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Cyril's Tour - From Grafton to Gallipoli

Posted by Website Admin on April 24, 2017

Cyril's Tour - From Grafton to Gallipoli

Historian Laurie Barber profiled Aucklander Cyril Bassett (pictured), the country’s first Victorian Cross recipient during World War One, in the following excerpt:

Cyril Royston Guyton Bassett was born at Auckland, New Zealand, on 3 January 1892.  He attended Grafton School, Auckland Grammar School and the Auckland Technical College.

On 10 August 1914 Bassett was attested as a sapper in the New Zealand Divisional Signal Company, at that time attached to the Corps of New Zealand Engineers. He sailed with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 16 October that year. Following divisional training in Egypt, the company was thrust into the fighting at Gallipoli when it landed on 25 April 1915. Between 7 and 9 August 1915 Bassett, now a corporal, was involved in an action that won him the Victoria Cross, the first awarded to a New Zealand serviceman in the First World War. During the ferocious battle for Chunuk Bair, he 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.'

Bassett was evacuated through illness to Britain on 13 August 1915. He rejoined his unit in France in June 1916, and on 21 September 1917 was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was twice wounded in action on the western front and returned to New Zealand in December 1918. Before his release from the NZEF in January 1919 he was promoted to full lieutenant.

After the war Bassett resumed his career with the National Bank, serving in Auckland and as manager in Paeroa. He retained his link with the military by joining the Territorial Forces.

Throughout his military career he was regarded as a popular and hard-working officer.

Cyril Bassett retired from banking in January 1952. During his retirement he served the Devonport community as a justice of the peace. He died on 9 January 1983 at his home in Stanley Bay, Auckland, at the age of 91, survived by his wife and two daughters. Bassett had been the only New Zealander serving in a New Zealand unit to win the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli. He had been reluctant, however, to talk about the award saying, 'All my mates ever got were wooden crosses.' Following his death, his widow donated the Bassett VC Memorial Trophy to the Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals; the trophy depicts Bassett laying a line at Gallipoli. It is awarded annually to the corps' most outstanding corporal – the rank Bassett held when he won his Victoria Cross.

Acknowledgement:   Laurie Barber. 'Bassett, Cyril Royston Guyton', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b15/bassett-cyril-royston-guyton (accessed 24 April 2017)

 

Auckland - the mystery behind its name

Posted by Website Admin on March 31, 2017

Auckland - the mystery behind its name

Have you ever wondered the obvious - “How did Auckland get its name?”    

The answer harks back to a favour granted by one friend to another. Auckland was named by New Zealand’s first Governor, William Hobson, out of gratitude to his esteemed friend George Eden the Lord of Auckland (pictured), who had revived Hobson’s flagging naval career.  

At the tender age of 10, Hobson was enlisted in the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of lieutenant by the age of 22, coinciding with the end of the George Eden, Earl of AucklandNapoleonic Wars in 1815.  Hobson was then posted to the West Indies where he reached the rank of Captain, but was overlooked for subsequent promotions despite his ambition. Until Lord Auckland, the Governor General of India at the time, intervened and gave Hobson command of the HMS Rattlesnake and a new mission to scope out New Zealand. The mission’s goal was no walk in the park. Hobson was instructed to gauge the Maori position on a formal sovereignty agreement between the Crown and the country’s first people.

It was this mission and Hobson’s subsequent report which set him up for his next command.  To deliver a Treaty to New Zealand on behalf of Queen Victoria and gain the wholesale agreement of Maori Chiefs to English governance. With the goal achieved in February 1840, Hobson then formally established both the colony and the new government. 

But Hobson  never forgot his lucky break and who scratched his back. Following successful negotiations with the local tribe, Ngati Whatua, Waitamata Harbour was declared  the hub of the new capital so a name was hastily required  for the settlement.  Hobson not only named the city after his patron in September 1840 but bestowed Lord Auckland’s family name, Eden, to the soaring cone that graces the city’s skyline, Maungawhau-Mt Eden.  And of course, at a later date,  Eden Park, home of the mighty All Blacks was another famous landmark named after the career diplomat George Eden, Lord of Auckland.

Lord Auckland died in 1849, following what was described as a fit. He never set foot in his namesake Auckland city or married so the earldom became extinct on his death. The title of Auckland however remains an enduring link to New Zealand’s colonial past and a pact made between two intrepid mates.