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VC holder’s legacy cast for generations

On a poignant Auckland morning, the legacy of one of the New Zealand Army’s Victoria Cross recipients was passed onto the next generation.

08 December, 2023

The Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals (RNZSigs), with representation from the Royal New Zealand Corps of Engineers (RNZE), presented replica sets of Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Cyril Bassett VC’s medals to his family at an intimate ceremony at Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Hall of Memories. The Museum currently houses the original medals.

The family was represented by Bassett VC’s 92-year-old daughter Cherry Bramwell, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

The four sets of replica miniatures presented were:

  • Victoria Cross (awarded 8 August 1915)

  • 1914-15 star (for Gallipoli)

  • British 1914-18 War medal (WW1)

  • Victory medal (WW1)

  • 1939-1945 War medal (WW2)

  • New Zealand 1939-45 War Service medal

  • King George VI 1937 coronation medal

  • Queen Elizabeth II 1953 coronation medal

  • Queen Elizabeth II 1977 Silver Jubilee medal

  • New Zealand Efficiency Medal (for efficient Territorial service)

  • New Zealand 12 year Territorial Service medal

The project began in September 2022 with an email from LTCOL Bassett VC’s granddaughter to the RNZSigs Corps Warrant Officer.

It simply said “Mum was wondering if it would be possible to get copies of my grand-dad Cyril Bassett's medals.”

RNZSigs Corps Warrant Officer, Warrant Officer Class One James Peffers says discussions were had with the family on a way forward.

“It was decided that four sets of replica miniature medals were what the family wanted, to present to the four grand-children, so they had something tangible to remember their grandfather by.

These medals were sourced and mounted by former Signaller Warrant Officer Class Two Nigel Brewin, and sponsored by ANZ, Auckland RSA & Auckland District RSA,” he said.

20231125 NZDF K1028063 1
20231125 NZDF K1028063 19
20231125 NZDF K1028063 21
20231125 NZDF K1028063 42
20231125 NZDF K1028063 36

WO1 Peffers says the occasion helped maintain the connection with the living descendants of LTCOL Bassett VC.

He was the only Signaller ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross. It allowed us to give back to the family and demonstrate how we still hold him in high regard.

"We keep his memory alive by presenting the Corporal Bassett VC Memorial Trophy to the top Corporal each year. This trophy was instigated by LTCOL Bassett VC’s widow in 1984, and has been awarded annually ever since. It gives our junior leaders something to strive for,” WO1 Peffers says.

The current CPL Bassett VC award recipient, CPL Sam McQuillan, acted as medal bearer of the original medals during the presentation.

Who was Cyril Bassett VC?

Born in Auckland on 3 Jan 1892, Cyril Bassett was a bank worker with the National Bank when the First World War began. A member of New Zealand's Territorial Force, he volunteered for service abroad with NZEF and was posted to the Corps of New Zealand Engineers as a sapper in the Divisional Signal Company.

Cyril Bassett VC

He saw action on the opening day of the Gallipoli Campaign, and during the Battle of Chunuk Bair he performed the actions that led to his award of the VC. Medically evacuated due to sickness shortly after the battle, he later served on the Western Front and finished the war as a second lieutenant.

Bassett returned to the banking profession but was recalled to active duty during the Second World War. He served on the Home Front and by the time he was taken off active duty in December 1943, he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was Commander of Signals in the Northern Military District.

When he retired from his banking career he became a Justice of the Peace in Devonport. He died on 9 Jan 1983 at the age of 91.