Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade, born 10 December 1922 in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England, 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, 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 , 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. When he came to his senses and saw stars overhead, he lit a cigarette.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.)
Nicholas Alkemade worked in the chemical industry after the war and died on 22 June 1987, age 64 in Liskeard, Cornwall, England