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Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell


Harrogate Herald - 8th December 1915

Lieutenant Donald Bell, son of Mr and Mrs Smith Bell, of East Parade, Harrogate, has been attached to the 9th Yorkshire Regiment, and gone to the Front.


Harrogate Herald - 22nd December 1915

Lieutenant Donald Bell writes : I had quite a pleasant surprise on Saturday when the mail came in to find a Herald for me, and to see on opening it that I was placed on your list. I have always had the Herald sent to me every week since I enlisted, and I look forward to reading tour weekly letter, also those from the "boys", many of whom I know very well. Bt means of your paper we are able to keep in touch and know how each is faring. I am very grateful to you for including me in your "big family", and shall eagerly await the Saturday mail. At the present time I am in the first line trenches, our battalion having relieved th West Yorks, on Friday last. When we took possession of the trenches we thought we were fortunate to have taken over such a dry portion of the line, but next morning we had an eye-opener. The Germans hold higher ground than we do, and several streams run from their line to ours. About eight o'clock on the Saturday morning these streams rose rapidly, and in a few moments our trenches were flooded, knee deep, and in some places taking one up to the waist. Until we recognised the danger spots there were frequent mishaps in the way of duckings, one officer breaking the record with three in one day. Sine Saturday it has been a case of "pump, pump, pump", that is, after we had dammed the streams (in more ways than one!), and today the trenches are returning to their former state. The sudden influx was caused by the bursting of a dam on the German side by means of our artillery. I am afraid the latter did us a bad turn then, but are making up for it this afternoon by shelling the trenches opposite. Sandbags are flying in all directions, and "Fritz" is having a surfeit of "iron rations". This is my first spell in the trenches, but except for the difficulty of keeping dry it has not been an unpleasant experience. I am thankful to know that we shall be out of the trenches for Xmas, and consequently should be able to celebrate the day in a fitting manner. Thanking you once again for your kindness, and wishing you the compliments of the season. PS - Kind regards to Misses Roberts and Wood.


Harrogate Herald - 7th June 1916

At the Wesleyan Church, Kirkby Stephen, on the 5th inst., by the Rev J R Irving, of Harrogate, and the Rev A Smith, of Kirkby Stephen, Donald S Bell, Second Lieutenant 9th Yorkshire Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, younger son of Mr and Mrs Smith Bell, Harrogate, to Rhoda Margaret Bonson, elder daughter of Mr and Mrs Bonson, Kirkby Stephen, Westmoreland.

Wednesday Gossip

Many of my readers will be interested in a marriage announcement in another column. It is that of Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell, of the 9th Yorkshire Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs Smith Bell, of East Parade, Harrogate, who in Monday was married to Miss Rhoda Margaret Bonson, elder daughter of Mr and Mrs James Bonson, of Kirkby Stephen. The marriage took place at the Wesleyan Church of that town, and the Rev J R Irving assisted at the ceremony. Lieutenant Bell has been out in France for some time, and got leave for the interesting event. My best wishes to the newly married pair.


Harrogate Herald - 7th June 1916

"Billy" Bell writes : Just a few lines to let you know I am quite well, with nothing much to grumble about, also to thank you for the Herald, which arrives regularly. Since being home on my last leave our column is working much nearer the firing line and are parked well within range of the shells. Some of our lorries have had narrow escapes, but luckily we have suffered no casualties. It is the gas that makes us feel nervous, and in the last attack, when our division suffered so heavily, we could not see across the road, it was so thick. As a result two of our men were sent to base hospital. Occasionally I have carried mining parties up to trenches during the night, and it was on one of these trips that I learnt of my cousin Jimmy's death, not knowing that he belonged to that company at all. It was a shock to me, and the same night had a narrow escape myself from a sniper. Unknowingly my mate and I were strolling about "suicide corner" near Loos, when four bullets came in quick succession, one passing between our heads. Needless to say we scattered and felt very thankful we had suffered no hurt. Last night my brother Don Bell called to see me on his way home on leave, and we spent about two hours together. I wished I was coming, too, for Harrogate must be looking well just now, but I must wait two or three months yet before my turn comes. I have come across a few Harrogate chaps lately, including Tommy Womack, Arthur Bradley, Ambler, and one or two more whose names I forget. Well, I must close, hoping you are keeping well yourself, also for every success to the Herald. With kind regards. Please remember me to my friends in the Herald buildings.


