thing off and lets be done with it.

Just nineteen at the time, Colin developed a burning determination to prove himself a normal man by becoming a fighter pilot and flying Spitfires. With Douglas Bader as his example, and brilliant surgeons such as Sir Archibald McIndoe treating him, Colin achieved his aim with a hand-tailored pair of tin legs. He proved himself as a fighter pilot many times over, until the war ended, for him at least, as a German prisoner of war.

Although repatriated in 1944 as unfit for further duty, Colin not only continued to fly with the RAF until he left the service in 1946, but also went on to fly jet fighters with the Auxiliary Air Force from 1947 to 1952. His is undoubtedly a story of courage and determination one in which he had learnt to always stride out into the future, putting his best foot forward.

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About Colin Hodgkinson

Born in Wells, Somerset, in 1920, Colin Gerald Shaw Hodgkinson was accepted for pilot training in the Fleet Air Arm in 1938. A crash in May 1939 resulted in both of his legs being amputated. Treated by Archibald McIndoe, leading to his membership of the Guinea Pig Club, Colin was determined to fly again. He left the Navy in 1942 and joined the RAF as a Pilot Officer. By March 1943 he was a Flying Officer with 611 Squadron, later joining 501 Squadron as a flight commander. Following a remarkable wartime career as a fighter pilot, Colin achieved post-war success in the competitive world of advertising and public relations, even being the star of an episode of the BBCs This is Your Life which was broadcast live on 7 October 1957. He passed away on 13 September 1996.

Perfect Partner

Bader’s Last Fight An In-Depth Investigation of a Great WWII Mystery (Paperback)

On 9 August 1941, one of the greatest icons of the Second World War, Douglas Bader, was shot down, captured and later incarcerated. But by whom, and how? Was it by one of his deadly German opponents, as Douglas Bader himself maintained, or was it by one of his own side? There has been much debate and controversy among historians and in 2003 the author of this book revealed for the first time that Bader may have been victim to friendly fire. That revelation was followed by interest in the national press and later by a TV documentary screened on Channel 4 in August 2006. In the book aviation historian…

By Andy Saunders

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