The Man Behind the Medals
In this blog series, SOFO Museum's Research volunteers look at the stories behind some of the medal sets in the museum's collection, from those that can be seen on a visit in our dedicated Medals display to some of those that are still tucked away in the archive.
While medals will tell you a little bit about a soldier's service, it's only with further research that their full story can be revealed! SOFO's Research volunteers respond to enquiries we receive through our Research Service, helping people find out more about their relatives who served in the county regiments, and raising funds to support the museum in the process. Using a combination of the museum's records and those available elsewhere, they piece together stories like this one.
Private William Basser, 43rd Regiment of Foot
William Basser, born about 1791 in Bradford Wilts, joined he 43 rd when he was attested in Nottingham on 12 th May 1812. He joined together with his younger brother Samuel; both having worked as cloth shearers. William Signed on for 7 years’ service, but Samuel signed as a lifer – ie for 25 years.
The Basser brothers both served in Nr 4 Coy in the 43 rd , which in May 1812 had just fought at Badajoz as part of the Light Division and was currently with Wellington on the Salamanca
campaign. Pte Basser joined the 43 rd in time to take part in the decisive Peninsular battle of Vittoria in June 1813, and the later battles of The Pyrenees (July 1813), Nivelle (Nov 1813), Nive (Dec 1813) and Toulouse (April 1814) as Wellington’s Army fought their way into France.
Following the French retreat from The Peninsula, the 43 rd was amongst the regiments posted to the American Expedition, fighting at New Orleans in January 1815 before being recalled to face Napoleon again after his escape from Elba.
Pte William Basser and the 43 rd arrived in Belgium in June 1815 just too late for the Battle of Waterloo but formed part of the Army of Occupation in France until November 1818.
Little is known about Pte William Basser following his discharge on 13 th May 1819, but it is possible he transferred to the 40 th Foot (The 2 nd Somersets). His brother Samuel continued to
serve with the 43 rd in Portugal in 1827/28 and completed his 25 years’ service in 1837. William Basser applied for a pension in later life, with the Board meeting considering his application on 15 th April 1874 when he was about 83 years old. The records note that he was found to be “unfit for anything and incapable of earning a living.”
After 1847 he was eligible to apply for and was awarded the Military General Service Medal, with clasps for Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive &; Toulouse.