Harrogate Herald - 19th July 1916

July 10th, killed in action, Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, beloved husband of Rhoda Margaret Bell, and younger son of Mr and Mrs Smith Bell, of Harrogate, aged 25 years.


Harrogate Herald - 19th July 1916

W H Breare letter :

Dear Chaps,

It is Friday, and I would have you, even in your minds, with us this day, sharing our joy, our proud elation.

We are hugging ourselves with delight to keep from bursting with satisfaction. I will tell you the story which has given us so much delight. In one of the engagements of the "push", Second Lieutenant Don Bell's lot were entrusted withy the task of taking an important German position. Second Lieutenant Don Bell was in charge of the bombing section. The boys who were to make the rush went on. Soon a German gun was discovered somewhere on their flank enfilading their ranks and doing much damage. Don Bell took some bombers in the direction of this gun. They crawled on their hands and knees ever so far until within about twenty yards of the offending gun. Bell threw one bomb, and in that first shot blew the gun to smithereens. The party then stormed the German trench and sent fifty Germans below. Next day the General Officer Commanding came to the regiment and thanked them for the success of that great movement, for it had been entirely successful. He personally thanked Second Lieutenant Don Bell, and the Commanding Officer declared that he had saved the situation". Bell has written a letter home. He tells the outline of the tale, but his narrative was too fettered by modesty. With him was a nice lad of 19, and Bell declares that this lad did all the work - that he did nothing. Moreover, he calls his brilliant shot which destroyed the gun a big fluke. We don't allow anybody to run our boys down, and we could not permit even Bell to depreciate his splendid performance. A fluke indeed! We have only to inquire what a fluke it is to know how far wrong Don is in his estimate. What is a fluke? A fluke is the accomplishment, by an unskilled person, of something for which he had not tried. In other words, an occurrence due to accident rather than skill. Now, too many of us know Don Bell as one of our finest athletes. We know what he has accomplished in the world of sport. We know that he could always throw straight. He could not deny that he tried to hit the gun, or that he did it in the first throw. He is not an unskilled person. Yes, he did try for his objective, and, what is more, succeeded. We are quite ready to give the nice little chap of nineteen every credit for his brave and successful assistance. But Harrogate is jealous of its reputation and its honours, and will not abandon her reflected share of Don Bell's distinction. Undoubtedly Don saved the situation. That is why we are nearly bursting with pride.

It is Monday morning. There is sorrow in our hearts - that which comes with sudden shock, leaving us dazed and quivering from the blow, then, melting with tenderness for those who had the greater right to love him. Don Bell has fallen. A brief telegram tells us so. There is just a gleam of sunshine to lighten our despair. In his last letter he charged his loved ones at home to be of good heart and fear not. His very last words were : "I am in God's hands". Here was the courage and faith of a brave and good man. The tears which come to us, unbidden, must be for ourselves. They cannot be for him whose whole life piled up that great, wonderful, accumulative trust.


Harrogate Herald - 19th July 1916

Roll of Honour

Fine Exploit by a Late Harrogate Officer

"Don" Bell Knocks a German Gun Out of Action

A communication has been received from Second Lieutenant Donald Bell that his battalion has been in action and captured a strong German position. He was the second in command of his bombing section, and as his senior officer was knocked out he took command, and spotting a machine gun on the left, which was enfilading the whole of the front, he crawled up a communication trench and attacked the gun and the trench, hitting the gun with his first shot at twenty yards range, and put it out of action. He then bombed the trench, and about fifty Boche were "done in". the GOC has personally thanked him, and his Commanding Officer said he saved the situation, for this gun was doing all the damage. He is fit and well and resting behind the trenches. He is suffering from sore knees and elbows through climbing over the limestone flints. Lieutenant Bell says he had a grand little lad with him only 19, and with characteristic modesty of the British Tommy says he "did all the work".

