Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Christopher Draper was born at Bebington in England in 1892. After obtaining Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate #646 in October 1913, Draper joined the Royal Naval Air Service in January 1914. In 1916 he was posted to 3 Naval wing where, flying the Sopwith 1½ Strutter, he scored his first four victories. He later flew the Sopwith Camel, first with 6 Naval Squadron then with 8 Naval Squadron, in which he scored five more victories.
At the end of October 1917 Draper became commanding officer of 8 Naval Squadron. On April 1 1918, 8 Naval Squadron became 208 Squadron RAF when the RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps merged to become the Royal Air Force. Draper was notorious for refusing to wear the new blue RAF uniforms preferring his Naval blacks.
One morning while flying towards the front lines Draper accidentally flew under a bridge while in full view of a large body of troops. The troops cheered so heartily that Draper repeated the stunt wherever possible. This earned him his nickname The Mad Major. (In its early days the RAF used Army ranks.)
After the war, Draper left the RAF but he continued to fly as a stunt pilot at air shows and in motion pictures. In April 1919 he was the pilot for the first flight of the British Aerial Transport Company 's F.K.26. This was the first plane specifically designed to carry passengers.
In 1930, as a protest over the way the government had treated war veterans, he set out to fly under all 14 of London's bridges over the River Thames. Due to bad weather on the day he only managed to fly under two of the bridges. This was captured on film and brought "The Mad Major" a degree of fame.
In 1932 Draper was invited to participate in an "Aces of the Air Tour" of Germany. Aces from many nations participated. In addition to meeting various German aces, he was introduced to Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
As a result of this meeting and of Draper's longstanding criticsm of the British Government's treatment of veterans, he was listed by the Nazi Party as a potential sympathiser. After his return to England he was contacted and asked to spy for the Germans. He agreed and then immediately contacted MI6. They decided to use him as a double agent to feed false information to the Nazis. This situation continued for about four years until the Germans stopped answering Draper's communications.
Draper's work as a stunt pilot in films lead him into acting. He starred in many theatrical productions and several films. He played a pilot in 1935's King of the Damned.
After the war Draper was once again upset at the govenment's treatment of veterans. In 1953 he again protested by flying under the Thames bridges. This time he flew under 15 of the 18 bridges but was arrested and charged with flying too low in an urban area. He was fined ten guineas.
His memoirs The Mad Major were published by Aero Publishers in 1962.
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