Lionel Queripel came from a well established and highly decorated military dynasty; his father, Colonel LH Queripel who was a CMG and had been awarded the DSO had served during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and later in Mesopotamia, France and Russia during the First World War. His grandfather who was awarded a CB and great grandfather were also soldiers. He was born in Winterborne Monkton, Dorset, England
Captain Queripel had been commissioned into the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment just before the start of the Second World War. After the battle of El Alamein in 1942 (where they sustained heavy casualties) the Battalion was one of several to provide candidates for selection to form a new Parachute Regiment battalion. Originally, when the 2nd Battalion was scheduled for conversion it was known as ‘S’ Battalion. However, the War Office then decreed that a regular unit could not be transferred to the Army Air Corps and the Battalion remained on strength bolstered by men of the 4th & 5th Battalions. There were 200 or so men of the 2nd Battalion who qualified and progressed to parachute training and they formed the basis of the 10th Parachute Battalion at Kabrit under Lieutenant-Colonel KBI Smyth OBE of the South Wales Borderers.
Queripel was 24 years old, and a Captain in the 10th Battalion, Parachute Regiment, 4th Parachute Brigade, 1st Airborne Division during this battle when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. By 1400 hrs on 19 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 12 km 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.
Queripel is buried in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Following the custom of the British Army, his gravestone is marked with the regimental badge of the regiment he was first commissioned into rather than that of his serving unit, The Parachute Regiment.
As is often the case with posthumous VC recipients, there are many Regimental memorials to Lionel Queripel, these include: the Parachute Regiment Role of Honour which used to be in St Martins-in-the-Fields Church, London but is now in Aldershot; Queripel House the site of 10 PARA’s HQ at Duke of York’s in London; Leicestershire where 10 PARA emplaned; the Royal Sussex Book of Remembrance in Chichester Cathedral; the entrance porch to the village church at Somerby and of course the Airborne Forces Museum and the royal sussex museum at Duxford, Aldershot and Oosterbeek. Recently, Captain Queripel’s school, Marlborough College, has unveiled a VC/GC memorial on which his name is commemorated.
Recently his home town of Tunbridge Wells (to where the family moved in 1926) added his name to the Town War Memorial but he had already been included in a unique VC Memorial in Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells. 10 VC recipients had lived in Tunbridge Wells including the very first VC to be awarded to Charles Lucas, who as a mate on HMS Hecla (1839) during the Crimean War in 1854 picked a live shell with a burning fuse from the deck and threw it overboard.
In February 1945 when the award of the Victoria Cross was announced Tunbridge Wells Council commissioned a poem by Herbert Hope Campbell. At the time Lionel Queripel was posted as missing, it was not until after the war that it was confirmed he was killed:
We who are burghers of your native town
Hail you today with your illustrious name,
Your knightly valour wins for you renown;
We glory in your courage and your fame!
May we be worthy of your daring deed
On 19 September 2007, Lionel Queripel's sword which had been held with B Coy the London Regiment was presented to the Royal Sussex Regiment Museum in Eastbourne. His surviving sister, her family and Regimental representatives were present. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces Museum.