Following on this gallant action came the sad news by wire on Monday morning that Second Lieutenant Bell had been killed in action, a notification that came as a great shock to his many friends and acquaintances, who so recently had been overjoyed with the account of his successful exploit. Great sympathy is felt for his young widow, to whom he was married when last on leave, and the bereaved family.

As most of our readers are aware, Second Lieutenant Donald Bell is the youngest son of Mr and Mrs Smith Bell, of East Parade, Harrogate, and up to enlisting was a teacher under the Harrogate Education Committee. He was a well-known athlete, and won many prizes at local sports. He also acquired an important position in Association Football circles, and played for the Bradford Club up to enlisting. He had previously donned the jersey for Starbeck, Mirfield United, Bishop Auckland, and Newcastle, commencing his football career with Harrogate Christ Church in 1905.

Whilst at Westminster College, London, pursuing his studies, he was most successful in the sports field, securing his "colours" for soccer, Rugby, and cricket, and was one of the school's fastest forwards, accomplishing the 100 yards sprint in 10.6 seconds from scratch.

His untimely death is a source of genuine regret to Harrogate people where he was so well known and respected. He was a member of the Harrogate Claro Tent of the Independent Order of Rechabites.

He joined the Yorkshire Regiment in November 1914, as a Private, and obtained his commission twelve months later.

He was educated at St Peter's School, Harrogate, where he gained a scholarship, and afterwards at Knaresborough Grammar School and Westminster College, London.


Harrogate Herald - 19th July 1916

Wednesday Gossip

The whole town was deeply moved on Monday morning on receiving the news that 2lLt Don Bell had fallen in battle. It seemed as if we had only just finished reading of his splendid exploit when the dread news came. I can only find words to say how deeply we all sympathise with the bereaved wife and family and all his most intimate friends.


Harrogate Herald - 26th July 1916


(To the memory of Second Lieutenant D S Bell, the Yorkshire Regiment, killed in action, July 1916)


In every straight and many sport, his name

Stood out for honour and unselfishness;

He played the game because it was the game,

Not for his own, but for his side's success.


Simple and single-hearted, strong and clean

Ever the idol of the men he led;

First in the struggle when the field was green,

Foremost in action when the field was red.


His was the upright life that scorns a lie,

His was the post of danger in the van;

His was the death he would have wished to die,

An Englishman - a gentleman - a man.


His now the rest that follows victory won,

The guerdon of the bruised but conquering soul,

His the great Captain's welcome word, "Well done!"

That crowns the reaching of the Highest Goal.


Harrogate Herald - 26th July 1916

Mrs Donald S Bell and Mr and Mrs S Bell and family desire to thank all friends for the kind expressions of sympathy in their sad bereavement.


Harrogate Herald - 26th July 1916

Mr and Mrs Smith Bell have received the following letter from their late son's Commanding Officer, which has been a great solace to them in their sad bereavement :

9th Yorkshire Regiment,

July 15th, 1916

Dear Sir, I very much regret to write and tell you that your son, Second Lieutenant D S Bell, was killed on July 10th. He is a very great loss to the Battalion, and also to me personally, and I consider him one of the finest officers I have ever seen.

On the 5th July the Battalion made an attack on the German trenches, and almost immediately after leaving our own trenches came under heavy fire from a concealed machine-gun on our left flank. Seeing that the gun would hold up the attack, your son crept forward with two men and put the gun out of action with a bomb, which also knocked out the gun team. This was a most gallant act, and in my opinion it was entirely due to that our attack was completely successful. The Germans would not face our men's charge. Many were killed and over 140 prisoners taken, also two machine guns, and the position was carried.

On the 10th this Battalion, with another of the Yorkshire Regiment, attacked and captured a very important village. The Germans again did not stand, and large numbers of prisoners were taken and eight machine-guns etc. unfortunately our numbers who attacked the village were few, and the Germans endeavoured to come back and work in behind us. Your son headed a bombing party which drove off the German attack, and once again saved the situation. Unfortunately he was himself shot. Anything more gallant than those two acts cannot be imagined, and he undoubtedly would have received high reward.

I can assure that you have the sympathy of every officer and man in this Battalion. I thought it best to write to you first and not to Mrs Bell, your son's wife, but I will, of course, write to her, if she would care to hear from me.

