Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield
Unit : Anti-Tank Platoon, Support Company, 2nd Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment
Army No. : 5057916
Awards : Victoria Cross
John Baskeyfield was born in Burslem in November 1922. He became a butcher in 1940, and became the manager of a co-op butchers in Pittshull. In February 1942 he received his call up papers and served with the 2nd South Staffords in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Commanding two 6-pounder anti-tank guns at Arnhem, his section saw heavy action during the vicious fighting that followed the stand of the Lonsdale Force in Oosterbeek on Wednesday 20th September. The enemy made a consistent and determined drive to break what remained of the parachute battalions and the 2nd South Staffords in the area, throwing everything at them that they had at their disposal.
Positioned on the Benedendorpsweg-Acacialaan road junction, his crew were responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self-propelled gun. Baskeyfield manned his gun until he was killed. For his selfless dedication and determination he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation reads:
On 20th September 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem, Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield was the nco in charge of a six-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek.
The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intention to break into and overrun the battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this nco was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self-propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this nco who with complete disregard for his own safety allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards before opening fire.
In the course of this preliminary engagement Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg and the remainder of his crew were either killed or badly wounded. During a brief respite after the engagement Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield refused to be carried to the Regimental Aid Post and spent his time attending to his gun and shouting encouragement to his comrades in neighbouring trenches.
After a short interval the enemy renewed the attack with even greater ferocity than before, under cover of intense mortar and shell fire. Manning his gun quite alone, Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield continued to fire round after round at the enemy until his gun was put out of action. By this time his activity was the main factor in keeping the enemy tanks at bay. The fact that the surviving men in his vicinity were held together and kept in action was undoubtedly due to his magnificent example and outstanding courage. Time after time the enemy attacks were launched and driven off. Finally when his gun was knocked out Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled under intense enemy fire to another six-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed and proceeded to man is single handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self-propelled gun which was approaching to attack. Another soldier crawled over open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the SP gun, scoring direct hits, which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third show, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank.
The superb gallantry of this nco is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem, stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks. He spurned danger, ignored pain and, by his supreme fighting spirit, infected all who witnessed his conduct with the same aggressiveness and dogged devotion to duty, which characterised his actions throughout.
John Baskeyfield's body was never found. A memorial statue, depicting him in action, stands at the Festival Heights, in Stoke.
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