b. 13/07/1920 Winterborne, Dorset. d. 19/09/1944 Oosterbeek, Holland.
Lionel Ernest Queripel (1920-1944) was born in Winterbourne Monkton, Dorset on 13th July 1920 but when he was 6, the family moved to 52 Warwick Park, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, which became his home from now on. Lionel came from a well-established and highly decorated military family. His father, Colonel L H Queripel, had taken part in the action to put down the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and later served in Mesopotamia, France and Russia during the First World War, gaining a DSO and CMG on the way. His grandfather and great grandfather also served with distinction in Queen Victor’a’s Army.
Following his education at Marlborough College, and in accordance with the family tradition, Lionel joined the Army in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, and was commissioned in 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, following his education at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. The 2nd, 4th and 5th Battalions were sent to France in 1940 as the 133rd (Royal Sussex Regiment) Brigade and the survivors were among those rescued from Dunkirk in May 1940. The 2nd Battalion then went on to North Africa where it suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. Reforming in Kabrit in the Suez Canal Zone after the battle, it was decreed in January 1943 that the battalion, together with volunteers from the 4th and 5th Battalions, should be converted to a parachute unit under Lieutenant Colonel KBI Smyth of the South Wales Borderers. Some 200 men volunteered for parachute training and these formed the basis of the 10th Parachute Battalion.
The newly formed parachute battalion saw service in Italy for a short time before returning to England to take part in preparations for D-Day. In fact, the Battalion did not go to Normandy in June 1944, but remained in Great Britain until Operation Market Garden when, on 18th September 1944, it jumped in the second airlift near Arnhem, Netherlands, facing heavy enemy fire. The aircraft in which the A Company Commander was flying was shot down south of the Rhine and so Captain Queripel, as the second in command, took charge of the company.
By 1400 hrs on the 19th September, the confusion and heavy casualties saw Captain Queripel acting as commander of a company composed of the men of three parachute battalions. As they advanced along a main road on an embankment towards Arnhem they came under continuous machine-gun fire. At one point, the fire became so heavy that the company was split up on either side of the road and suffered considerable losses. Captain Queripel immediately began to reorganise his troops, crossing and recrossing the road while doing so, under extremely heavy and accurate fire from a strong point consisting of a captured British anti-tank gun and two machine guns. Whilst carrying a wounded sergeant to the regimental aid post under fire he was himself wounded in the face. Having reorganised his force, Captain Queripel personally led a party of men against the strong point holding up the advance. Despite the extremely heavy fire directed at him, Captain Queripel succeeded in killing the crews of the machine-guns and recapturing the anti-tank gun enabling the advance to continue.
Later Captain Queripel was ordered to defend some woodland near the Wolfheze level crossing which was vital to the allied advance (Wolfheze is about 12km to the northwest of Arnhem Bridge but only a few hundred metres from the Drop and Landing Zones used). By this time he had received further wounds in both arms, was cut off with a small party of men and took up a position in a ditch. Disregarding his injuries and the heavy mortar and machine gun fire, he continued to inspire his men to resist with hand grenades, pistols, and the few remaining rifles. On at least one occasion he picked up and threw back an enemy stick grenade which had landed in the ditch. As the enemy pressure increased, Captain Queripel decided that it was impossible to hold the position any longer and ordered the men to withdraw. Despite their protests, he insisted on remaining behind to cover their withdrawal with his automatic pistol and a few remaining hand grenades. This was the last occasion on which he was seen.
The rest of the Battalion fought on to vitual annihilation in the besieged Oosterbeek sector with only a handful of men escaping across the Rhine. Captain Queripel’s body was recovered and buried with full military honours with many of his comrades in the Arnhem Oosterbeek Cemetery. In January 1945, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, and was paid tribute to by one of his men, Sergeant Read who said, “he was one of the finest men I was privileged to serve under – always the last officer to return to his mess. His first thought was for his men…..One hears of V.C.’s being given for impulsive bravery, but not Capt. Queripel. Anyone who knew him would have expected him to do just what he did.”
His VC was presented to his mother by King George VI later that year, and in 1972, she presented his medals, alongside those of Lionel’s father, grandfather and great grandfather to the Airborne Forces Museum at Duxford.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PARACHUTE REGIMENT MUSEUM, DUXFORD.
BURIAL PLACE: ARNHEM OOSTERBEEK CEMETERY, HOLLAND.
PLOT V, ROW D, GRAVE 8.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Queripel VC Medal Group at the Parachute Regiment Museum, Duxford.
Kev Barnes – Images of the Victor Comic featuring Queripel VC.
Alastair Kennedy-Rose – Images of the two memorials at Queripel VC House, Chelsea.
Brian Drummond – Image of the Queripel VC Board in the VC Grove, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.