Nazi Black Book described as 'extraordinary' by expert

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The Luftwaffe leader, who had himself been a pilot in the First World War, gave the go ahead – in what the Germans codenamed “Operation Leg” – to have the prosthetic parachuted into occupied France. The Nazis offered the RAF “safe passage” for a plane to drop the limb at the town of St Omer near where Bader was imprisoned. The RAF agreed a Blenheim Bomber would deliver the leg – but unknown to the Germans the aircraft was to unload its payload over enemy targets before flying to the agreed rendezvous.

According to research by the National Archives, the Germans suspected nothing of the double cross.

Bader, who lost both legs in a flying accident before the war, was allowed to rejoin the RAF in 1940, flying his Spitfire with two tin limbs.

On August 9, 1941, while flying his Spitfire with 616 Squadron, he got into a dogfight at 30,000ft over the French coast. His plane crashed in flames and he baled out, unstrapping his right leg which was jammed in the cockpit.

Bader requested that the Germans radio England and ask them to send over a new leg.

National Archives head of strategic operations Roger Kershaw explained: “Although his missing right leg was found, it was badly smashed but repaired sufficiently to wear.

“With the permission of Reichs-marschall Goering, the Luftwaffe radioed England for a new leg providing unrestricted access over St Omer.”

A long lost Air Ministry file found in the archives includes a letter to the Ministry from German High Command.

It says: “Bader begs dispatch of new prosthetic as soon as possible. German Command will allow this to be dropped by parachute. Day and exact time of dropping by parachute to be confirmed by radio. Place for dropping by parachute will then be indicated from here.

“The aircraft used for this purpose will be given free passage.”

Mr Kershaw added: “It was sent in a Blenheim on a normal bombing raid on the night of August 19, 1941.

“At 15,000ft, south of St Omer, the leg was dispatched with stump socks, powder, tobacco and chocolate.”

There was also a note attached, saying: “To the German flight commander of the Luftwaffe at St Omer. Please deliver this package for Wing Commander Bader, RAF prisoner of war, containing artificial leg, bandages, socks, straps.”

An RAF report on the mission stated: “The leg for Wing Commander Bader became airborne at 10.51 hours and was last seen floating down gracefully SW of St Omer. At 11.00 hours a ­message was broadcast to the enemy informing him that the leg had just been dropped by parachute. The message was acknowledged.”

Bader escaped from hospital the very same night by knotting bedsheets into a rope. On recapture he was shown into a room by his guards and stunned to find the box with his new leg inside.

After Bader’s fourth attempt to escape he was sent to Colditz where he remained until the end of the war.

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