Parachute use in World War I

1914 - 1918

Prior to the Great War the use of parachutes was seen as foolhardy and undertaken only by showmen and women to thrill crowds of voyeuristic spectators. Cavalry units were the main reconnaissance and observers of enemy positions who then reported back to enable artillery to accurately engage enemy positions. The war of 1914 was to change this role. It was the advent of artillery with greater ranges and the ability of aerial machines to rise high enough to observe and report back more comprehensively the layout of the unfolding battle that changed this aspect of warfare. Observation of the enemy from a stable platform was achieved by the use of tethered observation balloons carrying beneath them a wicker basket occupied by observers. The very stability and static nature of the balloons rendered them as a tempting target for enemy aircraft and the method of winching down a balloon by its ground crew was not always fast enough to ensure a safe descent and saving of its occupant. To secure the safety of the observers parachutes were used as "life-savers". They were attached to the balloon rigging and all the observer had to do in theory was to jump out and his falling mass would snatch the parachute from its container and the parachute would open. As the war continued the use of the parachute became an accepted and trusted method to save lives. No such device was considered appropriate for aviators and crews to fixed wing aircraft.

Aeronauts - Observers who parachuted from Balloons

Only balloon claims and information that indicate the observers used their parachutes are included in this listing. Not every balloon downed was destroyed, neither did the observers of every balloon that was downed take to their parachutes. Many who used their parachutes successfully did not survive.


Date Air Service Balloon & Unit Parachute descent by Location Cause of descent
16th August 1916 British No.1 Army Kite Balloon Lt. Moxon

Captain Basil H. Radford

Aucheux Road behind Beaumont Hamel Balloon broke free - heading for enemy lines. Both observers jumped. Captain Radford (Basil Hallam - "Glibert the Filbert") was KIA when his parachute failed to open - possibly harness problem.
10th January 1917  15:40h British      2-5-2 (f.25)          2nd Balloon Wing 2nd Lt. Gavin

2nd Lt. Whitlock

Ypres Shot down by Uffz Kürner
14th February 1917 French 85o Cie Aerostatieres Adj. Jean-Marie Dunand Gironville Shot down by Ltn. Lothar Rehm. Observer slightly wounded in attack but still fired upon his attacker.
1st March 1917      17:15h British     14-4-4 (FM.72D)       4th Balloon Wing Lt. G. K. Simpson

A/M G. Chesson

West of Frise Shot down by Ltn. Renatus Theiller. Balloon flamed and fell on Lt. Simpson who later died of his severe wounds.
16th March 1917 French 58o Cie Aerostatieres Marechal-des-Logis Berger Souilly -Verdun Shot down either by Vzfw. Manschott or Obltn. von Bonsart
16th March 1917 French 78o Cie Aerostatieres Marechal-des-Logis Bes Souilly - Verdun Shot down either by Vzfw. Manschott or Obltn. von Bonsart. Balloon flamed and fell on Marechal-des-Logis Bes killing him during his descent
16th March 1917    09:30h French

36o Cie Aerostatieres

Adj. Andre Bry Moiremont Shot down by Ltn. Wilhelm Allemenroder
28th March 1917 French 58o Cie Aerostatieres Lieutenant Staehle Belleville or Recicourt - Verdun Sector Shot down by either Vzfw. Ulrich or Ltn. Erich Löwenhardt.
28th March 1917 French 38o Cie Aerostatieres Marechal-des-Logis Collin Belleville or Recicourt - Verdun Sector Shot down by either Vzfw. Ulrich or Ltn. Erich Löwenhardt.
3rd April 1917         19:22h British 13-17-5 (FM.26) Major Geddes

Lt. F. Mears

Ervillers Shot down by Ltn Otto Bernert.
3rd April 1917         19:22h British 18-17-5 (FM.25) Lt. D. Kershaw

Lt. J. Morgan

north west of Bapaume Shot down by Ltn Otto Bernert
28th September 1917 Italian ? Tenente Paolo Calisse Isola Morosini, in the Sbobba estuary Shot down by Godwin Brumowski, shared with by Linke-Crawford and Kurt Gruber
9th October 1917   17:00h Italian 20o Sezione Tenente Guido Vendittelli    
17th November 1917 Italian ? unknown Lagoon, near the mouth of Piave River Shot down by Godwin Brumowski
16th June 1918 Italian 3^ Gruppio (?) Cap. V. Morpurgo (?) Spresiano Shot down by Godwin Brumowski
19th June 1918       15:45h Italian 11o Sezione (?) Tenente M. Zanini (?) near Passarella in the Val Grassabo Shot down by Godwin Brumowski
8th August 1918 German ? unknown   Shot down by Reed Landis
29th August 1918 German ? unknown   Shot down by Harry Botterell
More details and names to be included in the near future
It was not until 1918 that parachutes became available to fixed wing aircrew and then only in the German and Austro-Hungarian Air Services. 
German Air Service Pilots
Aviators who used parachutes during World War 1          

