Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 10, 1885
Place of BirthWaterford
CountryIreland
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinGeorge Walter Bassett, father, Catherine St, Waterford, Ireland
Trade / CallingDruggist
ReligionWesleyan
Service Details
Regimental Number439074
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Canadian Field Ambulance
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Medical Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Age at Enlistment29
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death21/06/1974
Age at Death89
Buried AtSaint Andrew Cemetery, Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland

Bassett, Benjamin

Benjamin Bassett was born on 10 September 1885 in the city of Waterford in Ireland. His father George Walter Bassett, a wine merchant, was from Waterford, while his mother Sarah Jane Caldbeck was from County Wexford. The couple had married in Waterford in 1877. Children born to the family were George Thomas (1878), Frederick Richard (1880), Herbert John (1882), William Frederick (1883), Benjamin, Theadora Esther (1888), Richard Stanley (1890), and Thomas Walter (1891). The 1901 Ireland census found George and Sarah with children William, Benjamin, Dora, Richard, and Thomas in Waterford along with general servant Margaret Breen. By the 1911 census household members were George, Sarah, and Richard and servant Johanna Fennell. Benjamin, a druggist, and Thomas, a labourer, were found on the passenger list of the Canada that arrived in Portland, Maine, USA in April of 1910, on their way to Montreal, Quebec in Canada.

Benjamin found his way to Kenora in northwestern Ontario where he was working as a druggist when he signed his attestation paper on 3 January 1915. He gave his father George back in Waterford as next of kin. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was raised in northwestern Ontario in the spring of 1915 with headquarters in at Port Arthur, Ontario. With the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion Private Benjamin Bassett embarked from Montreal aboard the SS Missanabie on 4 September 1915.

Once in England Benjamin was taken on strength with the 12th Battalion at Shorncliffe. In January of 1916 he was struck off strength to the 27th Battalion, joining the unit in the field in early February. The 27th Battalion (City of Winnipeg) had arrived in France the previous September.

The 27th Battalion, with the 2nd Division, arrived in France  in September, 1915, and met up with the1st Division  by mid-month. Together these two divisions formed the Canadian Corps  and were led by General Alderson.The Canadian Corps, including the 27th, would not participate in any major offensive for almost a full year, when the Battalion would receive its ‘baptism of fire’ at the Battle of St Eloi  5 kilometres from Ypres. It was reported the officers of the 27th had not slept for over 100 hours, this was most apparent with the Commander, I.R. Snider, a veteran of the Northwest Rebellion  of 1885 and the South African War, of the 27th Battalion who, during the Battle of St Eloi, stayed awake for 6 straight days trying to relieve the strain ‘on his beloved boys’. After the battle he broke down and cried, he was removed from command ‘being diagnosed with shell shock’. The Battle of St Eloi  had claimed 40 of his men’s lives and wounded another 189.The Somme  Valley became the new objective of the Canadian Corps. When the Canadians arrived in the Somme Valley the British had been fighting for 3 months and they had traded 250 000 men for 8 kilometres German trenches.On the opening day of the Somme offensive alone, July 1, 1916, 20 000 British, Canadian and Commonwealth  soldiers died and another 40 000 were wounded; it was the single heaviest day of casualties in history. One of the most notable battles of Somme the 27th Battalion participated in was the Battle of Courcelette  on September 15, 1916. This battle marked the first time in history tanks  were used in warfare. However, all 6 tanks that used that day were knocked out; they were incredibly unreliable.The Canadians suffered around 7000 casualties during the battle which lasted until the 22nd of September. Despite all this the Canadians, more specifically the 27th, were successful as they were at the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, September 26, 1916. (Wikipedia)

In August of 1916 Benjamin was admitted to the No 6 Canadian Field Ambulance for a few days, suffering from PUO, fever of unknown origin. In early January of 1917 he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge, followed by a ten day leave later that month. In late March he was transferred to the Canadian Army Medical Corps General and attached to the 27th Battalion for Water Detail. In December he was granted a fourteen day leave, returning in early January of 1918. In August he was posted to the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance. That December he was granted a fourteen day leave to the UK, returning on the 30th. With the end of the war, Benjamin returned to England in April of 1919.

After the war Benjamin did not return to Canada. Discharged in England, he took up residence in Malahide, County Dublin in Ireland where he became the proprietor of the Malahide Pharmacy. During the second quarter of 1922 he married Nora Jessica Taylor, marriage registered in the district of Balrothery (Malahide). Born in 1899, Jessica was the only child of George, meat purveyor, and Mary Susan Bishop (née Evans) Taylor of Malahide. Both born in England, George and Mary had married on 24 July 1898, marriage registered in South Dublin. Benjamin and Jessica gave birth to three children: William George, Pamela, and Patricia.

Four of the Bassett boys had immigrated to Canada. Herbert Bassett married Frances Brownwell in 1913 in Amherst, Nova Scotia and lived in Galt, Ontario where he died in 1947. Brothers Richard and Thomas were living in Westmount/Montreal when they signed their attestation papers, Richard in 1915 and Thomas in 1916. Richard served overseas with the No 6 Canadian Field Ambulance, earning a Good Conduct Badge and Military Medal in 1917. Richard died in 1977 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Thomas went overseas with the No 6 (McGill) OS Battery Siege Artillery CEF, serving with the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. Thomas died in Montreal in 1959.

Predeceased by his father George in 1921 and his mother Sarah in 1933, both interred in Waterford City, Benjamin died on 21 June 1974 in Malahide. His wife Jessica died in 1980 and is interred beside him in the Saint Andrew Cemetery, Malahide.

Benjamin’s brother William Frederick, a Lieutenant in the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), was killed in action in northern Russia on 27 October 1918. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. William has no known grave but is listed on the Archangel Memorial in Russia.

by Judy Stockham

photo of Benjamin: Cian Flaherty
photo of Malahide Pharmacy: Malahide Historical Society
photo of Bassett home today and grave marker: Roger Greene, Malahide Historical Society
photo of Saint Andrew Church and Cemetery: John on findagrave

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