Volunteers were asked recently if they would like to try making mini ‘Rupert’ parachutists to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Nicknamed ‘Rupert’s’ after the famous childrens’ comic book character (or were they??), these decoy parachutists were made of sack cloth filled with sand, straw or wood shavings. They were parachuted over enemy territory to create the false impression of a very large invasion force. On 6 June 1944 aircraft dropped 500 Rupert’s along the French coast to divert German troops away from the actual zones. The mini ‘Rupert’s’ will go on display in the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum in June 2019.
Volunteer Barbara Martin was there…
It took me the whole session to make one ‘Rupert’. The figures were cut out and ready to sew and it wasn’t long before I realised how intricate the task would be. Where to start? The head was fairly straightforward but the limbs had other ideas. The stuffing went so far and no further, which resulted in muscular arms and legs but flat hands and feet. I had time to give him button eyes and add his parachute before handing him over to Lorna. By far the best part of the day was being with Lorna and Linda. They were such good company and some of our comments on our work had us falling about with laughter. I had expected a somewhat studious atmosphere but had a wonderful morning full of fun. I am looking forward to seeing all the ‘Ruperts’ at the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum in June.
So was Linda Robson…with a different version of the origin of the nickname!
Whilst many of the other volunteers were enjoying the coffee morning and talk, Barbara and I were upstairs busy making our “Ruperts” with the guidance of Lorna. Although short on numbers we were not short on laughter! We discovered our hand sewing was not of the speedy kind as it took us an hour and half to complete one small Rupert. But half that time was spent laughing, as fortunately we all seemed to have the same wacky sense of humour.
We were delighted to hear that our Ruperts would be on display, but so high up in the Apache cafe in the Army Flying Museum, no-one can see or inspect that our parachutist could do with a good meal! Our endeavours to fill them equally with stuffing had not been that successful.
After making them we did think of releasing them out the window, to see if they worked, but Phil Harding was below us talking to the children about his dig!
And now the serious part: On the 5/ 6th June 1944, 500 decoy three foot dummies, accompanied by a handful SAS troopers, were dropped at four locations in France. When the Ruperts landed, they would self destruct leaving just a charred white parachute behind, consequently few originals survived. Interestingly it was code-named Operation Titanic. They were nicknamed Ruperts as with typical army humour, that was a derogatory name the ranks used for Officers.
Well done ladies! I wish I hadn’t missed this one…