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Victoria Cross Tribute Spans 100 Years Since Gallipoli

Unique Victoria Cross Tribute Spans 100 Years Since Gallipoli

As a major public art installation is formally closed in Auckland on Thursday (eds – July 23), New Zealand’s only living recipient of a Victoria Cross will make a gesture stretching back 100 years to the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War.

Corporal Willie Apiata VC will present one of the brass quatrefoil artworks created by New Zealand artist Max Gimblett, which have adorned St David’s Church in Khyber Pass Road for the past three months, to the descendants of the only New Zealander awarded a Victoria Cross at Gallipoli.

Aucklander Cyril Bassett received the Victoria Cross for bravery during the briefly successful Allied assault on Chunuk Bair, the highest point on the Gallipoli Peninsula. He was quoted as saying “I got the Victoria Cross – my mates just got wooden crosses” .

A noted yachtsman, he was a hero in post war Auckland, was married on the site where St David’s now stands in 1926 and died in 1981. His grandson Mark Bramwell of Auckland will receive the brass quatrefoil tribute at a function on Thursday evening at the church, on behalf of Bassett’s descendants.

Aucklander Paul Baragwanath, whose grandfather Owen was the Minister at St David’s for a number of years, has directed and curated the Remembrance project, and is heading The Friends of St David’s campaign to raise funds to help preserve the iconic building, known as the “Soldiers’ Church” with its magnificent stained glass windows, unique angled floor and seating for 600.

Key to the campaign has been the sale of the brass quatrefoil artworks created by New York resident Max Gimblett, who grew up around the church, went on to become an artist of international renown, and is to be formally honoured next month as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. The concept is that the beautiful “artworks of remembrance” will serve as permanent reminders in New Zealand homes and offices of the New Zealanders who have served in all wars.

Baragwanath says the Trust has received support from many quarters, and the closure of the major art display in Auckland marks the start of a national campaign to offer the artworks across New Zealand.

“This building is an Auckland treasure, part of the city’s history and of particular importance to our soldiers for almost 100 years. We need to preserve it and find new ways of broadening its use by the community.”

Further information is available on
FOOTNOTE: During Thursday evening’s function, 0potiki schoolgirl Caitlin Papuni-McLellan will deliver the speech which won her the national Cyril Bassett Memorial award, and took her to Gallipoli earlier this year.


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