On March 24, 1944, 21 year old Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade was a member of No. 115 Squadron RAF and was flying to the east of Schmallenberg, Germany, when his plane was attacked by enemies, caught fire, and began to spiral out of control. Because his parachute was destroyed by the fire, Alkemade opted to jump from the aircraft without one, preferring his death to be quick, rather than being burnt to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5500 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.
He was subsequently captured and interviewed by the Gestapo. The orderly Germans were so impressed that Alkemade had bailed out without a parachute and lived, that they gave him a certificate testifying to the fact. [x]
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