Nicholas Alkemade

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Nicholas Alkemade
Nicholas Alkemade.jpg
Birth nameNicholas Stephen Alkemade
Born(1922-12-10)10 December 1922
North Walsham, Norfolk, England
Died22 June 1987(1987-06-22) (aged 64)
Liskeard, Cornwall, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
RankFlight Sergeant
UnitNo. 115 Squadron RAF
WarsSecond World War

Nicholas Stephen Alkemade (10 December 1922 – 22 June 1987) was a British tail gunner in the Royal Air Force during World War II who survived a freefall of 18,000 feet (5,490 m) without a parachute after abandoning his out-of-control, burning Avro Lancaster heavy bomber over Germany.

War service[edit]

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.[1] Returning from a 300-bomber-raid on Berlin, east of Schmallenberg, DS664 was attacked by a German Junkers Ju 88 night-fighter—flown by Hauptmann Heinz Rökker of Nachtjagdgeschwader 2,[2] caught fire and began to spiral out of control. Because his parachute had caught fire and was unserviceable, Alkemade jumped from the aircraft without it, preferring to die on impact rather than burn to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5,490 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 bursting into flames, killing pilot Jack Newman and three other members of the crew. They are buried in the 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.[3] This was until the wreckage of the aircraft was examined and his parachute was found as Alkemade had described it.[4] The Germans gave Alkemade a certificate testifying to the fact.[2] He was a celebrated prisoner of war, before being repatriated in May 1945.

Later life[edit]

Alkemade worked in the chemical industry after the war. He appeared on the ITV series Just Amazing!, a programme where former motorcycle racer Barry Sheene interviewed people who had, through accident or design, achieved feats of daring and survival.

Alkemade died on 22 June 1987 in Liskeard, Cornwall aged 64.

In January 2020, 115 Squadron at RAF Wittering voted to rename a building as "The Alkemade Building" in honour of his achievements in the RAF during World War 2.[5]

See also[edit]

Fall survivors
  • Ivan Chisov, Soviet airforce lieutenant who survived falling from his aircraft in 1942
  • Juliane Koepcke, German teenager who survived a 3,000-metre (9,800 ft) fall after her flight broke up over the Peruvian Amazon in 1971
  • Alan Magee, American airman who survived a 22,000-foot (6,700 m) fall from his damaged B-17 in 1943
  • Vesna Vulović, Serbian flight attendant who survived the 10,000-metre (33,000 ft) mid-air breakup of her aircraft in 1972


  1. ^ "Record for Lancaster DS664". Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b Revell, Guy (24 December 2014). "The Indestructible Alkemade". Royal Air Force Museum. Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  3. ^ Hemmings, Jay (7 March 2019). "The Airman Who Fell 18,000 Feet Without A Parachute & Lived". WAR HISTORY ONLINE. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  4. ^ Smith, Daniel (25 November 2013). "Amazing story of the wartime RAF gunner who fell 18,000 feet and survived". LeicestershireLive. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  5. ^ "RAF Wittering re-names building after a 'lucky' man". Stamford Mercury. 29 January 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2022.

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