Nicholas Alkemade

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Nicholas Stephen Alkemade
Born 10 December 1922
Loughborough, Leicestershire, England
Died 22 June 1987 (age 64)
Liskeard, Cornwall, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Rank Flight Sergeant
Unit No. 115 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars Second World War

Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade (1922–1987) 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 (5,500 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,[1] 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, flown by Hauptmann Gerhard Friedrich, 1./NJG 6, caught fire and began to spiral out of control. Because his 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 (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. He was a celebrated prisoner of war, before being repatriated in May 1945. (Reportedly, the Germans gave Alkemade a certificate testifying to the fact.)[2]

Alkemade worked in the chemical industry after the war and died on 22 June 1987.

See also

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
  • Vesna Vulović, Serbian flight attendant who survived the mid-air breakup of her aircraft in 1972
  • Juliane Koepcke German teenager who survived a 3,000-metre (9,800 ft) fall after her flight broke up over the Peruvian Amazon
  • 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.[3]


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