Bailing Out at 18,000 Feet with no Parachute

Bailing out at 18,000 feet with no parachute...

24 March 1944, 21-year-old Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade (1922–1987) was a rear gunner in Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster. 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 Luftwaffe Ju 88 night-fighter, caught fire and began to spiral out of control. Because his fire damaged parachute was unserviceable, Alkemade jumped from the aircraft without one, preferring to die by impact rather than burn to death. He fell 18,000 feet 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.

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.
Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade remained a Prisoner of War, before being repatriated in May 1945.


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