Victoria Cross Corner
Sunday 29 January 1956, when the Victoria Cross Memorial was unveiled, was a memorable day in Dunedin, New Zealand – everyone was there, dressed in their best.
The unveiling of the memorial, outside the main entrance to the Dunedin RSA on the corner of Burlington Street and Moray Place, was a grand occasion attended by the Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Willoughby Norrie and Lady Norrie.
A plaque lists the names of the 22 recipients of the Victoria Cross, nine of whom were in attendance that day, and one of them – the Reverend Keith Elliott – dedicated the memorial. Reflecting the language of the time, the plaque pays tribute to soldiers of “the Maori War 1864, South African War 1899 – 1902, The Great War 1914 – 1918 and The World War 1939 – 1945”.
New Zealand soldiers recover from battle wounds
After being wounded in battle, many Anzac soldiers were shipped to England to recover. Once their injuries healed, they were sent to convalescent camps around the country to restore them to fighting fitness. This short film shows New Zealanders at a convalescent camp taking part in training exercises to improve their fitness. As the film shows, training was not all hard work, and they certainly had some fun at the camps.
“All my mates ever got were wooden crosses”
Corporal Cyril Bassett was the only New Zealander to be awarded a Victoria Cross for the Gallipoli campaign. In this 1916 film clip he is congratulated by fellow Kiwi soldiers shortly after being presented with his medal. His modesty can be seen in his bearing – while smiling and shaking hands jovially, he still appears reserved. Throughout his life, Bassett had mixed feelings about his VC. “All my mates ever got,” he said, “were wooden crosses.”
Getting the message through at Chunuk Bair
Lance Corporal Cyril Bassett, an Auckland bank clerk serving as a signaller in the Auckland Infantry Battalion, won New Zealand’s only Victoria Cross on Gallipoli. It was awarded not for fighting but for his bravery in repeatedly going out under fire to repair telephone lines which carried the vital signals from HQ to the men fighting in the front lines.
In the Battle of Chunuk Bair in early August 1915, Bsssett and several other signallers, including his good mate Cecil Whitaker, repaired lines again and again while men fell and died around them. As Cyril recalls in this 1959 interview, one bullet shot out the pocket of his tunic and another grazed his collar, but he was otherwise unharmed. His friend Cecil was not so lucky and was badly wounded, dying a few days later.
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.