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Sergeant Nick Alkemade fell three miles to earth without a parachute

Posted in Bravery, Disasters, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Thursday, 10 May 2012

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This edited article about the Second World War originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 703 published on 5 July 1975.

Nick Alkemade, picture, image, illustration

Nick Alkemade reached for the rip cord and pulled it right away, a charred thread with no effect whatsoever

Behind him was his plane, turned into a ball of fire and smoke after an enemy attack. Below him, well over three miles away, was the ground. And nothing but clouds stood between I. M. Chisov of the U.S.S.R. and what seemed like a swift end on the mountains.

Chisov had fallen from his plane, an Ilyushin 4, before he had had time to strap on his parachute harness in January, 1942, during the Second World War.

Falling at a speed which could have been anything between a hundred and a hundred and eighty miles an hour, Chisov plunged towards the peaks. Bouncing off the edge of a snow-covered ravine, he slid to the bottom, shattering his spine and fracturing his pelvis or hip bone.

But he was alive after a fall of 21,980 ft. (6,700 metres), having made the longest descent without a parachute on record.

Few men can know the fears of such an experience. But one who did share them was Sergeant Nick Alkemade of the R.A.F. who jumped from his blazing bomber over Germany during a war-time raid. When Alkemade pulled the rip cord of his parachute, he found that it had been reduced to ashes by the fire.

He fell from 20,000 ft. (6,096 metres) and landed in a deep drift of snow on the edge of a pine forest some miles outside Berlin.

His only injuries were a broken wrist and leg. He was captured by the Germans, who at first refused to believe his story until he showed them the charred remains of his parachute.

Before he was sent to a prisoner of war camp, Alkemade was given a signed and witnessed document testifying that he had fallen without a parachute from a height of over three miles.

“Without that,” they told him. “No one will believe your story after the war.”

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