Maj Christopher Draper DSC, Croix de Guerre


photo: 1913, aged 21



b. 15 Apr 1892 in Bebington, Cheshire

WWI pilot known as the 'Mad Major'; he once challenged a colleague to an aerial duel ... with real bullets...

In 1919, "Major Draper's flying on the B.A.T. Bantam is easily one of the greatest attractions of the show ... it can truly be described as thrilling"; the following April, he was reported to be progressing well after his recent serious accident, his fractured ankle being in "splendid position".

Ten years later in September 1931, however, he was caught up in a strange little incident. Having not flown for many years, jobless and absolutely broke, he borrowed £5, hired an aeroplane and flew it twice under Tower Bridge and once under Westminster Bridge. He did this, he said, "to prove that he was still the highly qualified specialist that he used to be". The alderman in charge of the case said he had been intending to fine him £100, but bound him over rather than send him to jail for non-payment; "I am surprised that a man with such qualifications should find it so difficult to get a job".

Actually, the ruse worked and led to him becoming an actor and stunt pilot in several films in the 30s.

Then things got even more curious when his constant criticism of Britain's treatment of its war veterans came to the attention of the Nazi Party, and he was asked to spy for the Germans. He agreed, but also mentioned it to MI6, and spent four years as a double agent until the Germans obviously worked out what was going on and stopped answering his calls.

The pattern repeated itself after WWII - in May 1953, aged 61, having drifted into and out of a number of jobs, he hired an Auster and this time flew under 15 of London's 18 bridges, "for the publicity".

He escaped with a fine this time as well.

The Mad Major published his autobiography in 1962, and died in 1979 in London aged 86.


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