Uffz Max BAUER

Jasta 23

Shot down in flames – parachuted to safety

11th August 1918 18:30 h


 Jasta 56            flying DVII 2063/18

Parachuted over Gheluve - KIA

4th October 1918   19:30 h

Ltn. Julius BENDER,

Jasta 4

Parachuted from aircraft, sprained ankle on landing

16th July 1918


Jasta 51

Injured foot on landing, Fokker DVII

8th October 1918


Jasta 6

Parachute failed

8th September 1918



Ltn. Herbert BOY

Jasta 14 Schusta 30

Burning parachute – shot down by Canadian Ace Camille Lagesse – injured on landing - captured

7th October 1918



2 seater with HANSEN

6th September 1918


Flg  Siegfried BRAUN

Jasta 23b

Parachute flamed, Pfalz DXII

16th September 1918 18:50h

Ltn. Franz BUCHNER,

Jasta 13

Mid-air collision with Gfr Michaelis

10th October 1918


Jasta 40

9th July 1918


Jasta 26

Shot down attacking a balloon

16th July 1918     17:50h



Friedrich Fritz FRIEDRICHS

       Jasta 10               flying DVII 309/18

Parachute caught on tailplane and ripped – fell to his death

15th July 1918        09:00h



Jasta 26

Collision with RAF Camel of 203 Sqn – Parachuted safely

20th September 1918 15:45

Ltn. Hilmar GLOCKLEN

Jasta 21

Shot down, parachuted broke right foot on landing

16th July 1918


Jasta 36

Bussny, WIA

13th August 1918



2 seater with BRAMME

6th September 1918


Jasta 13

Killed – shot down in flames – parachute failed to open

16th October 1918



Ltn. Hans JEBENS

Jasta 59

Parachute failed KIA

27th September 1918



18th September 1918


Ltn Wilhelm KOLBACH

Jasta 10

10th October 1918



Jasta 10

 Collided with WENZ – parachute failed to open

10th August 1918 12:15h

Ltn. Emil MAYER

Jasta 31

Mid-air with Ltn Kurt Bruninghaus,  KIA  – parachuted to safety

14th August 1918

Vfw Friedrich MEGERLE

Jasta 70

Parachute failed, KIA Saarburg

16th July 1918



Werner MEYER

Jasta 34b

Wounded in Action, Died of Wounds 21st July 1918

20th July 1918


Gustav NOLTE

Jasta 36

by a 2 seater, Died of Wounds

16th July 1918



Jasta 19

AA fire. Killed – baled out at 150 ft -parachute failed to open

11th August 1918


Ltn. Josef RAESCH

Jasta 43

25th July 1918

Ltn. Adolf REINAU

Jasta 19

Shot down by a Spad. Parachuted after combat Mid-air collision with George Edgar Bruce, RAF (South African)

13th September 1918 19:00 h

Ltn. Fritz RUMEY

Jasta 5

27th September 1918





Jasta 52

Near Lille. burned, KIA

1st June 1918


Ltn. Robert  SCHMIDT

Jasta 43

Shot down in flames – parachuted OK – slight burns

12th August 1918


Jasta 58

Parachuted but hit house on landing, KIA

28th October 1918


Jasta 58 flying Albatros DV

Shot down in combat between Camels and SE5s

27th June 1918        09:00h


Ltn  ??? STIER


Shot down in flames – parachuted OK

1st November 1918

Ernst UDET

         Jasta 4               flying DVII 4253/18

29th September 1918 07:40h



Ltn. Paul VOGEL

Jasta 23

Parachuted – in combat over Hill 475

30th July 1918    11:45h



Jasta 56

Albatros Dva Parachuted from burning aircraft over Gontelles. POW

1st April 1918

Ltn  Alfred WENZ

 Jasta 11

Collided with LOWENHARDT – used parachute OK

10th August 1918 12:15h

Ltn. Joachim von WINTERFELD

        Jasta 4           flying DVII

Parachuted but parachute caught fire KIA

5th September 1918 19:00h

Ltn. Heinrich ZEMPEL


Shot down in flames, slightly injured in parachute drop

17th July 1918


Sincere thanks to Mr Norman Franks for his assistance with photographs and information on German Air Service use of parachutes


1. Can anyone confirm that Ltn. Felix d. R. Buchner parachuted on 11th November, 1918 ?

2. Can anyone provide further photographs to help make this webpage as accurate as possible ?

Austro - Hungarian Air Service Pilots
Frigyes Hefty

Flik 42J

22nd August 1918

Lt. Morath

Flik 61

17th September 1918 

Lt. Singer

Flik 61

17th September 1918 

Italian Air Service Pilots
        An Italian Aérostatier seen here with a French design "Flower-Pot" parachute