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10 December 1922|
Loughborough, Leicestershire, England
|Died||22 June 1987
Liskeard, Cornwall, England
||Royal Air Force|
|Unit||No. 115 Squadron RAF|
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade (10 December 1922 – 22 June 1987) was a rear gunner in Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster heavy bombers during World War II, who survived—without a parachute—a fall of 18,000 feet (5500 m) when abandoning his out-of-control, burning aircraft over Germany.
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, [Note 1] 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.
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. He died on 22 June 1987.
- Fall survivors
- Ivan Chisov, Soviet Airforce lieutenant who survived falling from his aircraft in 1942
- Alan Magee, American World War II airman who survived a 22,000-foot (6,700 m) fall from his damaged B-17 in 1943
- In April 1944 two crew members of an RAF Lancaster were blown out of their aircraft by an explosion and fell—without a parachute—no less than 1,350-metre (4,430 ft) into soft and deep snow in the Swiss Alps.
- 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
- Vesna Vulović, Serbian flight attendant who survived the 10,000-metre (33,000 ft) mid-air breakup of her aircraft in 1972
- Flown by Hauptmann Gerhard Friedrich, of 1./NJG 6.
- Parachute History Website
- Air Scene UK - An Airman's war
- Video clip of Alkemade recounting the event
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