A conversation with Cyril Bassett V.C.

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An unidentified announcer introduces an interview with Cyril Bassett by Colonel Tony Mortiboy, recorded in 1976.

Cyril Bassett died on January 9, 1983, just six days after his 91st birthday. The only signaller ever to have won the Victoria Cross, his memory holds a special place among the military communicators of all Commonwealth armies.

Throughout his life he had maintained a special interest in the corps of signals and soldiers. Commissioned in 1917, he served in the Territorials between the wars and during World War II commanded the First Divisional Signals in New Zealand from 1942 to 1943 in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

From early boyhood days in Auckland, Cyril Bassett had that touch of determination about him. Perhaps it was the fact that his very short stature forced him to strive that little bit harder with all the physical activities which boys indulge in. He never took no for an answer and yet was humbled completely when at the age of twenty-three he won the Victoria Cross on Gallipoli.

Born on January 3, 1892, he attended Grafton and Auckland Grammar Schools as well as the Auckland Technical College, becoming, at the age of sixteen, a clerk with the National Bank.

Always reluctant to talk about his exploits on Chunuk Bair ridge on the 7th and 8th of August, 1915, he sometimes turned aside questions with the comment: "It was just that I was so short that the bullets passed over me."

His lack of height nearly prevented him from getting into uniform at all.
In this interview with Colonel Tony Mortiboy in 1976, Cyril Bassett recalls some of his experiences from the time when he joined the College Rifles.

He talks about joining the College Rifles and then being twice rejected by the medical officer examining prospective recruits for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force because of his size. But he merely re-joined the queue and finally got accepted because of his persistence.

His first experience was as an orderly corporal on board the Waimana transport ship.There was concern about the Emden but he saw another ship signalling that the Emden had been destroyed, even though no one believed him at first.

He was a signaller in the Number Three section on Gallipoli and worked mostly as a lineman, hand-laying wires. He describes the problems of laying and mending lines on Gallipoli.

After the war he joined the National Military Reserve and also did some training at Trentham for the Territorials. In 1940 he came back into Signals and ended up commanding 1st Division Signals. He says he was never interested in command but it was thrust upon him. They discuss army training.

He retired in 1951 from his career in banking. He talks about the changes he has seen in Auckland, his family's origins in the United Kingdom and the wars he has seen in his lifetime.

In the back announcement, the announcer reads the citation from The London Gazette notice of Bassett's Victoria Cross.

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Year 1976

Reference number 247737

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Ngā Taonga Korero Collection

Genre Interviews (Sound recordings)
Sound recordings

Credits Mortiboy, A. T., Interviewer
Bassett, Cyril Royston Guyton, 1892-1983 (New Zealander, b.1892, d.1983), Interviewee
Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand (estab. 1976, closed 1988), Broadcaster

Duration 00:24:32

Date 1976

Subject Bassett, Cyril Royston Guyton, 1892-1983 -- Interviews
Military education -- New Zealand/Topical
Embarkation (Military science)/Topical
World War, 1914-1918 -- Campaigns -- Turkey -- Gallipoli Peninsula -- Personal narratives, New Zealand
World War, 1914-1918 -- Veterans -- New Zealand