This biography of the WWII flying ace recounts his legendary career in the RAF, his time as a POW and his postwar life as a beloved public figure.
One of the most famous fighter pilots of the Second World War, Basil Gerald “Stapme” Stapleton achieved flying ace status in the Battle of Britain and was immortalized in Richard Hillary’s classic wartime memoir The Last Enemy. Born in Durban, South Africa, Stapleton joined the Royal Air Force in 1939 and flew Spitfires with 603 Squadron. His legendary escapades during the Battle of Britain account for nearly twenty enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged.
Stapleton later became flight commander of 257 Squadron and a gunnery instructor at RAF Kenley and Central Gunnery School, Catfoss. He returned to combat in 1944, flying Typhoons as commander of 247 Squadron. For his courageous combat during the Battle of Arnhem, he received the Dutch Flying Cross. In December of 1944, he was forced to land inside German lines and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner in Stalag Luft I on the Baltic coast.
Nicknamed 'Stapme' after a phrase used in his favorite cartoon 'Just Jake', Stapleton was a larger-than-life character who became a beloved public figure in his postwar life. With his handlebar mustache and good-humored bravado, he became for many the quintessential ace fighter pilot. In this authoritative and intimate volume, Stapleton tells his full story to historian David Ross, author of the acclaimed biography Richard Hillary.