The Caterpillar Club

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Njaco, Sep 7, 2011.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Feb 19, 2007
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    Animal Control Officer
    Southern New Jersey
    The Caterpillar Club is an informal association of people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft. After authentication by the parachute maker, applicants receive a membership certificate and a distinctive lapel pin - red eyes' meant bailing out over enemy territory and 'green eyes' for bailing out over friendly territory (supposedly). The Caterpillar is symbolic of the silk worm, which lets itself descend gently to earth from heights by spinning a silky thread upon which to hang. Parachutes in the early days were made from pure silk. The Irvin Company started the Caterpillar Club and the practice of awarding the gold Caterpillar Pin in 1922 because each life saved was the result of Leslie Irvin's invention, symbolizing Irwin's dedication to safety in the air. It is estimated that at least 100,000 persons have saved their lives by Irvin parachutes. These were strictly unofficial awards and were not authorized for wearing on the RAF uniform.

    Caterpillar Club - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Landing a land plane on the water and using a dinghy made by P.B.Cow and Company entitled the aircrew to receive membership of The Goldfish Club. The rubber company, P B Cow, originated in 1826. Mr Cow was a great inventor and innovator, not only in rubber. The company made miscellaneous articles in rubber and was fabricating hand made goods including diving suits and hot water bottles (a speciality). By 1938 the company were in difficulties and a new director was appointed. He was Mr C Renton-Coombes (an Australian) who set about looking for military contracts and acquired a trial order for gas masks – this was at the time of Munich. Immediately orders flooded in and within 3 months the firm was employing 300 women, all on piecework. Meanwhile the head office was experimenting with several other wartime requirements and out of this came the production of dinghies.The main force behind the development was Mr C. A. Robertson who was the Chief Draughtsman of P B Cow. In addition `Robbie` was responsible for the Ministry of Aircraft Production Air Sea Rescue Equipment Drawing Office. This department had taken over the experimental work done by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Farnborough made working drawings of dinghies and other ASR equipment which were produced by factories in the UK, Commonwealth and USA.

    Many ditched aircrew visited Robbie at the factory to discuss their experiences after ditching and who owed their lives to the Mae West and rubber dinghies produced by PB Cow. After hearing some of these stories Robbie had the idea of forming an official club for Airmen who had survived a successful wartime ditching. Such a club, he felt, would enable members to meet and exchange experiences. With P B Cow`s financial backing the club was named the Goldfish Club – Gold for the value of life and fish for the sea – and a badge was designed showing a white winged Goldfish flying above two symbolic blue waves. Each member received a heat sealed membership card and an embroidered badge. Due to wartime regulations the production of wire badges was prohibited. But an appeal in the Daily Express by William Hickey produced many redundant evening suits from which the cloth badges were produced. The badge was worn by the Navy on their Mae West`s and in the RAF it was worn under the left hand battle dress pocket due to RAF regulations !


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