ANZAC Gallipoli Special Part 1 - Cyril Bassett, New Zealand
Cyril Bassett, born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 3rd January 1892, was 23 when he served in the frontlines on the Gallipoli peninsular as a corporal in the New Zealand Divisional Signal Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He was awarded the Victoria Cross which is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Cyril was the first New Zealander to be awarded the VC in World War I and was the only New Zealander to receive this honour from the failed Gallipoli campaign.
As one Gallipoli historian summed Mr Bassetts contribution at Gallipoli in 1915: 'During the ferocious battle for Chunuk Bair, Mr Bassett and a handful of companions laid and subsequently repaired a telephone wire to the front line. In full daylight and under continuous and heavy fire, Bassett 'dashed and then crept, then dashed and crept again, up to the forward line'. The lines were cut again and again, but Bassett and his fellow linesmen went out day and night to mend them.'
He was always modest about his actions, later claiming, 'It was just that I was so short that the bullets passed over me.' He was reportedly always reluctant to talk about the VC award responding to questions with a standard quote of, 'All my mates ever got were wooden crosses.'
Cyril later achieved the rank of colonel and during WW2 he was instrumental in training others in the skills he had attained and honed in WW1. According to his daughter, her father rarely spoke about his achievements. 'It just wasn't done' he was quoted as saying.
Recently (on Armistice Day) ANZ National Deputy Chief Executive Officer Steven Fyfe announced that The National Bank of New Zealand was honoured to be working in partnership with the RSA to promote amongst young New Zealanders a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices made by Cyril Bassett, VC, and the many men and women who have served New Zealand in wars and armed conflicts overseas. To this end the launch of a new secondary schools speech competition was revealed: The National Bank RSA Cyril Bassett VC Speech Competition.
'Cyril Bassett was a life-long and loyal staff member of The National Bank, and we wanted to honour him and ensure his incredible achievements endure in the collective memories of New Zealanders for the years to come. We believe his contribution at Gallipoli is one of the great untold stories of New Zealand heroism' Steven Fyfe said.
Spread the word.
Mark Minehan, PP Travel, London
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