- Hey guys Joedemadio here with Medal of Honor Monday. So the anniversary for Operation Market Garden is coming up amd I thought it would be interesting to tell a medal of honor story that took place during the operation. Also, instead of the Medal of Honor I’d like to cover the British highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross. Before we begin I’d like to thank my friend Ben McGregor for all the information and for allowing me to use his pictures.
On September 20th, when the Battle of Arnhem was going on for three days already, Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield earned himself the Victoria Cross near Oosterbeek.
John Baskeyfield was born in Burslem, in November 1922. Before the war he became a butcher in 1940, and later on became the manager of a co-op butchers in Pittshull. In February 1942 at the age of 19, he received his call up papers and served with the 2nd South Staffords. Baskeyfield fought 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 September 20th. The Lonsdale force was under command of Richard Lonsdale, commander of the 11th British Para, but he was put in charge of the units falling back from Arnhem. They were the 1st and 3rd Para and the 2nd South Staffords, the one in which Baskeyfield was serving. The enemy made a consistent and determined drive to break this force by throwing everything at them that they had at their disposal. All over the Oosterbeek perimeter the Germans attacked with great force.
Baskeyfield was positioned on the Benedendorpsweg-Acacialaan road junction, as seen on the map. His crew was 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 VictoriaCross.
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.1
John Baskeyfield’s body was never found. A memorial statue, depicting him in action, stands at the Festival Heights, in Stoke.
The site where Baskeyfield was killed is easily accessible when visiting Oosterbeek. Click on the link the description to street view around the Benedendorpsweg-Acacialaan junction and imagine the British troops firing away at the Germans coming for Arnhem. On the location where Baskeyfield got killed stands a tree and a little memorial sign. My friend and great historian Ben McGregor visited the site a year ago and made some pictures. This is the John Baskeyfield Tree, dedicated in September 1996, marking the spot where he was killed. After the actions a picture was taken of the selfproppeled gun destroyed by baskeyfield.
Interesting is the position of the Lonsdale force, because they were somewhat out of the Ooserbeek perimeter. The perimeter stared at the church and they were 950m aways from the other defenders. Baskeyfield’s actions however saved the artillery units around the church.
If you’re planning to visit this area, I recommend taking a look at this site. I also highly recommend the Airborne Museum at the former Hartenstein Hotel which was the HQ for General Uruquart, commander of the 1st Airborne Division.
More pictures and info can be found in the video!