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How a Pilot Survived a 6,000 Meter Fall During World War II

Updated on December 29, 2017
Anita Hasch profile image

I live on a homestead in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Writing and reading are my passion.


Plane Is Hit

On the night of March 24, 1944, Nicholas Alkemade 21, was a crew member in a plane flying to Berlin. The Lancaster plane was in a convoy. Their mission was to bomb Berlin. Plane after plane made the bombing run, causing fireworks below. After releasing their own bomb they headed for home.

Suddenly a series of crashes slammed into their plane. Two cannon shells exploded on his turret ring mounting and the plexiglass blister vanished. As Nicholas looked out he saw the outline of a Junkers 88 fighter. Returning fire he hit the Junker fighter, smashing the port engine.

He Knew The Plane Could Explode Soon

He turned and opening the fuselage door stared for a terrifying moment as the flames swept towards him. As he had to get hold of his parachute he tried again to reach it, but it was too late. The silk of the parachute had sprung out and was burning.

Nicholas realized that the plane could explode at any time. His face and hands were already seared by the flames. The decision on whether he should stay in the aircraft and burn to death or jump out of the plane to a quick death, only took a second. He flipped the doors open, and somersaulted backwards into space. He felt as if he was going down on a cloud. There was no sensation of falling. And then he blacked out.


He Survives A 6,000 Meter Fall Without A Parachute

Hours later Nicholas woke up with a piercing pain in his back, he found himself lying in deep underbrush and snow. It was freezing cold. Realizing that by some miracle he was still alive, he gave a prayer of thankfulness.

His boots were gone but he felt that the whistle attached to his collar was still there. The whistle was given to crew members that in case of ditching at sea, they could keep in contact with each other.

He blew the whistle every few minutes and thought to himself that in the condition that he was in he would be glad to be a prison of war. Eventually he saw flashlights coming closer.

When the men saw that he was injured, they placed Nicholas on a tarpaulin and dragged him to a cottage close by. He ate while waiting for somebody to take him to the hospital. Two men arrived in a car and dragged him to the car with no thought to his injuries.

Treatment At A Hospital

At the hospital he had plexiglass fragments removed from his body and treatment given to his injuries. He had a twisted right knee, burnt legs, a wound in his thigh, strained back, slight concussion and a deep scalp wound. Although installed in a clean bed Nicholas was not allowed to sleep. A high ranking Officer in a Wehrmacht uniform came in with an interpreter and bombarded him with questions.

He demanded to know which targets they attacked, where he hid his parachute, his name rank and number. When he said that he had not used a parachute. The Officer was furious and stormed out. The interrogation continued for three days. The same questions asked over and over again. They did not believe his story of jumping out of the plane without a parachute. When his wounds were healed after three weeks he was send to Dulag Luft near Frankfurt.

When he was taken to the Kommandant of Dulag Luft, he had finally thought of an explanation that could prove that he was telling the truth. When the Kommandant started to ridicule his escape from the plane and falling 6,000 meters without a parachute, he answered that he could prove it.

The Wrecked Lancaster Is Found

He told the Kommandant to check the remnants of his parachute pack in the burnt wreck of the Lancaster bomber. If the parachute was examined he could confirm that it had never been used. The Lieutenant returned with the harness and it was inspected excitedly. The snap hooks were still in their clips and the lift webs still fastened on the chest straps. The Kommandant took this all in, then kept on saying, what a miracle it was. Finally he offered his hand to Nicholas and congratulated him on the miracle of having survived the fall.

The next morning he was taken to the Kommandant’s office again. The D handle of his parachute ripcord and a piece of the ripcord itself lay on his desk. The wrecked plane had been found 20 kilometers from the place where he had fallen. Four crew members bodies were found in the wreck. The other two crew members had managed to escape.

His Miracle Survival Was Recorded

The following day Nicholas was marched into the presence of 200 Allied flyer prisoners. The Luftwafle officer then told the amazing story of his survival. He was surrounded by all the different nationalities of pilot’s as they stormed forward to congratulate him. He was also given a signed paper that told his story and was witnessed by two senior NCO's

RAF Intelligence checked the records after liberation in May 1945. The report of his miracle survival was included in the official records of the Royal Air Force.

Images provided by Pixabay.

© 2017 Anita Hasch


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    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 7 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thanks for reading. These stories of survival from crashed planes amaze me. I had no idea that anybody could survive under these conditions. Imagine falling that far and surviving with no serious injuries. I can just believe that it was define intervention.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What an interesting story! Thanks for sharing it, Anita.