What spins a cocoon of silk and flies away from certain death, the caterpillar. Although not a fully correct analogy the club’s motto "Life depends on a silken thread"
does bring it closer to the truth. Other’s mention it as a metaphor of the airman escaping his metal “cocoon” same as a catapillar leaves his.
The idea of the founder of the Irvin Airchute Company of Canada, started the Caterpillar Club and the practice of awarding the gold Caterpillar Pin in 1922.
It represented a life saved by the device credited to Leslie. The club has strict rules, even falling out of an aircraft and surviving the fall without the use
of a parachute will not gain you the Caterpillar pin.
First of Many
The first member of the club performed his escape from death in Dayton Ohio and so began a long list of airmen saved from “disabled” aircraft.
Manually disabling the aircraft or parachuting from a troop carrier would not count as member of the club. The overall estimates of the number
of lives saved by Irvin parachutes is around 100,000 .
During WWII the practise was continued, Irwin had a European branch based in England as well as one in the US. The Allied POWs who
escaped their aircraft with the aid of the parachute were not left out of the Club or had to wait until the war was over. Memebership cards
and letters from the Irving company found their way to the prisoner camps. The pins themselves in the case of the POW recepiants was
sent to whom ever the member had requested it be sent.
Worn with Pride
And although not authorized for wearing on an RAF uniform, many RCAF members wore their tiny swiqqly gold Caterpillar with pride on thier tunic pocket.