The airman who fell 18,000 feet without a parachute & lived
WWII flight Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade a fall from 18,000 feet 5,500 m without a parachute suffering only a sprained leg.
On the night of 24 March 1944, 21-year-old Alkemade was one of seven crew members in Avro Lancaster B Mk. II, DS664, of No. 115 Squadron RAF.
Returning from a 300 bomber raid on Berlin, east of Schmallenberg, DS664 was attacked by a German Ju 88 night-fighter, caught fire, and began to spiral out of control. Because his parachute had gone up in flames and thus was unserviceable, Alkemade jumped from the aircraft without it, preferring to die by impact rather than burn to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5,500 m) to the ground below.
His fall was broken by pine trees and a soft snow cover on the ground. He was able to move his arms and legs and suffered only a sprained leg. The Lancaster crashed in flames, killing pilot Jack Newman and three other members of the crew. They are buried in the CWGC’s Hanover War Cemetery.
Alkemade was subsequently captured and interviewed by the Gestapo, who were initially suspicious of his claim to have fallen without a parachute until the wreckage of the aircraft was examined. (Reportedly, the Germans gave Alkemade a certificate testifying to the fact.) He was a celebrated prisoner of war, before being repatriated in May 1945.
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