William Bassula


East Fremantle Private William Raphael Bassula (24), was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Military Medal in 1945.
Migrating from Greece and then from Port Augusta, the Bassula family: John Aloysius Bassula (d 1972) his wife Breynhilda (Hilda) Martha (nee Gellento d 1956) moved to WA in the 1930s, perhaps to follow their sons as they moved to the Goldfields for mining work. Their 5 sons were Joseph John (1915-1939), Frank (1916-2001), Richard (1917- 1976), George (b 1919-1944) and William Raphael (1921-1976). The eldest son Joseph died in a tragic accident in August 1939, when he fell down a well he was sinking for the Goldfields Water Supply Department at Youanmi. (reference)

William ‘Bill’ was a bit of a wild boy- charged with using abusive language to a Watchman in May 1939 (reference) and then given a good behaviour bond in Kalgoorlie in 1940 for a minor stealing charge (reference).

The family lived at 78 Duke Street, East Fremantle during WWll but returned to Adelaide after the war.

“I do not know how he got the name of 'Wicked Will,' said his mother 'but I believe he is a deadly wicked shot” (reference)

Bill Bassula (Service Number - WX14930) was only 18 when he enlisted. After being in camp at Northam for a week he was asked what job he would like in the army. He said he would like to be a chauffeur to a General with a yellow streak- as he reckoned he would then be safe. Bassula developed into a courageous soldier and became one of the most colourful personalities of the Sixth Division. He was often mentioned by war correspondents who regarded him as absolutely fearless. He was particularly prominent at Wewak, New Guinea during a big ridge assault, a war correspondent reached the top of the ridge to find Bassula swaying on his feet with a sickly grin on his face. There were 17 dead enemy around him.

"On gaining the ridge three of the assaulting section were wounded and further reinforcement was impossible owing to enemy fire. On locating the opposition Bassula dashed through enemy fire and effectively silenced the post. He then proceeded to direct a further section to a position from which effective fire could be brought to bear and which eliminated a further enemy post. By his outstanding bravery and initiative Bassula materially assisted the extrication of the platoon from a precarious situation and made possible the consolidation of the position.” (reference)

The 2/8th landed at Aitape in New Guinea on 12 November 1944 to undertake its only campaign against the Japanese. He was involved in the Danmap River operations between December 1944 and February 1945, and then the advance on Wewak and clearance of the Prince Alexander Range between April and July 1945. The capture of the dominating heights of Mount Shiburangu on 27 June was the battalion's greatest achievement of the campaign. Following the Japanese surrender on 15 August, drafts of 2/8th men began returning to Australia for discharge. The remainder of the battalion departed Wewak on 10 November, and disbanded at Puckapunyal on 14 December 1945.

William had three brothers in the forces; Sergeant Frank Bassula (R.A.A.F. Service Number - 46939, a well known road race winner, Richard Bassula, a paratrooper, and George, a Gunner in the Field Regiment, 2nd AIF. All had enlisted at Blackboy Hill in WA. (reference)

The Australian War Memorial holds 4 photographs showing the activities of the 2/8 Infantry battalion in the Wewak area. One in June 1945 show Bassula pulling a Japanese soldier from a bush- the soldier was wearing an Australian jungle green uniform and using a Australian rifle. (reference)

On May 27 1947 at a ceremony at Government House Lieut. Governor, Sir James Mitchell presented Bassula with his military medal. Perhaps returning to civilian life was not easy because in June that year The Daily News reported that salesman William Raphael Bassula (26), of Duke Street, East Fremantle had been fined for swearing at a Policeman (reference) and in 1949 William Bassula (28), described as a miner of His Majesty's Hotel, Fremantle was arrested for ‘loitering’. (reference)