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Thread: Dummy Parachurists

  1. #1
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    Default Dummy Parachurists

    Many may recall the scenes in the movie “The Longest Day” involving British troops throwing dummy parachutists out of aircraft on the night of the invasion. Fitted with pyrotechnics, they were to lure German attention away from the real landing areas - and they may have worked briefly. As the dummies were pitched from the aircraft, they were called “Rupert” and exhorted to do their duty.

    On-line browsing advised me that some 500 “Ruperts” were dropped that night. However, there was an earlier application of these devices, which I discovered when examining the service file of Flying Officer Gowan Vernon Gibson (Toronto), killed on the night of 11/12 July 1943. His documents included proceedings of an investigation into the loss of Dakota aircraft FD815 of No.267 Squadron, then based at El Aouins, Tunisia.

    The unit had despatched four aircraft to carry out a special mission over Sicily, which had been invaded by the Allies the previous day. Three machines completed the operation, but FD815 caught fire three minutes after take-off, rapidly became a blazing torch and crashed in flames. Four aircrew were killed including Gibson and his RCAF co-pilot, Flying Officer Harry Grant Spencer of Milverton, Ontario. Gibson had been with the squadron since July 1942 and Spencer since August 1942. Also aboard were an RAF Wing Commander acting as an Air Ministry observer and an officer of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, described as being in charge of Fifteenth Army “Special Equipment”

    Several witnesses testified as to having seen the aircraft burning fiercely in the air before it crashed. There was little mystery as to what had happened. The Dakota had been carrying twelve or thirteen dummy parachutists fitted with explosives and “pintails” (detonators). Major R.A. Bromley-Davenport declared that instructions had been to “withdraw the pins of the pintails when the aircraft was airborne” However, he also stated, “I did not specify how long after being airborne this should be done. I also warned them that the dummies would ignite if the pull ignition was operated and that they must take care to keep away from the attachment lines. I also said that after the pin had been removed the pintail would explode if dropped.”

    Final arming was to be done with static lines as the dummies were thrown out, but it was pretty obvious that many things could go wrong before then. In the case of FD815 they had either been loaded with pins already removed , or that the pins had been taken out soon after take-off. From that point on they were an accident waiting to happen.

    The inquiry concluded that the dummy parachutists were “reasonably safe” but that “the pintails are unsafe in their present form and should not be carried in aircraft until modified.” Presumably, this was done before the mass drops of “Ruperts” eleven months later.

  2. #2
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    Hi Hugh, many thanks for interesting reading!

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Hello,

    Case of the old "Deja vu's", here:

    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...y-Parachutists

    Col.

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    I first came across these dummy parachutists in Chester Wilmot’s famous book “The Struggle For Europe” (Collins, London, 1952, ISBN Not yet invented!). In the chapter “Assault from the Sky” (p.248 in my printing) he says that the German situation map showed some ‘parachutists’ as having been dropped as far east as the Seine!! Presumably, the confusion this caused the Germans was the object of the exercise?
    I cannot remember Wilmot mentioning dummy parachutists prior to that. The book, by the way, was Required Reading at the UK Officers’ training schools at the time. Although now dated, it still has some prescient comments!! And 'Rupert' was the perjorative nick-name by UK Army Other Ranks for all Officers!!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Re "Deja vu", I can only plead that memory is the second thing to go when you get old (I cannot remember what was the first).

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