15 Para (SV) deaths in a training accident, 1974

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by 2/51, Mar 11, 2013.

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  1. I was talking to an old boy over the weeeknd who had been a member of 15 Para up in Aberdeen during the 70's. He mentioned a training accident that occured in 1974 where 6 members of the battalion were drowned when they landed in the Kiel Canal and for various reasons, their lifejackets did not inflate.

    As 15 Para where my local lot and had been at the Bridge of Don Barracks (Also Prince Charles Barracks) when I was there, I wanted to find out more. I found one article, Kiel Canal Parachuting Accident, September 1974. | ParaData but not much else. The chap I was talking too and the report suggested there was a massive cover up.

    Anyone have any other info?

  2. I did an Int NCO course with two bolkes from 10 Para six years later and they knew all about it, so the cover up wasn't that good...
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  3. There was no cover up. Rumour control claimed that the pilot committed suicide soon after.
  4. It was exercise Bold Guard, my first big ex in Battalion though we didn't jump in, we went in by heli. Haven't read your links so not sure if this has been said but IIRC the main blame was put on the German authorities for not closing the canals properly and therefore some barges managed to get through and the navigation lights from the barges were mistaken for the DZ lighting which caused the blokes to be dropped in the wrong place - as I said, it was a long time ago so maybe this could be just gossip.

    One other point that came out was that at the time it was a common - but unofficial - practice to stow one's beret in the little pouch in the neck of the life jacket but some of the guys that drowned had also put other stuff in there which prevented the jackets from inflating properly. After that we were not allowed to put anything in there.
  5. I think there's a difference between a cover up and compounded accidents which participants don't want to discuss openly. If there are accidents compounded by mistakes and lots of blame and mud slinging then people tend to want it to 'go away' quitetly. Doesn't help the deceased or their families but human instinct I guess......
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  6. The pilot leading in the allegedly aircraft got confused, dropped the boys near the canal and then the heavy lift dropped on top of them.

    The memorial plaque is on the wall in Pearson hall in Glasgow.

    Vic Cowie had to swim for it and subsequently wrote a very good piece for the XV para history which was published after the Bn merged into 4 Para.
  7. Beret? You were fairly reserved then. The AB life- jackets became the 'unofficial' stowage pockets for the rat pack / haver bag contents, usually on the understanding that they would never be used in anger, well, until that episode.
    As for the water drill training of unhooking one side of the reserve, getting well into the seat harness ( pre GQ model in those days) crossing arm over body to twist and release the QRB, clearing the leg straps, then arch and eject on hitting the water, which none of the poor souls managed for whatever reason. I've heard a few in the intervening years.
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  8. My link above....has Vic Cowie's statement.
  9. Rumour Control told me that it was the German officer responsible for the DZ that killed himself but he was later cleared of any blame by an inquiry. Apparently the canal was huge, with lighting along either bank and looked like black tarmac from the air (it was a night drop); some may have thought they were about to land on an autobahn.
  10. The article states that the official report was never made public and that those involved were "whisked away" and were not at the inquest.

    The event itself is known, I was more interested in the official inquest, which "appears" to have left out some key witnesses.
  11. Hmm..this is what it says on Paradata...

    "Prior to emplaning, a message was passed to all that at least one C130 of 2 PARA had been unable to dispatch 50% of its pax owing to airborne lifejackets (later to be known as Life Preserver Parachutist if memory serves) inflating through the accident release of the CO2 bottle. As a result of this, certainly some people, and Vic was one, partially unscrewed the bottle to prevent accidental inflation. The intention was to re-screw the bottles when getting closer to the drop zone...Vic never did manage to do this owing to the crush in the aircraft and suspects that others were in the same predicament. I must confess that I did exactly the same at times when I viewed the `water threat' to be minimal...never at low level over the sea may I add!!"

    and this from an answer given in Parliment shortly afterwards.

    "All the parachutists involved had had the necessary training and had been specifically briefed on the possibility of a landing into water. All were equipped with lifejackets which are inflated by releasing gas by hand from an attached cylinder. In the case of the six men who were drowned, three, for reasons unknown, had not attempted to inflate their lifejackets; in the case of the other three the lifejackets had failed to inflate because the head of the gas cylinder had not been screwed home, one of them because the thread had become crossed".
  12. I am fairly sure Mike Jackson wrote about this in his autobiography.
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  13. Thank you OT. I stand corrected.