Fundraiser to parachute with dog

John Robinson and his wife Ellen

John Robinson and his wife Ellen

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AN expert Wigan parachutist hopes his billowing canopy can recreate a chapter of World War Two history.

John Robinson, who trained paratroopers, Royal Marines and Special Air Services for a living from 1959 - 1972 as a top Royal Air Force instructor at the British RAF Akrotiri base in Cyprus, is now planning his most ambitious tandem charity jump yet since leaving the Armed Services.

Fearless blind pensioner John, 85, is now working flat out to organise another fund-raising free fall - but this time with a dog strapped to him.

The Swinley man - decorated by King Pavlos of Greece for bravery after parachuting onto the tiny island of Castellorizo in the early 1960s to rescue of a pregnant Greek woman - has never completed such an attempt, despite a lifetime plunging through the skies where he has completed more than 1,126 jumps.

John and his wife Ellen have raised more than £1,500 for the Blind Veterans UK last year with another free fall through the brilliant blue skies over the Mediterranean Island he once called home.

He believes that the interest such ‘leap with Lassie’ tandem jump with a dog would create could double or even treble it, allowing him to support Wigan and Leigh Hospice, this time, as well.

To date his dare devil antics since retiring as a special needs teacher have raised £22,000 for charity.

Rather than Cyprus, this jump will take place high above the British Army Parachute Association Centre at Netheravon in Wiltshire, where John received a Sport Para Instructors Award some decades ago.

However, his hopes that the jump could be completed with a genuine guide dog have been dashed by the Guide Dogs Association.

A spokesman said: “It is fantastic that John doesn’t allow his blindness to stop him raising large amounts of money for charity and is looking to do so in the future. But the health and welfare of our guide dogs is very important to us and with Guide Dogs costing £50,000 each from birth to retirement we don’t for see circumstances where a one could be used for the jump.”

John revealed that although he personally had never jumped with a dog strapped to him in tandem, it had been done a number of times during the war.

He said: “There is evidence from the Parachute Regiment that towards the end of the war some people jumped with dogs to help them sniff out mine fields and booby traps that had been left by the retreating Germans.

“I have now started to research how feasible it would be to recreate this because I am certain that it would strike a chord with the public and really boost the fund raising, which, of course, is what it is all about.

“I will then present it to either The Red Devils or the RAF pointing out that this is legal, has been done before and how about it chaps?

“There are obstacles in life. But as I have always found they are out there to be overcome.”