Yours very truly,

H G Holmes, Lieutenant Colonel.


Harrogate Herald - 2nd August 1916

Private W P Birkinshaw writes : 

ust a line or two to thank you for your very acceptable paper, which I receive every week. I was very sorry to hear of "Don" Bell's death. I am trying to find his grave, so that I can put flowers on it. I have seen most of the men in his Company, and all of them are very upset about him. I only hope that his wife will receive the honour that I am sure he deserved. You will all by now have heard of Alf Shaw's success. He came round to see me last night with Sergeant Waite, of Starbeck. They both look well and are ready for another go at old Fritz. I stopped a shrapnel bullet, but it only bruised me, and I was able to go on with my work. However, it gave me a bit of a shake, and I have no wish for another dose. I will shut off now. Wishing you every success.


Harrogate Herald - 2nd August 1916

Private P J Cullingworth writes : 

Please excuse me trespassing on your preserves, but I should esteem it a favour to be placed on your list to receive the Herald sometimes. I Miss the paper very much since I came out some 12 weeks ago. There are several young fellows in this Battalion from Harrogate and district who would appreciate it after my perusal. Of course, this is not a fighting unit, as you will no doubt know, but are still helping in the common cause. If a man cannot use a rifle efficiently, through some slight defect, there is other work quite as important to do. I was sorry to hear of the death in action of Second Lieutenant Donald Bell. He used to be a very intimate friend of mine when he was at Starbeck School. I was living in hopes of meeting him out here in France, but Fate has decreed otherwise. He has done his duty as a soldier and a gentleman. Given all for his country, so that Britons may live. Harrogate has lost one of its best athletes, for as a football player he was second to none, as the saying goes. I don't know his wife or relatives, but they have my deepest sympathy in their great loss. The Allies seem to be doing well for us at the present; hope it will continue. I will draw my short epistle to a close. Wishing your paper and Harrogate every success this coming season.


Harrogate Herald - 30th August 1916

Writing to his sister-in-law, Mrs D S Bell, Corporal "Billy" Bell sends copy of a letter from the OC 9th Yorks Regiment, in which his brother Donald was, which will be of interest to our readers. It states : "In reply to your letter of the 2nd August, Royal Engineers your brother Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, who was killed on July 10th, he is buried in Cantalmaison, near Albert, on the right-hand side just as one enters the village. I can see no harm in giving you this information now, as we are far away from there. He was buried close to where he fell, and there is a redoubt close there called 'Bell's Redoubt' after him. He was a noble soldier and a braver fellow never stepped, and he is an irreparable loss to the Battalion". During the week, continues Corporal Bell, a Sergeant of the Royal Field Artillery accosted me, and it turned out to be Pattison, but although he knew me I did not recognise him. Had no time for a chat, as I was with a large fatigue party marching.


Harrogate Herald - 13th September 1916

Another Harrogate VC

Late Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell's Honour

Harrogate people deeply regret that Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell does not live to wear the Victoria Cross, which his gallant conduct secured him a few days before his lamented death. At the time his letter home made light of his achievement and did not convey an idea of the danger through which he went in his effort to destroy the German gun. This is more clearly stated in the official record, which is as follows :

"For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack a very heavy enfilade fire was opened on the attacking Company by a hostile machine-gun. Second Lieutenant Bell immediately and on his own initiative, crept up a communication trench and then, followed by Corporal Colwill and Private Batey, rushed across the open under heavy fire, and attacked the machine-gun, shooting the firer with his revolver, and destroying the gun and personnel with bombs.

This very brave act saved many lives and ensured the success of the attack.

Five days later this gallant officer lost his life performing a very similar act of bravery."

