Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private John Alexander Bell

 

Bell JA

 

John Alexander Bell was born on 11 March 1891 at Meenan, Loughbrickland, County Down, the first child of farmer Moses Bell and his wife Susan (formerly Cowan). His mother died nine days later. By 1911 he was working on his father's farm with his uncle and cousin. His father died in 1914.

Bell enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim between 22 and 28 August 1916 (No.2245). He embarked for France in 1916 or the first half of 1917, where he was posted to either the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment.

In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was dismounted and most of its men, together with some from the 1st Regiment, were transferred to the infantry. After training at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, the men were formally transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 September and soon after were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – re-named the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt. Bell was issued regimental number 41333 and posted to B Company.

It is likely that Bell saw action with the battalion in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. Following the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive, Bell was one of the many listed as missing. However he rejoined the battalion on 3 April.

On 9 April 1918 the 9th Battalion was on the Ypres front when the Germans began their offensive in that sector. The battalion saw severe fighting between Wulverghem and Kemmel for more than a week and suffered many casualties. Bell, initially listed as missing, was one of the many who had been killed in action, almost certainly in the action on 12 April on the Wulverghem-Messines road. The battalion diary for that days states:

Moved to near Wulverghem. H.Q. at N. Midland Farm. Enemy attacked, pressing back our line. Counter attack completely restored position. Casualties heavy, including M.O., Lieuts Hamilton, Hardy & Miller killed. Capt. Dean, Lts. Turner and Orr wounded.

After the ground was recaptured later that year, Bell's body was located – presumably it had been buried by the Germans – near Boyle's Farm (Map Reference U.1.a.0.1). His body was later exhumed and re-buried in the Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, grave V.C.23. The gravestone inscription reads:

41333 PRIVATE
J. A. BELL
ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS
19TH APRIL 1918

 

 

First image kindly provided by Mick McCann, through his British War Graves website www.britishwargraves.co.uk. Second image Copyright © Phillip Tardif with all rights reserved as set out in this Use of Material policy.