William Bassil was born in the autumn of 1884 in Abbots Langley, the son of William and Elizabeth Bassil. William (senior) worked as a General House Decorator in 1891 when the family lived at Asylum Terrace, Troley Bottom, Abbots Langley. By 1901 William (senior) had died and Elizabeth had moved with her son William and his three sisters to 203 High Street, Watford, where they lived with their grand-mother, Jane Vine.
William (junior) enlisted in the Royal Navy on 17th August 1905, and served at HMS “Pembroke 1”, a shore base at Chatham as a Cook’s Mate. He had signed on for twelve years’ service, but continued throughout the Great War and was demobilised on 17th October 1923, whereupon he joined the Hertfordshire Constabulary.
William first went to sea aboard HMS “Achilles”, a Dreadnought Class battleship on 3 May 1907, and then spent seven years serving as a Cooks Mate and alternating between ships at sea and HMS “Pembroke 1” on shore at Chatham. When War broke out in August 1914 he was serving aboard HMS “Hampshire”, and throughout the War served on HMS “Zinnia” (Destroyer), “Colleen”, “Bacchante” (Armoured Cruiser patrolling the African coast), “Empress”, and “Egmont”, and in between returning to HMS “Pembroke 1”.
The Abbots Langley Parish Magazine Roll of Honour first listed William in June 1915, serving with HMS “Hampshire”. In December 1915 he was listed aboard HMS “Zinnia”, and from then on his name was recorded each month, but not his ship. His frequent movement between ships and the shore base probably made it very difficult for those at home to keep track of just where he was.
William Bassil survived the War.