As was intimated in our columns some weeks ago, Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, of the Green Howards, was killed in action a few days after his gallant conduct which won him the coveted honour. He was well-known in Harrogate and a school teacher under the Harrogate Corporation when war broke out. Since his death the Corporation have passed a resolution putting on record their high appreciation of his services as a school teacher and also as a soldier of the King. He enlisted as a Private in the West Yorkshires when the war broke out, and became a non-commissioned officer, and later was given a commission in the Green Howards. In the early days of the "Big Push" he was second-in-command of a section, and when his senior was knocked out he took command. He spotted a machine-gun on the left which was enfilading the whole of the front, and crawled up a communication trench, accompanied by Private Batey, who has since received the DCM. Lieutenant Bell with his first bomb at twenty yards range hit the machine-gun and put it out of action. He followed this up by knocking out the gun team. He was thanked on the field by his Commanding Officer, and since then a Bell's Redoubt has been named after him.

As we intimated at the time Lieutenant Bell performed his gallant and daring action he took a very modest view of the deed, and although it was rumoured at the time that he had been recommended for the VC, we are not allowed to mention these awards until they are officially announced.

Lieutenant Bell was a member of the YMCA for many years and one of the most popular members. Three winters ago he was a member of the International YMCA Football Team that had a tour of Denmark, when his play won golden opinions. He was also a member of the Claro Tent of the Independent Order of Rechabites.

His Officer Commanding, writing to the family announcing his death, said :

"He is a very great loss to the Battalion, and also to me personally, and I consider him one of the finest officers I have ever seen".

Lieutenant Bell was a keen sportsman, and well-known locally at one time as a flat race sprinter. He was a playing member of the Bradford Park Avenue team when war broke out, and previously played for Newcastle United, Bishop Auckland, Mirfield United, Starbeck, etc.

As the majority of readers are aware, Lieutenant Bell was the younger son of Mr and Mrs Smith Bell, of East Parade, Harrogate, and was married to Miss R M Bonson at Kirkby Stephen, Westmorland, only some five weeks before he was killed.

This is the second VC which has come to Harrogate during the war, the other recipient being Shoeing-Smith Hull, son of Mr and Mrs Hull, Albert Terrace, Harrogate.


Harrogate Herald - 20th September 1916

W Outhwaite, writing from K Ward, 27a Military Hospital, Killingbeck Section, Leeds, says : Just a few lines as I promised to let you know I am going on as well as can be expected, but I am still in bed. It is a very tiresome job this laying in bed, but it is only like us soldiers, always grumbling. You will see by the above address how fortunate I have been in getting so near home. I have just been reading about my old school pal, Don Bell, in this week's Herald, and was very sorry to hear when I got your paper a few weeks back in France that he had been taken away from us all, and Mrs Bell has my deepest sympathy in her great loss. We were both members of the YMCA, and went to St Peter's School, and you have no idea how proud I feel of my old school chums as both the VC winners were my old school pals, and I am sure our old schoolmaster, Mr Andrews, must feel proud of them too, but fate has taken poor Don away from us all. I am very sorry he was not spared to enjoy the honour he so nobly won. I think this is all this time. Wishing you and the paper that makes many a dull hour into bright ones to the lads out in France the best of luck.


Harrogate Herald - 20th September

Private H Hullah writes : Your paper, the Harrogate Herald, to hand up to date. Sorry to hear of the death of Lieutenant Don Bell in action, as I knew his relatives during my training in the 11th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Harrogate. I express my deepest sympathy to all the Bell family. Harrogate boys I knew well fell in the "big push", photos of them appearing in your paper. I am still well, but am getting fed up with the Eastern area of the war. However, I stand a chance of "going west" yet. Wishing your Herald further success.


Harrogate Herald - 20th September 1916

D Macklin, of HMAS Australia, writes : Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive and kicking. I see by the paper received from home yesterday that Lieutenant D Bell has gained the VC, but it is a great pity he did not live to wear it. I knew him when I used to go to the YMCA, but it is some years since I saw him last. Harrogate has need to be proud of him, as it is such men as he that are keeping the old flag flying. It will be a great loss to his wife and I am sure she has the deepest sympathy of all. I also notice by the paper what a lot of old YM boys have fallen, many of whom I knew well. We are still jogging along doing the same old thing day after day, with no sign of the German Fleet coming out. But we still have hopes and the next time they won't get back so easily. I have seen Tom Fletcher several times this last few months, as he is in the same fleet, but I have not come across any other Harrogate chaps. And now I must close, wishing you every success.


