BASKEYFIELD VC ACTION
OOSTERBEEK - 20th SEPTEMBER 1944
Baskeyfield VC Memorial tree, Acacialaan, Oosterbeek.
During the fighting for the Osterbeek perimeter, elements of 2nd (Airborne) Bn South Staffordshire Regiment were holding the eastern flanks facing towards central Arnhem. The support platoon of this battalion had set up two guns at the junction of Acacialaan, and the road to Arnhem (Benedendorpsweg). Lance Sergeant was in charge of the two guns, one placed either side of the road. As the German onslaught on the Oosterbeek Perimeter began, Baskeyfield's 6-pounders accounted for several vehicles. At the time it was claimed they were Tiger tanks, but recent research has shown it was more likely they were Stug III assault guns. Heavy fire was now being received from the direction of the attacks, and Baskeyfield was wounded in the leg, and the rest of gun crew either killed or badly wounded. Refusing to go to the Aid Post, Baskeyfield manned his gun alone and shouted encouragement to the men on the other gun, and those in the foxholes around his position.
Looking straight up Acacialaan; Baskeyfield's 6-pounder was on the left.
A further attack on this part of the perimeter began with a heavy mortar 'stonking', with more tanks in evidence. Baskeyfield's own 6-pounder was knocked out, and the crew of the other one was immobilised. He crawled across the road under fire, and operated the other gun scoring a hit on an approaching Stug. Others tried to assist, but were shot down. While preparing a third shot, the gun and Baskeyfield took a direct hit from a supporting tank, and he was killed instantly.
This hero of Oosterbeek was born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in November 1922. By 1940 he was a trained butcher, and manager of the co-op bucthers in Pittshull. Called up in 1942, Baskeyfield joined the local regiment, the South Staffordshire Regiment, and served with them in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
John Baskeyfield's body was never found. The Arnhem Roll of Honour records that no unidentified soldiers were exhumed from the site of the two gun positions. He is therefore commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial to the Missing.
The full citation for his Victoria Cross reads:
On 20th September, 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. During the early stages of a heavy enemy attack, the crew commanded by this N.C.O. were responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self-propelled gun, thanks to his coolness in allowing each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded and the remainder of his crew were either killed or severely wounded, he refused to be carried away from his post, and when the attack was renewed he manned his gun alone and fired round after round until his gun was put out of action. His activity was the main factor in keeping the German tanks at bay, and his example and his courage were responsible for keeping together and in action the surviving men in his vicinity. When his gun was knocked out, he crawled to another nearby which was left without a crew, and succeeded in putting out of action another self-propelled gun before being killed. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield's supreme gallantry is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks.
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ŠPAUL REED 2002-5