By Jeremy Rees

Cyril Bassett liked the view from the Stanley Pt lookout over the Waitemata.

Before he died in 1983, aged 91, the nuggety Gallipoli veteran would walk the few hundred yards from his North Shore home to watch the yachts on the harbour.

Few who saw him knew his past.


To those who asked, he probably wouldn't tell. But the old retired bank manager scanning the Waitemata was among the bravest of the brave.

As a 23-year-old corporal in the New Zealand Signals Corp he won the Victoria Cross for bravery. He was the only New Zealand soldier to win the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli. Moreover, he won it in the hell of Chunuk Bair when, under constant fire, he laid and relaid the telephone wires to keep a line open to the troops desperately defending the crest of the hill against Turkish attacks.

Today, 84 years later and half a world away, the Devonport Community Board is expected to approve a formal recognition of Cyril Bassett. Not a gleaming memorial. A modest man, he never craved public honours.

The quiet, unnamed lookout on Stanley Pt is set to be named after Cyril Bassett VC.

North Shore historian and former Shore mayor Paul Titchener knew Mr Bassett as an elderly man and pushed for the recognition.

"He was a very humble and gallant man. He never really sought glory but in this last year of the century it's important that we remember the bravery and sacrifices of our past."

The family lived on Stanley Pt for more than 40 years. The Devonport Community Board canvassed locals and all supported the name.

Mr Bassett was unfailingly reticent about his award. He was always irked that he was the only New Zealand soldier to receive a VC on Gallipoli.

"There should have been hundreds," he said. Or he would make light of it. Standing just 5 foot 4, he claimed he was so short all the bullets passed over him.

But his award was not for one show of bravery but for many. As two British battalions were virtually scourged off the hill and the Wellingtons were holding on desperately on the crest, Mr Bassett and companions worked for a day and a night repairing the copper wires that gave the men on the hill their only link to headquarters.

The wires were repeatedly cut and fixing them drew constant Turkish fire from the heights. They were, said one account, like "moving ducks in a shooting gallery."

Later, invalided to an English hospital, Mr Bassett learned of his VC from a newspaper.

By the end of war, he had fought in France, been wounded twice and had risen to the rank of lieutenant.

Back home he returned to his job in the bank. He married, raised two daughters and became manager of the Town Hall branch of the National Bank from 1931 until his retirement in 1951. He owned a big keeler, Lady Wilma, for years and played the violin.

When war returned he offered his service and in 1940 joined the National Military Reserve in the New Zealand Corps of Signals.

He died in 1983. In the funeral eulogy, the Very Rev Owen Baragwanath spoke of a "picture of heroism beyond the understanding of most of us" but also of a private person who hated all the fuss - the ideal hero for a quiet memorial on Stanley Pt.