Harrogate Herald- 24th January 1917


Private Will Smith writes : Just a few lines to let you know my present address. If you will forward your valuable paper to me I shall be much obliged. I am sorry to see that so many of my pals have been killed and wounded, including Second Lieutenant D S Bell VC (killed), Herbert Timmins (wounded), etc. I am looking forward with eager desire to the papers being forwarded onto me from Egypt. I wish I was back in Egypt now. It is far better than this place, as others have told you. Do you know any Harrogate lads in Salonica? If so, would you kindly let me know through your paper, as I would like to see some if I can? Wishing you and your very valuable paper every success.


Harrogate Herald - 4th April 1917

A sad yet an inspiring ceremony took place in the Starbeck Council School on Friday afternoon, when the Mayoress, accompanied by the Mayor, unveiled a tablet to the memory of the late Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell, VC, who up to joining the Army at the outbreak of the war was a teacher in the school. Councillor Topham, chairman of the Education Committee, presided, and among those present, in addition to the Mayor and Mayoress, were Alderman C Chippindale, Alderman W Binns, Councillor Wilkinson, and Councillor Lambert Foster, the Rev H F Johnson, Mr Turner Taylor, Mr W Butterworth, Mr Young (His Majesty's Inspector), Mr Roberts (Starbeck Council School), Mr Watson, and Mr Thoseby (Technical School). The widow, father and mother of Second Lieutenant Bell and other members of the family were accommodated with seats facing the tablet. The tablet itself was veiled in black, with the Union Jack worked on. The proceedings began with prayer.

The Chairman, in his opening remarks, claimed Donald Bell as a Harrogate man, and especially as a Harrogate teacher. He recalled the act of conspicuous bravery which won him the VC, and said the tablet in his memory would be a reminder to the children of this deed of valour as well as an example to be brave, not only on the battlefield, but in their ordinary everyday lives. Second Lieutenant Bell gave his life in order to save others. It was the unselfishness of the act which should impress itself on their minds. In commemorating that brave act they deeply regretted that he who performed the deed of valour was not among them, but they were inspired by his unselfish devotion to duty.

The Mayor said he had a very honourable task to perform that afternoon, and that was to unveil the tablet erected in honour of one of their own schoolboys [sic], who had made the "great sacrifice" in the defence of his King and country. He referred to Lieutenant Bell, VC, who was the son of Mr Smith Bell, a well-known resident of Harrogate, and was born on the 3rd December, 1890. he was educated at the Harrogate St Peter's Church of England School and the Knaresborough Grammar School. He left the latter school at midsummer, 1905, to take up an intending pupil-teachership, and from then until midsummer, 1909 (four years), he was a pupil in the Harrogate Secondary School. His first connection with the Starbeck Council School was as a student-teacher from the 1st August, 1908, to the 31st July, 1909, and it was during this time that he gave promise of becoming an extremely successful teacher. This early promise was amply fulfilled by his work in the same school after his return from college. From the summer of 1909 to the summer of 1911, Mr Bell continued his education and training for the profession of a teacher in the Westminster Training College, London, gaining admission to this college by passing the London University Matriculation Examination with first class honours. His career here, both on the academic side and as a sportsman, was as successful as it had been before in Harrogate. On the 1st September, 1911, Lieutenant Bell returned to the Starbeck Council School as a certificated teacher, and did his duty there up to the outbreak of war, when he entered the Army as a Private. Later he gained a commission in the Yorkshire Regiment (the Green Howards), and fought in France. His Regiment was one of those which took part in the "push" on July 5th, 1916, [the storming of Horseshoe Trench] and it was on that day, near Contalmaison, that he performed the first deed of bravery mentioned in the official dispatch, for which he was awarded the VC. On that day, with a single companion, he put out of action a German machine gun, and so saved his own Battalion many casualties, and opened the way for further progress. On the 10thjuly he was killed whilst making a similar gallant attempt against another German gun. He died like the sportsman and English gentleman that he was, and the tablet in the Starbeck Council School had been erected by the Harrogate Education Committee to perpetuate his name and deeds, and as an example and object lesson to the scholars for whom he was devoting his life and energies. He called upon the Mayoress to unveil the tablet, and this Miss Fleming solemnly did.

