George Ernest Bassett

George was born on 5 November 1894 in Candy, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, and educated at Kingswood College, Ceylon. His father had been a Sergeant Major in the 2ndBattalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment but on his retirement the family returned to England and settled in Thame. George senior became the proprietor of the Castle Hotel. George junior first attended Oxford House School but when that closed was one of several boys who moved to LWGS in January 1908.  He was placed in form III+ (probably an additional form to cope with the sudden influx of day pupils) but was promoted each of his three terms, leaving at the end of the calendar year from form Vb. On leaving school at the age of 14 he first became a clothier’s assistant. However, he was clearly looking for something more adventurous. Just before his 16thbirthday he enlisted in the Royal Navy, on 13thOctober 1910, as a wireless telegraphist with the rank of ‘boy second class’, service number J10031. Wirelessl telegraphy had had been used in the Navy from soon after its invention in 1895. The operator or ‘signalman’ used Morse Code to communicate with land bases or other nearby ships. It was a job requiring concentration, skill and accuracy. His service record shows that he alternated fairly frequently between seagoing vessels and shore establishments, but his job would have been essentially the same in both.

According to his personal record, he was 5ft 4 ½ ins when he joined the Service, growing eventually to 5ft 8 ½; with black hair, a dark complexion and a brown birth mark on his thigh.

His first ship was Impregnable, the harbour-based training ship at Devonport, but his first seagoing vessel was Hercules, one of the famous Dreadnoughtbattleships, part of Britain’s Grand Fleet and later to be involved in the Battle of Jutland.Clearly George had found his career, as on his 18thbirthday he signed on for12 years and actually served for 16 years as an adult and 18 altogether. He served in many different kinds of ships and shore establishments – see the table and photos below. During the war he served mainly in destroyers that were patrolling the English Channel off Belgium.

His character was rated very good throughout his naval career and his ability, after an initial ‘satisfactory’, always at least ‘superior; and often ‘excellent’. He rose steadily through the ranks and was eventually, three days before he retired, promoted to the highest non-commissioned rank of (Acting) Warrant Telegraphist, presumably to enhance his pension. At the same time he was presented with a Long Service and Good Conduct medal.

George left the navy on 3rdOctober 1928 but he lived to be 80, dying at Portsmouth in June 1975.

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