Maybe it's you've dreamt once you fell from a great height and woke up startled remembering the feeling of emptiness under your body united with speed and anguish at something irremediable. If you've had that nightmare, you can imagine even remotely what the anguish of falling from thousands of feet must be like. Come with us to know l he story of Nicholas Alkemade, the aviation sergeant who survived a 6,000-meter drop.
It is not the first time that in Supercurioso we have approached a story of survival in the face of such a fall. If you want to know two other cases that can also be called "authentic miracles" we invite you to find out what happened to them. You see Vulovic the stewardess who survived a fall of... 10,000 meters? and Joan Murray who survived a fall of 4000 meters .
The Story of Nicholas Alkemade
After the First World War, the powers went to great lengths to improve their aviation and designed planes that were much more technologically advanced, much lighter and with improved aerodynamic resistance. Both the German Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force (RAF) The British supported their armies with their bombs since the beginning of the war in 1939.
Nicholas Alkemade was a 21-year-old British sergeant, born in North Walsham, Norfolk, who on the night of 23-24 March 1944 was travelling aboard an Avro Lancaster bomber called "Werewolf" in which his function was that of tail gunner. Returning from bombing Berlin along with 300 other Royal Air Force bombers, when they were flying over the Ruhr area back to their base, they were attacked by Junkers Ju 88 fighters of the Luftwaffe. Alkemade's plane was damaged by enemy fire. in such a way that it caught fire and got out of control. The plane was rushing to land and the pilot ordered his men to parachute. Alkemande, who was in the turret, was not wearing the contraption as there was no material space for it and when he opened to take it, as it was in a compartment of the rear fuselage, he saw that everything was burning. Nicholas decided it was best to jump into the void from his turret and hope that thus his death would be quicker and less painful than to perish burned alive in the apparatus. He fell back into the silence of the night broken only by the roar of the planes.
As he fell and thought of how little time he had left to live and that he would not return home, he fainted. It fell on the branches of some fir trees and then on a 46 cm snow cover. Both factors cushioned his fall, so when he regained consciousness, he only had ankle damage from a sprain, some cuts and bruises and burns on his hands and face. In spite of having survived almost unharmed the fall of almost 6,000 meters, he was in danger of freezing to death in the snow, so he decided to blow his whistle to be rescued because, in addition, his boots had jumped from his feet during the fall. The Germans who found him believed that he was suffering a traumatic shock upon hearing his story and took him for questioning to a prison camp near Frankfurt called Dulag Luft. There, the Gestapo resolved that he was a spy. He was not wearing a parachute and it seemed impossible to them that he had survived the fall he was explaining.
Nicholas Alkemade would have been shot. if not for the intervention of a young German pilot, lieutenant of Lutwafe, called Hans Feidal who found the remains of the plane. In it were found the bodies of pilot Jack Newman and three other sergeants. who were part of the Lancaster crew. There were also the metal handle and the cable of the burnt parachute of the Nicholas Alkemade in the fuselage compartment. After this verification and thinking that nobody would believe his story, the Germans wrote him on a blank page inside a Bible a certificate confirming the incredible story. The certificate began as follows: "Dulag Luft. The German authorities have investigated and verified that the statements of Sergeant Alkemade, 1,431,537 of the RAF, are true...'. The report was also corroborated by several RAF officers.
Nicholas Alkemade became a famous prisoner until he was released in May 1945. He died in 1987 of natural causes. However, accidents and the fortune of surviving them seems to have been a constant in Alkemade's life. After the war, he worked in a chemical plant where he suffered three other events that could have been fatal. The first was the fall of a beam on him, the second an electric shock from which he could have died and which sent him to a chlorine tank where he remained for more than an hour.
Really, Nicholas Alkemade was a lucky man. Have you ever heard of her falling from 6,000 meters? Do you know of other similar cases? Share it with us! If you want to know other amazing and curious stories related to aviation during World War II, we invite you to read the articles: The pilot who flew without legs in World War II o Winkie, the pigeon that saved an airplane crew in World War II .