The tablet, which is of brass, and placed on the wall in a prominent position, reads : "To the memory of Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, VC, of the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), a teacher on the staff of this school, who gained the Victoria Cross for a deed of gallantry during the British advance on the Somme on the 5th July, 1916, and who was killed at Contalmaison whilst performing a similar act of bravery on the 10th July, 1916, aged 25 years".

Mr Smith Bell thanked the Mayor and Mayoress for unveiling the tablet and the Harrogate Education Committee for putting it up in the school. He said there thousands like his son at the Front ready to lay down their lives for King and country. He hoped the tablet would be an incentive to the school children both in games and in work. His son tried to do his best whether in work or play.

The proceedings closed with the National Anthem.


Harrogate Herald - 9th May 1917


W P Birkinshaw writes : 

I have the greatest pleasure in writing you once again to thank you for sending me your fine paper, which I now receive every Friday; that is on account of my new address. I was at a football match yesterday, and met two Harrogate boys. both of them went to school with me. One was R Weatherill, better known as "Bobby", and the other George Ripley. We had a good long talk of the old days at home, which I am sure bucked us up and put new life into us. Weatherill, it seems, is one of the lucky ones. He has been stationed in the same place for about two years now, and has married a Belgian girl. I was with RSM Bannard the other day, and in our talk Donny Bell's name was brought up. It appears that they were very good friends, and he asked me if it would be possible for mew to get a photo of Donny for him, so of course my thoughts went straight to Mr Breare; so do you think it will be possible for you to get one and send it on to me, and I will see it is passed on to Mr Bannard. I expect you know that my brother-in-law, W Pymm, has been thrown from his horse and sustained injuries to his right knee which, from what I hear from home, will keep him in bed for some time. We are having beautiful weather here, and I hope it will last for some time. Wish your paper every success. (We have sent a photograph for Mr Bannard - Ed).


Harrogate Herald - 27th June 1917

Last night advantage was taken of the Sunday school anniversary to pay further tribute to the memory and gallantry of Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell, VC, at Wesley Schoolroom, where a portrait of the lamented officer was unveiled by the Rev J R Irving, a former resident minister, who, along with the Rev R P Lowe, and Lieutenant F T Kettlewell bore testimony to the late soldier's sterling worth and character.

The portrait, by Mr T A Cornall, Station Square Studios, Harrogate, is an excellent likeness of the deceased officer and is enclosed in a dark oak frame. Beneath is a brass tablet with the following inscription :

A good soldier of Jesus Christ. To the memory of Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell, VC, who fell in action at Contalmaison July 10th, 1916. A valued teacher of the Wesley Sunday School. Greatly loved by all.

This has been neatly engraved in old English and plain letters with red initials and black border by Mr F B Jesper, Prospect Crescent, Harrogate


Harrogate Herald – 30th June 1920

Wednesday Gossip

Among those present at the King's garden party to winners of the VC, were Mr and Mrs Smith Bell and Mrs Donald Bell. "Don" Bell, as he was popularly known, made the great sacrifice shortly after the award, but had he lived the day would have been the happiest in his life. Mr Smith Bell was struck by the simplicity and humanity of the party, and speaks in high terms of the King's great interest in the men. Corporal Hull, who was also present with his parents, is now a policeman at Leeds. His mother was delighted that His Majesty should remember the circumstances under which her boy won his VC, and speaks highly of the welcome they received.


Harrogate Herald - 4th July 1956

Photo - "In Proud Memory" - Lieutenant Colonel G E B Stephenson is pictured as he unveiled a plaque in St Peter's School, Harrogate, on Friday, in memory of the school's two holders of the Victoria Cross, the late Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, of the Green Howards, and the late Private Charles Hull, of the 21st Lancers, who won their awards in 1916. On the left is the Mayor of Harrogate, Councillor Edwin Pickard.


Harrogate Advertiser - 26 May 2000

Photo - A stonemason has been putting the finishing touches to a unique memorial to the only professional footballer to receive the Victoria Cross.

