Remembrance - The Yorkshire Regiment, First World War

2nd Lieutenant Donald S BELL, VC

Close window to return to main page

(See also the page on the Bell Memorial)
For most conspicuous bravery at Horseshoe Trench on 5th July I916. During an attack a very heavy enfilade fire was opened on the attacking company by an 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 very heavy fire and attacked the machine gun, shooting the firer with his revolver and destroying gun and personnel with bombs.
(2nd Lieut. Bell, who played for Bradford Park Avenue, was the only English professional footballer to win the VC.)
Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell, VC

Donald Simpson Bell was the youngest son of Smith and Annie Bell (nee Simpson) of Milton Lodge, 87 East Parade, Harrogate, Yorkshire and was born on 3rd December 1890.   He had one elder brother, William - who served in the Army Service Corps in the Great War - and six sisters, one of whom died in infancy.   He was educated at St. Peter's C of E School, and Harrogate Grammar School, from where he went to Westminster College in London in 1909 to train as a teacher.   There, he was captain of the athletics team, and also won his colours for cricket, rugby, hockey, swimming and football.
He turned out for Crystal Palace F.C. and was offered a county rugby football cap for Hertfordshire.   On returning north in 1911, he was appointed Assistant Master at Starbeck Council School between Harrogate and Knaresborough.   In his spare time he played for Bishop Auckland and Newcastle F.Cs as an amateur and, in order to eke out his teacher's salary of 2 10s shillings per week, he became a professional footballer with Bradford Park Avenue in 1912.
In November 1914, at the age of 24 years, he joinedthe 9th West Yorkshires as a private soldier and quickly became a Lance Corporal.   On 18th June 1915, he was given a commission with the 9th Yorkshires, although he applied to join the 6th Yorkshires to be with his schoolboy friend, Captain Archie White.   He travelled to France to join the 9th Yorkshires in November 1915.
He married Rhoda Margaret Bonson in the Weslyan Chapel in Kirkby Stephen during his leave on 5th June 1916.
Second Lieutenant Donald Bell won his VC at Horse Shoe Trench on 5th July 1916 and was killed in Contalmaison on 10th July 1916.   His VC citation was published in The London Gazette on 9th September 1916.   He was buried at what was later called 'Bell's Redoubt', but, after the war, the body was moved to Gordon's Dump Cemetery Plot VI Row A, Grave 8 less than a mile from Contalmaison.   A memorial was erected at 'Bell's Redoubt' and dedicated to him on 9th July 2000.   His medals have been loaned since 1964 to the Green Howards Regimental Museum by his nephew, Donald Simpson Bell.

Information on the medal holders on this page, and other pages relating to the regiment's WW1 VC holders, is taken from "Beyond Their Duty" by Roger Chapman.   This book was specialy written to commemorate the only occasion on which all 18 Victoria Crosses won by members of the Green Howards regiment were together (April to October 2001, in the Green Howards Museum).   The book may be purchased from the Green Howards Museum Shop.

---------------> Return to Top of the Page