BASSET Cyril Royston Guyton
Cyril Royston Guyton Bassett, VC (3 January 1892 9 January 1983) was a New Zealand recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the first and only soldier serving with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) to be awarded the VC in the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War.
When the First World War broke out, it was Bassett's intention to join the Royal Navy, but his mother, whose family had a history of service in the British Army, convinced him to enlist in the New Zealand Military Forces. Bassett was not particularly tall and was initially rejected on the grounds of height. He persisted with his attempt to enlist,and joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) as a sapper in the Corps of New Zealand Engineers, assigned to the New Zealand Divisional Signal Company.
Bassett embarked with the main body of the NZEF for the Middle East in October 1914. Initially based in Egypt, after a period of training, he landed at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915, the opening day of the Gallipoli Campaign.Along with the other signallers of his unit, he was immediately set to work laying communication lines. In early May, his courage under fire was noted in consideration for a gallantry award.
Later in the campaign, Bassett was promoted to corporal. In August 1915, a series of offensives against Turkish positions along the Gallipoli front were planned to break the stalemate that had developed since the initial landing. On 7 August, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade attacked Chunuk Bair, a prominent hill overlooking the battlefield. The battle lasted for three days. Chunuk Bair was captured by the brigade's Wellington Infantry Battalion on the second day, during which Bassett, in command of a section of five other signallers of his unit, laid down and maintained telephone lines between brigade headquarters and the front lines. Working on the exposed hill slopes leading up to Chunuk Bair, he braved continuous gunfire during this time armed only with a revolver and a bayonet. Although not wounded, a bullet had struck his boot and two more passed through the fabric of his tunic during the fighting. Bassett later remarked, referring to his lack of stature, "I was so short the bullets passed over me."
After the battle, Basset's name, along with those of the other five signallers of his section, was collected by Major Arthur Temperley of brigade headquarters, who nominated Bassett for the Victoria Cross (VC). At the time, the VC, instituted in 1856, was the highest gallantry award that could be bestowed on a soldier of the British Empire.
The citation for Bassett's VC read:
No. 4/515 Corporal Cyril Royston Guyton Bassett, New Zealand Divisional Signal Company. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the Chunuk Bair ridge in the Gallipoli Peninsula on 7th August, 1915. After the New Zealand Infantry Brigade had attacked and established itself on the ridge, Corporal Bassett, in full daylight and under a continuous and heavy fire, succeeded in laying a telephone line from the old position to the new one on Chunuk Bair. He has subsequently been brought to notice for further excellent and most gallant work connected with the repair of telephone lines by day and night under heavy fire.
The London Gazette, No. 29328, 15 October 1915
The citation incorrectly refers to Bassett's actions on 7 August; it was not until the following day that the Wellington Infantry Battalion captured Chunuk Bair. His VC was the first to be awarded to a soldier of the NZEF and he was the only one to receive it for actions during the Gallipoli Campaign.A few days after the battle, Bassett was evacuated from Gallipoli due to poor health. Suffering from dysentery, he spent several months recuperating at a hospital in Leicester and it was here that he was advised of his VC award. King George V presented him with the VC at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace on 3 February 1916.
In June 1916, Bassett rejoined his unit, by then on the Western Front in France as part of the New Zealand Division. Later that year, he participated in the Battle of the Somme, and in 1917 was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was wounded twice while on the Western Front;the first occasion was in October 1917,and the second in March 1918, when he was wounded in an artillery barrage on the headquarters of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, where he was the signals officer. The same barrage killed the brigade's commander, Brigadier-General Harry Fulton. Bassett was also recommended for, but was not awarded, the Military Cross.He returned to New Zealand in late 1918 as the New Zealand Division started demobilising and was formally discharged from the NZEF in 1919.
Clipped signature of Basset measuring 3" x 1 1/2"
This comes from a large collection of WWI VC autographs, all clippings that I recently obtained. As you know I am first and foremost a collector myself and along side Knights Cross autographs VC autographs are something that I am equally preoccupied with.
VC autographs are much harder to find as fewer were awarded . This autograph came from a large long time collection that was put up by an auction house , all the autographs that I obtained are WWI recipients, all clippings. Some of the autographs are duplicates for me so you have an opportunity to add some very hard to find VC autographs to your own collections
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