STAPME. The Biography of Squadron Leader Basil Gerald Spapleton DFC, DFC (DUTCH)
- Gerald Stapleton was born in Durban, South Africa in 1920. In January 1939 he took up a short service commission in the RAF and eventually joined 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron in December 1939, prior to becoming one of the outstanding fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain, accounting for nearly twenty enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged. Indeed all his scores were achieved on Spitfires during this Battle and he was revered as one of Richard Hillary's contemporaries in whose book The Last Enemy, he features.
Nicknamed 'Stapme' after a phrase used in his favourite cartoon 'Just Jake', in February 1942 he became flight commander of 257 Squadron, then joined 2 ADF at Colerne the following year before becoming a gunnery instructor at RAF Kenley and Central Gunnery School, Catfoss. He returned to ops in August 1944 to command 247 Squadron on Typhoons. He received the Dutch Flying Cross for his part in the Arnhem operations. Forced to land inside German lines in December 1944, he spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft I on the Baltic coast. Postwar he joined BOAC, then returned to South Africa but has now retired to England where he is a very popular figure at numerous air shows during the year.
Without doubt he was one of the real 'characters' to survive the war and to many the quintessential image of a Battle of Britain fighter pilot. Stapme tells his full story, warts and all, to historian David Ross, whose first book Richard Hillary received acclaim. The book is further augmented by hitherto unpublished photographs, from both the author's and Stapme's collection and a jacket painting by Nicolas Trudgian.