- Name: John Daniel BASKEYFIELD
- D.O.B: 18th Nov, 1922
- D.O.A: 20th Sep, 1944
- D.O.D: 20th Sep, 1944
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Lance Sergeant, 2nd Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment, 1st Airlanding Brigade, 1st Airborne Division
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
Arnhem, The Netherlands 17-25 September 1944
17-25 September 1944
The Second World War 1944
As the Allies advanced through Belgium towards Germany, on 17 September 1944 they launched Operation Market Garden. This was an attempt by the British 2nd Army to push north through the Netherlands and thus circumvent the Siegfried Line that ran along the German frontier to Cleves (Kleve), just east of the Dutch town of Nijmegen. The success of the plan depended on the capture of strategic bridges over the major rivers that intersected the route. That over the Meuse (Maas) at Grave was taken on 17 September and that over the Waal, the main branch of the River Rhine, at Nijmegen on the 20th. However, the airborne troops who were dropped to capture the bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem to the north faced insurmountable odds, not least from two SS Panzer Divisions regrouping in the immediate area. The British secured a bridgehead to the north of the river but could not capture the southern end of the bridge. They held out at the northern end until the 21st. This hindered German reinforcements being sent south to Nijmegen. However, the failure to capture that bridge until the 20th meant that Allied forces could not come to their aid. They were penned into an enclave west of Oosterbeek, just to the west of Arnhem. On the 25th the survivors were brought back across the Lower Rhine by Allied forces who had by this time reached the opposite bank. Arnhem itself was not finally captured until 14 April 1945.
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. The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intent to break into and overrun the Battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this N.C.O. was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self-propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this N.C.O., who, with complete disregard for his own safety, allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun 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 the brief respite after this 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 enemy attacks were launched and driven off. Finally, when his gun was knocked out, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled, under intense enemy fire, to another 6-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed, and proceeded to man it single-handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self-propelled gun which was approaching to attack. Another soldier crawled across the open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the self-propelled gun, scoring one direct hit which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third shot, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank. The superb gallantry of this N.C.O. 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.