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Airborne 'hang ups' in 1944


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This might be of interest to any of you who have an interest in Airborne Operations in 1944 and as a plea for more info, as I have never found anything related to this before.


In the spring / summer of 1944 my Dad was serving with 575 Sqn at RAF Broadwell (equipped with C-47 Dakotas) and told me that on one practice jump over the UK prior to D-Day, one paratrooper became caught up behind the aircraft after he jumped out, as his static line refused to part from his parachute pack. To make matters worse the parachute came out of the pack but instead of deploying properly and pulling the man free, it wound round and round in the slip stream behind him in typical roman candle fashion. No amount of pulling on the static line from inside the aircraft by the dispatchers could get this man to the door, so the decision was made to fly to Poole harbour, alert the Royal Navy and with flaps down to fly really slow and low and have the static line cut. This they did but to avoid a stall this meant that the man was released at 80 to 90 mph and despite their best efforts the paratrooper was dead when recovered from the water. It is believed that the Para was in fact a young Lieutenant but I have not been able to trace his name rank or number.


As a consequence of this accident my Dad was tasked with a few others to come up with a way of recovering such 'hang ups' in flight and to do so they first had a full size dummy made which was of the correct weight for a typical soldier (and not to be confused with those Para dummies, of the sort dropped into Normandy). Test flights were then carried out with the dummy wearing a parachute pack which was then thrown out with a fixed static line. At first it was thought that just a long barge pole might do the trick in that the dispatchers could hook in the man but the slip stream was too high and so another method was thought up. This involved fitting a clamp to the static line and placing it as far down it as the crew could reach. This clamp could be put in place and tightened quickly. On the clamp was a shackle which attached to a steel cable which in turn was connected to a winch attached to the bulkhead behind the cockpit. I don't think the winch was electric but rather a hand winch but nevertheless it had the desired effect and with the clamp in place it was possible to retrieve a man back to the door for the men with barge poles to assist in hauling the Para aboard.


Despite its success I have never heard of this mechanism or method ever being fitted as standard to any Allied aircraft in WW2 or ever since. Perhaps the design of British parachute packs was changed to make sure it never happened again or men were just cut 'free' if it ever happened again and were counted as just another loss!

Edited by LarryH57
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Thanks Ruxy


And yet my Dad recons that it was not an electric winch that was used. Despite the weight of a man and his chute being hard to haul in I think the effort in getting him in was easier than a target drone and long steel cable, that's why an a hand winch was the cheap option.

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One would think there must have been something in place to give confidence to training jumpers , having never jumped - I don't know. I suspect 70 years ago , it was a circumstance put to the back of mind of planners , your old man at the coal face was left with managing a bad situation, where he/they would have no time & holding on in a evading flight plan.


Big difference in drag between 40 feet of cords and 1/2 mile of wire rope.


They had a reserve chute ?? would they not have been instructed that in the very worst event , to save their lives (only they could) to use a clasp-knife on a lanyard ?

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  • 6 years later...

The parachutist that had a hang up and later released over Poole Harbour on 18 march 1944 was Lt John (Shaun) Alexander Williams of 83rd Field Regiment, RA, 53rd Infantry (Welsh) Division.  He was the son of John and Julia (Sheelagh) Williams of Tullamore Co. Offaly, Ireland.  Captain John (Jack) Williams MC fought in WWI in 75th Bde, RFA, part of the Guards Division.

Lt Williams died from his injuries at the time. It is understood, but not confirmed, that he was in training as a Forward Observation Officer, attached to the 53rd Airlanding Light Regiment RA, 6th Airborne Division for D-Day, when the accident happened.

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