39. The Indestructible Alkemade
It’s not the falling from high up that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end that does you in. The preceding is a good rule of thumb, but like most rules, it has some exceptions. One such was RAF Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade (1922 – 1987), who on the night of March 24th, 1944, was serving as a rear gunner in an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber.
Part of No. 115 Squadron RAF, Alkemade’s Lancaster was returning from a nighttime bomber raid that had plastered Berlin, when it was attacked by a Ju 88 configured as a night fighter. The attack set Alkemade’s plane aflame, and it began to spiral out of control. Alkemade’s parachute was burned in the fire. With the flames licking towards him, he jumped out of bomber, preferring to die by impact rather than get burned to death. He fell 18,000 feet to the ground, but as seen below, survived.