Tributes paid to Basil Trott, the last surviving member of HMS Exeter in the Battle of the River Plate

THE last surviving member of HMS Exeter in the Battle of the River Plate has died aged 101.

By Kimberley Barber
Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 3:07 pm
Basil as a 15 year old when in training at St Vincent, Gosport.
Basil as a 15 year old when in training at St Vincent, Gosport.

Royal Navy veteran Basil Arthur Trott died on July 12 in Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge and his funeral was held on August 4.

He was the last surviving member of HMS Exeter in the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.

The veteran also had a long career as local government officer, initially at Gosport and then in Portsmouth, after leaving the forces.

Basil, with his wife Sadie in red sweater, celebrating his 100th birthday with his family in Cambridge.

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Tributes have been paid to him.

His son Peter Trott, who lives in Fareham, said: ‘He was a lovely man. He had an impish sense of humour, he was always cracking little jokes even when I saw him a couple of days before his passing, when I said that he had pneumonia, he was joking about not wanting new-nomia, and preferring to have old-nomia. We were still laughing right up to a few days before he went.

‘I blame him for introducing me to the Goon Show, it was that kind of humour.’

Basil Trott, circled, when serving in HMS Comus.

As well as two careers, Basil was a much-loved family man.

Peter said: ‘He was a devoted granddad to Russell and Gareth and was very happy when his only great-grandson, Jonah, entered the world just nine years ago.

‘He will be missed but never forgotten.’

Other tributes have come in from across the county.

Basil Arthur Trott

A spokesman from the Royal Naval Association, which is based in Portsmouth, said: ‘The association regrets the passing of another link to our past achievements. Basil will be in the thoughts of us all.’

The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Cllr Trish Oliver, said: ‘Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Basil, a man who was known for his great zest for life and who was a true gentleman, full of dignity, charm and humour.’

The RNA Cambridge, where Basil lived in later life, posted on Facebook: ‘Having moved to Cambridge, Basil was a much admired and respected member of the Royal Naval Association. Our condolences go to (his wife) Sadie and all his family. May he rest in peace.’

An article, previously run in The News by Bob Hind, described Basil’s life.

It said: ‘Born in Catford, south London, he was one of four brothers who served in the Royal Navy during and after the Second World War. His father, Thomas, served in the Royal Marine Artillery which meant the family all ended up in Portsmouth at some time. Like his three brothers, Basil was sent to the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich. Aged 15 he joined the Royal Navy at HMS St Vincent, Gosport.

‘He saw service in HMS Exeter from1937-39. During two-and-a half years on the South America Patrol, Basil was sent ashore to assist in Concepcion, Chile, after a major earthquake. In 2017, he was very belatedly presented with a medal by the Chile ambassador for his part in that work.

‘His service in HMS Exeter culminated in the ship’s involvement in the Battle of the River Plate in December, 1939.

‘During the battle he was a gunlayer in Y turret, the last gun to be fired by Exeter in the battle. Her forward A and B turrets were destroyed. He appeared in a BBC documentary about the battle and made a recording of his memories for the Imperial War Museum.

‘A member of the Battle of the River Plate Association, Basil visited the town of Ajax in Ontario, Canada, on several occasions. The town made a decision to name the majority of its streets after Battle of River Plate veterans

‘There is a road named after Basil in the town, Trott Lane. Basil later served in HMS Kenya and HMS Wallace during the Second World War.

‘His last seagoing posting was as a gunnery lieutenant in HMS Whitby for he first commission in 1953. He continued to serve until 1956 and for a time was the parade training officer at the Gunnery School at HMS Excellent, Whale Island.

‘He married Violet in 1943 and they had one son, Peter, in May 1948.

‘In Portsmouth he took up a second career as a local government officer, initially at Gosport and then in Portsmouth where he remained until retirement.

‘In Southsea he lived at St Ronan’s Road and Mayflower Drive, Milton, until 1988 when aged 68 he and Violet moved to Spain. An active member of the Freemasons he helped found the Old Tower lodge.

‘Violet died in May 1989. Basil remained in Spain for a further 12 years, and met his wife Sadie there, marrying her in November 1994, before moving back to Cambridge.’