Rocket scientist, Royal Navy veteran and former Island football referee Lionel “Bass” Bassett, has died aged 90.

Lionel passed away peacefully in Perth, Western Australia, on Christmas Day, following a short illness.

He raised Craig, 60, and twins Richard and Jon, 54, in Shanklin before emigrating to Australia in the early 1980s.

Craig returned to the UK to work as a consultant, while Richard is a policeman and Jon a journalist in Perth.

Lionel always called himself an Islander.

“I do not consider I have been a great ‘achiever’, just good/lucky at whatever I did, but with the backup of such a great bunch of sons, what else could a man need?” he said in a self-written eulogy.

Lionel was born on July 16, 1931, to father, Frank, and mother, Ethel, in a Newport council house.

He shared a loving childhood on the Island with siblings Pat, Marion, Den and Susan.

He won a scholarship to King James Grammar School in Newport.

A brief stint as an electrician’s apprentice led to him being trained as a telegraphist in the Royal Navy, which he joined a month before his 16th birthday, serving for nine years.

“I didn’t fancy the army or the air force because my dad was in both before and during the war, and the navy was the best choice because it moved around the world,” Lionel told the County Press before his 90th birthday last July.

The navy showed him West and South Africa, the Far East, and both sides of the United States.

Two years at a radio replay station in Sri Lanka, were served before his service finished with aircrew training at Lee-on-Solent.

A chance interview at Saunders-Roe in East Cowes led him to join those who built Black Knight, Blue Streak and Black Arrow rockets that were launched from the Woomera range in South Australia and from Highdown on the Island.

Lionel can be spotted in one of the murals in the control bunker at Highdown.

He also refereed many IW football games, after qualifying in Ceylon following years as a Barton FC player.

In 1974 Lionel took the family to Woomera for a rocket project for two years.

But after returning to the Island for six years he decided to migrate to Sydney to escape Britain’s 1980s economic downturn, before shifting to Perth where his electrical engineering skills were in demand in the mining industry.

They were moves he never regretted.

His IW stories included watching fighters chase each other up the Medina in the opening years of the Second World War, boyhood train trips to Alverstone to fish driving West Wight lanes through snow to get to work and Winter Garden dances in Ventnor before the coach back to Newport.

On Christmas Day, debris from the Ariane rocket that launched the James Webb telescope caused a spectacular lightshow as it burnt up over the Indian Ocean in front of Dad’s beachside care home.

His family said “He would have loved that, and whether we called him Dad, Li, Uncle, Grandad, Lionel or Bass, he will always be our own Rocket Man.”

Lionel also leaves former wife Sylvia in Shanklin, sister Sue in Binstead, grandchildren Chris, Sam, Jay and Shannon, as well as great-grandchildren Abbie-Mae, Shaynie, Josh, Aimee, Max and Ben.

The funeral will take place at Fremantle Cemetery at 8am British time on Monday (January 10).

Anyone from the IW wishing to watch the service online can CLICK HERE