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Seasick men and horses

Twenty-three-year-old Auckland telegraphist (signaller) Cyril Bassett sailed for the war in October 1914 with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Cyril was on board the battleship Waimana, with the rank of orderly corporal. In this 1976 interview, he recalls that during the long sea voyage. his job was to clean up after seasick men and horses. However, in August 1915 Bassett won the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in the Allied forces, for maintaining communication lines under fire during the Battle of Chunuk Bair.

Year:1914 (Recorded 1976)

Location:Indian Ocean

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Seasick men and horses

Twenty-three-year-old Auckland telegraphist (signaller) Cyril Bassett sailed for the war in October 1914 with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Cyril was on board the battleship Waimana, with the rank of orderly corporal. In this 1976 interview, he recalls that during the long sea voyage. his job was to clean up after seasick men and horses. However, in August 1915 Bassett won the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in the Allied forces, for maintaining communication lines under fire during the Battle of Chunuk Bair.


Year: 1914 (Recorded 1976)

Length: 01:57

Credits: Interview by: Tony Mortiboy

Source: Radio New Zealand Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Catalogue Reference: 247737 A conversation with Cyril Bassett V.C


People: Cyril Royston Bassett

Location: Indian Ocean

Tags: Ships, Horses, Troop Ships, Soldiers


Image Title: Horses being loaded onto a troop ship, Wellington, 1914

Image Source: Framegrab from Off to the Front, 1914 [F1820 Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision]


The New Zealand Main Body, made up of ten troopships, was due to leave from Wellington in September 1914. At the last minute, coded German telegraph signals were intercepted, alerting the New Zealand government that enemy ships were in their waters. The government demanded two British battleships to escort the troop convoy. In October the Main Body sailed for Albany, West Australia, where it was joined by by 26 Australian troopships and the cruisers Sydney and Melbourne.

On 9 November 1914, near the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean, the Sydney intercepted the German cruiser Emden. Four Australians and 134 Germans were killed before the Sydney forced the German ship to beach on one of the islands.

The convoy was originally bound for Britain and the battlefields of France, but the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire entered the war while they were en route. The New Zealanders and Australians were diverted to Egypt where they protected the vital Suez Canal from Turkish attack, and eventually took part in the campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula.