Second World War Siege of Malta Defence of Luqa Aerodrome 1942 British Empire Medal and North West Europe advance to Arnhem and Holland ‘defence of the island’ between Arnhem and Nijmegen casualty group awarded to Corporal later Sergeant F.J. Stapleton, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, who was recommended for a Mention in Despatches and awarded the British Empire Medal for his ‘great courage and leadership’ during an air raid on Luqa aerodrome, when he was Section Commander of an Aerodrome Post. His billet was demolished by a bomb, killed one man and wounding others. Although wounded and badly shaken himself, he remained in charge and saw that all his section were given attention, only going himself when ordered to do so. After having had his wound dressed he returned and superintended the salvage of weapons and stores. As a Sergeant, Stapleton then saw service in North West Europe, and was present during XXX Corps advance to Arnhem during the fighting to consolidate the Eindhoven corridor. In the subsequent operations, Stapleton was killed in action on 6th October 1944 during the period spent defending the island – the low-lying polderland between Arnhem and Nijmegen – against a German thrust south.
Group of 6: British Empire Medal, GVI 1st type cypher, Military Division; (CPL. FREDERICK J. STAPLETON); 1939-1945 Star; Africa Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; War Medal.
Condition: Good Very Fine.
Frederick Joseph Stapleton came from Torquay, Devon, and with the Second World War, then saw service as a Corporal (No.5616603) with the 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment out in Malta during the siege.
The 2nd Devons were garrisoning Malta when the Second World War began on 3rd September 1939. In June 1940 Mussolini’s declaration of war hurled Malta to the forefront of world events. The island’s position below Sicily and above Italian Libya and British Egypt made her strategically vital in both the campaign in North Africa and the war in the Mediterranean. The Italians (and later the Germans) tried to bomb and starve surrounded Malta into surrender. The siege lasted three years, during which the 2nd Devons defended the coast and airfields, repaired bomb damage, mended roads and runways, manned anti-aircraft guns and prepared for an invasion that happily never came. It was on Malta that the 2nd Devons came together with the 1st Hampshire and 1st Dorsets to form 231 Malta Brigade, with which they served until late 1944.
It was during the siege that Stapleton won the British Empire Medal, he having been originally recommended for a Mention in Despatches for his actions during an air raid on Luqa aerodrome in 1942, the award being published in the London Gazette for 18th February 1943, which lists award earned between May and October 1942.
The original recommendation reads as follows: ‘Cpl. Stapleton was Section Commander of an Aerodrome Post when his billet was demolished by a bomb, killed one man and wounding others. Although wounded and badly shaken himself, he remained in charge and saw that all his section were given attention, only going himself when ordered to do so. After having had his wound dressed he returned and superintended the salvage of weapons and stores. This N.C.O. showed great courage and leadership throughout.’
From his combination of awards, it does not appear that Stapleton saw service with the 2nd Battalion in either Sicily or Italy, however he did go on to see service in North West Europe.
On D-Day, 6th June 1944, the 2nd Devons landed immediately behind the 1st Hampshires and 1st Dorsets and then passed through to capture Ryes and an enemy coastal battery at Longues. In the Normandy campaign they fought at La Belle Epine, near Trungy, at Hottot, at Le Lion Vert and at Les Forges on the road to Conde sur Noireau. After the rapid advance across the Seine and through Belgium, they played a part in Operation Market Garden, fighting to consolidate the Eindhoven corridor through which XXX Corps would pass on their way to the bridges at Nijmegen and Arnhem. October and November 1944 were spent defending the island – the low-lying polderland between Arnhem and Nijmegen – against a German thrust south.
It was during the defence of the low-lying polderland between Arnhem and Nijmegen that the by then Sergeant Stapleton was killed in action on 6th October 1944. He is buried in Arnhem-Oosterbeek War Cemetery.