Neil Collinson, of C Dale Monumental Masons in Cemetery Road, Thirsk, was asked to prepare the main part of a monument to Green Howards soldier Donald Bell, who joined Bradford as a professional in 1912 but was killed at Contalmaison on the Somme in 1916. The York stone-carved monument and bronze cross will be erected on a plinth in France near where Harrogate-born Mr Bell died. It will be unveiled during a special cere­mony on July 9.

Mr Collinson was tasked with carving out the words ‘Bell’s Redoubt’ on the monument, the name given to the place where Donald fell in battle on July 10, 84 years ago.

His death came just five days after his heroic action at nearby Horseshoe Trench, for which he was awarded the VC.

He had rushed across No Man’s Land and put an enemy machine gun out of action, saving many British lives.

On the day of his death he led a bombing party that drove off a German attack, but was killed during the action.

A bronze plaque on the monument bearing the logos of the Green Howards and the Professional Footballers’ Association will tell his story in French and English.


Harrogate Advertiser - 7th July 2000

Photo - Past and present Donald Bell looks on from his picture as his great niece Joanne Umpleby holds his Victoria Cross.

The only English professional footballer to win the Victoria Cross the highest award for bravery - will have a new memorial unveiled to him on Sunday on the site in France where he died in action in 1916.

The monument to Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell VC, The Green Howards will be unveiled by the Colonel of the Regiment, Major General Richard Dannatt, at Contalmaison on The Somme.

The ceremony will be attended by serving and past members of the Regiment and by 24 members of his family. Born in Harrogate on December 3, 1890, Donald Bell played professional football for Bradford from 1912.

He was the first professional footballer to enlist on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, after he had asked the club's directors for special permission to sign up.

He joined the West Yorkshires as a private soldier in November 1914, and was commissioned in The Yorkshire Regiment, The Green Howards, in 1915.

He was killed at Contalmaison on July 10, 1916, five days after his heroic action at Horseshoe Trench nearby.

He had rushed across no man's land and put an enemy machine gun out of action, saving many British lives.

As a keen cricketer as well as a footballer, it is said that his bowling action allowed him to lob grenades with devastating accuracy into the enemy position.

On the day of his death he lead a bombing party that drove off a German counter-attack, but was shot during the action.

A wooden cross to his memory was erected at the place of his death, at on spot that came to be known as Bell's Redoubt, but it was later removed.

Now the friends of the Green Howards Regimental Museum have permission from the local council to put up a metal replica on a stone plinth as a permanent memorial to Donald Bell, one of the Green Howards' 18 Victoria Cross holders.

They have had help with the costs from the professional Footballers Association, the Football Association and the Football League.

At the Contalmaison ceremony, Mick McGuire of the PFA will speak, and with General Dannatt and the Mayor of Contalmaison will lay a wreath on the new memorial. Donald Bell's great niece, Joanne Umpleby, will be wearing Bell's VC and three other World War One medals and will lay posies of flowers with two French children from the village. The Friends of the Green Howards Regimental Museum would welcome donations towards the cost of the new memorial.

Cheques should be made out to 'The Bell VC Memorial Fund' and sent to the Honorary Secretary, The Friends of the Green Howards Regimental Museum, Trinity Church Square, Richmond, North Yorkshire DL10 4QN.



9th Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment)

Second Lieutenant (TP) Donald Simpson Bell VC

Died : 10th July 1916




In Memory of


Second Lieutenant9th Bn., Yorkshire Regimentwho died onMonday, 10th July 1916. Age 25.


An extract from "The London Gazette," No. 29740, dated 8th Sept., 1916, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack a very heavy enfilade fire was opened on the attacking company by a hostile machine gun. 2nd Lt. Bell immediately, and on his own initiative, crept up a communication trench and then, followed by Corpl. Colwill and Pte. Batey, rushed across the open under very heavy fire and attacked the machine gun, shooting the firer with his revolver, and destroying gun and personnel with bombs. This very brave act saved many lives and ensured the success of the attack. Five days later this very gallant officer lost his life performing a very similar act of bravery.

Additional Information:

Son of Smith Bell and Annie Bell, of Western Flats, Queen's Rd., Harrogate; husband of Rhoda Bell, of Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Commemorative Information



Grave Reference/Panel Number:

IV. A. 8.