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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Local Heroes > Jack Baskeyfield

A Second World War trench at Oosterbeek, Holland

A Second World War trench, Ooosterbeek

Jack Baskeyfield

One Staffordshire soldier's bravery in the Second World War was rewarded with the Victoria Cross. So why do few people know about John Baskeyfield? Phil Bowers tells the story of one local unsung hero...

The statue erected in Festival Park in Stoke on Trent in honour of John, or Jack Baskeyfield, as he's better known has often been said to be in the wrong place...

For a man who fought valiantly for his country during the Second World War, it seems a little unbecoming to place his memorial at the rear of a shopping centre, especially a man whose bravery earned him a Victoria Cross.

Whatever its location though, Baskeyfield’s statue is a testament to a man whose bravery should be better known by the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

His actions during the War gained him a reputation that garnered him the respect of his peers until his death in September of 1944.

Background

Baskeyfield was born in Burslem, one of the Six Towns, in November 1922, not far from where his statue now stands. Initially becoming a butcher, he enjoyed a conventional career until February of 1942, when he received his call up papers to enter the conflict that had raged across Europe over the previous three years.

John Baskeyfield

Serving with the 2nd South Staffs Regiment in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, Baskeyfield commanded two anti-tank guns at Arnhem, and was involved in heavy fighting that followed the stand of the Lonsdale Force near Oosterbeek, Holland in September 1944.

A fierce confrontation resulted in most of the regiment being forced back after a sustained an consistent drive through parachute battalions an holding troops by German forces.

The Last Confrontation

Baskeyfield’s section took it upon themselves to mount a serious defence of the Allied positions. Digging in near a road junction, the small contingent of British troops destroyed an armoured car and two Tiger tanks, making sure each shot counted by allowing the German armour to come within the perilously close distance of 100 yards.

His companions were all killed, while Baskeyfield himself was badly wounded in the leg. What followed next is a feat of sheer bravery that cost him his life.

Dragging himself to an antitank gun, Baskeyfield held off the entire German troop long enough to try and attract the attention of nearby Allied soldiers.

Fighting alone

However, when no help arrived, the Germans renewed their onslaught, advancing on Baskeyfield’s position with heavy armour and sustained mortar bombardment.

Alone, he continued to repel the attacking forces by himself, knocking out several German vehicles before his gun was destroyed. Baskeyfield, though, had done enough to ensure that the tank attack had been foiled.

John Baskeyfield

The Germans sent forth a third wave, but Baskeyfield again was unwilling to concede defeat, crawling to another gun and continuing to hold of the attackers.

He destroyed another armoured car and was preparing to take aim at a half-track, when, sadly, a German tank destroyed his position with a single shot, killing Baskeyfield in the process.

His body was never found.

Posthumous VC

He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after the war in recognition of his actions at Oosterbeek, and the statue was erected shortly after the construction of Festival Park in 1990.

While many people would like to see his memorial moved, it can not be disputed that the statue itself is a glowing tribute to one of the bravest men in the history of Staffordshire.

Phil Bowers

What do you think about Staffordshire's heroes and heroines?

If you've got something to say about any local heroes, check out our message board by clicking on the link below.

Here are some of the comments you've already made -

John Baskeyfield
I have just visited Arnhem and Oosterbeek and saw a painting of John Baskeyfields heroic stand. How can you account for one man's bravery and total disregard for his own life.? Please move his memorial where it can shine as a tribute to the bravery of many such men and hopefully set an example to youngsters of today. regards
Ian Roberts

John Baskeyfield
I live in Southern Spain although my mother is from Staffordshire. Whilst browsing through the net for my mothers maiden name Baskeyfield I came across the article on John Baskeyfield.
My mother confirmed that my grandmother had told her that he was one of "ours" but my mother had never heard the full story. It really touched my heart strings to hear that I had such an honorable member of our family.
Thank you for making the effort to bring these matters to light, it can often make you look at your family and roots in a different light. Best regards Louise (Luisa)
Louise Waterson (Louise)
Fuengirola, Málaga, Spain

John Baskeyfield
My father John E. Baskeyfield, deceased Mar 1999, and my grandfather John P. Baskeyfield ( the P. is from from my great/great grandparents having seen General Pershing in person) are descendents of the Baskeyfield's of England.
Some time ago, the Baskeyfield's made the trip across the Atlantic to establish the Baskeyfield branch in the United States. Edward Baskeyfield, my uncle has done extensive family tree searching, visited Baskeyfields in England , hosted Baskeyfields in his home. Thanks to the internet and google, what would have been forgotten past in two generations is now a click away. Cheers
John R. Baskeyfield
Pensacola, Florida USA

Other Victoria Cross winners/born or served /staffordshire
john harold rhodes vc born packmoore 3rd batt grendier guards 1914 1918,
thomas barratt vc 7th batt south staffs reg,
albert edward egerton vc 16th batt sherwood foresters,
william alfred savage able seaman royal navy 1939 1945,
w.h.coltman vc dcm&bar,mm&bar most decorated nco,north staffs reg 1914 1918,
samuel wassell vc 80th (south staffs reg )1879,
anthony clarke booth vc colour sergeant 80th reg of foot 1879,
john franks vallentin vc capt 1st bn south staffs reg 1914 1918,
a f g kilby capt 2nd bn south staffs reg 1914 1918 victoria cross,
john baskeyfield vc lance sergeant airborn 1939 1945,
john carmichael vc 9th s bn (pioneers)north staffs reg 1914 1918,
john thomas vc lance corporal 2/5th bn north staffs reg 1914 1918,
samuel parkes vc private 4th light dragoons 1857
thomas flinn vc age 15 years 3 months 64th regiment 1857 drummer, and a lot more
ian joines

My father Lance/Sgt Walter Linton served with JD Baskeyfield in Sicily, North Africa & Arnhem. My father says he was the bravest man he ever saw. As an exPara myself, I hope his memory lives on.
Tony Linton

last updated: 10/12/2008 at 08:56
created: 10/04/2006

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