Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Parachuting for Dummies - 'Rupert' World War II Deception Device


In 1985 my good friend Maj Robert J. ‘Bob’ Bragg, Parachute Regiment (Rtd.) was extremely gracious in presenting a significant gift to me. Even at the time I was well aware of the unique nature of item. Having come through Bob’s hands it has impeccable provenance. Some readers may recognize the name R.J. Bragg as the co-author, along with Roy Turner, of two definitive works on airborne insignia of the world. The books are; Parachute Badges and Insignia of the World, R.J. Bragg & Roy Turner, Blandford Press, Poole Dorset, 1979, ISBN 0 7137 0882 4 and PARACHUTE WINGS, Bragg & Turner, Peter A. Heims, Surrey, 1985, ISBN 0 9506426 2 2. Others may remember him as president of the Manchester Chapter of the Parachute Regiment Association. He had previously served with the 13th Bn PARA (TA). Roy Turner served on active service with 45 Royal Marine Commando, and saw action in both Aden and Malaya. Bragg & Turner in the Airborne and Special Forces Insignia arena are all but synonymous with Kipling & King in the field of cap badges.    

It is a British dummy parachutist. Official nomenclature is; Device, Camouflage, No. 15. They have also been referred to as a ‘Rupert’ (A Scottish derisive term for an officer in the British Army) and a ‘Paragon' (Origin undetermined, but may be a play on words, 'Para - Gone'). As a battlefield expendable made of hessian (hop sacking), not that many survived their World War II operational deployment. Obviously the example I have did not see combat, as it is unissued, complete with its parachute and all associated fittings. (Most of the images can be enlarged twice for details)

 Two of the most significant employments of the dummies were the night of 6 June 1944 in Operation Titanic I – IV with elements of  1st SAS, in direct support of Operation Overlord. They were also used in Operation Market-Zone I through III on 16-17 September 1944, in support of Operation Market-Garden.

The dummy has been in a cedar lined storage closet for an extended period of time. Several years since I lasted looked at it, and I was a bit concerned due to the low humidity in Arizona. As an expendable the canopy is made out of a fine cotton, rather than scarce silk, rayon or nylon. The texture and weave almost feel like Egyptian cotton (Very probably a closely woven cotton material called Ramex, which was used in the fabrication of most X-Type Statichutes). As a result it has seemed to have fared a lot better than had it been made of the other materials. Suffices that it is still very soft and pliable. The shroud lines are carefully laid into the dummy’s bag, then the folded canopy. The static cord is tied to the crown of the canopy with a short piece of fine twine. The same twine is used to secure the four flaps of the bag. 

 The body of the dummy, as can be seen in the photographs is well made of a tightly woven burlap/sack cloth or hessian material. It would have to be in order that it can hold the sand used to provide both shape and weight. The dummy is approximately half life sized, about 36 inches in overall length, and the parachute canopy scaled to match. I have not unpacked the parachute (fragility and value issues), but judging from museum displayed examples there are a reduced number of shroud lines attached to the canopy compared to a full sized tactical parachute, such as the X-Type Statichute or T-5. In addition the shroud lines are a relatively loosely woven cotton cord, rather than the more familiar parachute shroud line cording.

The example I have is obviously not one of the self-destroying configurations (See following photograph), and as far as I can discern there are no special provisions for attachment of the gunfire simulation devices, which were employed in conjunction with the dummies. Specific information and photographs on these simulators, including detailed means of attachment to the dummies, are found in the referenced web site below.

There are several web sites that show and discuss the operational use of the dummies, however I would seriously question some of the information contained in certain sites. There is one site run by the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces Museum which is historically accurate and outstanding both in scope and detail. The URL is: It has four parts each of which can be accessed from the menu bars on the left hand side of the window. Another site of potential interest, discussing in extensive detail the development and employment of the dummies, is;

The following YouTube video was made on or about 6 June 2011 on the anniversary of Operation Overlord. While containing a few inaccurate details, overall it provides a modern historical perspective on 'Rupert'.