At 21, his legs were amputated after an airplane crash.
When the war broke out, he was the first known case of a legless pilot returning to the cockpit. He managed to score 22 victories with his Supermarine Spitfire before crashing down behind enemy lines. After several escape attempts, he was transferred to the Colditz Castle, a special prison for notorious escapists. He survived everything and after the war became one of the enduring symbols of an unbroken English spirit during the Battle of Britain.