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“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.”

Year:1916

Location:London, England

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“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.”


Year: 1916

Length: 00:55

Production Company: British Pathe

Source: Footage supplied by British Pathé

Catalogue Reference: F245628 FOR BRAVERY AT GALLIPOLI - VC FOR CORPORAL BASSETT


People: Cyril Bassett

Location: London, England

Tags: Victoria Cross, Medals, Heroes, Soldiers, Awards, Chunuk Bair

Subject: World War, 1914-1918, Campaigns – Turkey – Gallipoli Peninsula, Victoria Cross, Military decorations – Commonwealth countries, Motion pictures, Heroes in motion pictures


Cyril Bassett’s Victoria Cross inscription reads: “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.”

Two signalling teams were originally sent up to Chunuk Bair; one commanded by Sapper B. L. Dignan and the other by Bassett. On the way up to the post, Dignan’s team ran out of wire. Bassett ordered his team to abandon their own line and use their wire to make up the rest of Dignan’s line. In this way they were able to get one functional telephone line up to the top of Chunuk Bair ridge. The line was repeatedly cut by bullets or shrapnel, so Bassett and his team spent the next two days ceaselessly maintaining communications under heavy enemy fire. Two bullets clipped him in that time, but did not wound or even slow him down. A few days after the battle, he was evacuated to England due to illness.

At Buckingham Palace, London, Bassett was presented with his VC by King George V, in February 1916. After convalescing, he returned to his unit to fight on the Western Front.

A modest man, Bassett famously downplayed his achievement, saying “It was just that I was so short that the bullets passed over me.”