A retired Royal Marines Commando who was the original Action Man ‘model’ has finally fulfilled his ambition to carry out a freefall skydive, by carrying out a charity tandem jump with his partner.
Roger Johnson, 75, from Sandown, joined the Royal Marine Commandos when he was just 16, but despite carrying out hundreds of static line jumps as a cliff climber and parachutist, he had never undertaken a freefall.
So, when Roger and his partner Judith received an email from Age UK Isle of Wight asking for courageous volunteers to take the final two spaces on their upcoming fundraising skydive, they both signed up straight away.
Roger’s story is an extraordinary one, as he was hand-picked by Pedigree Prams in the mid-60s from a group of Commando Climbers to be the model for a new action figure they were producing; this action figure became the original Action Man.
Roger said: “Some representatives from Pedigree Prams visited while I was in training in Lympstone, Devon, and I couldn’t quite believe it when they pointed at me and said ‘I want that man there, his face has character!’, then they went away and produced the figure based on photos of my face and body.”
Roger carried out the tandem skydive with his partner Judith Corney, who also loves being in the air.
Judith raised funds during a charity static line jump 30 years ago over Bembridge airfield, with the Red Devils, and had been longing to do a tandem jump ever since.
She said: “I have such fond memories of the jump over Bembridge, but it was over so quickly, in just two or three minutes, and I have wanted to do another jump for years, this was the perfect opportunity for me to fulfil my wish.”
Judith, who previously ran the Isle of Wight Zoo for 35 years, signed up to the skydive following the devastation of losing one of their beloved lionesses to an aggressive form of cancer.
She and Roger had each drunk a couple of whiskeys after saying their sad goodbyes to the lioness earlier that day, when the email from Age UK Isle of Wight popped into their inbox announcing that there were only two spaces left for the fundraising activity.
“I think that the whiskey had given me some Dutch courage,” said Judith. “As before I knew it, we were signing up!”
Roger is a member of Age UK Isle of Wight’s Acoustic Shed, run by the charity’s successful Men In Sheds project. He sings and plays the ukulele and guitar at the weekly group, which provides a place for men aged 50+ to enjoy the company of others, while giving something positive back to the community.
“I really enjoy the Acoustic Shed, said Roger. “It helps me to keep my lungs and breathing strong, as I like to keep active, plus I know that my weekly subs are going back to a worthy charity. It tickles me to think that Action Man has these days swapped his machine gun for an acoustic guitar.”
Maria Bunce, Head of Income Generation for Age UK Isle of Wight said: “I was fortunate to meet Roger and Judith at their recent tandem skydive, and was so inspired to hear their stories, and how they came to the decision to take on such a challenge.
“I would like to thank them, and all of the other skydivers who have taken part in our tandem jumps recently, to raise funds for Age UK Isle of Wight. As a local charity, we rely heavily on the generosity of individuals and donors, so when people choose to do something amazing to raise funds for us, we are so incredibly grateful to them.”