Private Edwin Victor Bell


Edwin Victor Bell was born on 9 February 1897 at 6 Moneyrea Street, Belfast, the third of four children of book-keeper, sample-maker, and (later) linen salesman Robert Kirkwood Bell and his wife Clara Elizabeth (née Gregory). His mother died soon after the birth of her fourth child when Edwin was just two years old. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 23 Willowholme Street, Cregagh Road, Belfast, with his father, step-mother two older siblings, two half-siblings and a great-aunt. He later worked as a clerk.

Bell enlisted in the North Irish Horse at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot on 20 September 1915 (No.1726). He embarked for France on 22 March 1916, where he was posted to F Squadron.

On 27 June 1916 he was awarded two extra guard duties and deprived of five days' pay for 'neglect of duty whilst relieving line guard'.

In June 1916 F Squadron combined with C Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and its men were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Bell, were transferred on 20 September and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. Bell was issued regimental number 41190 and posted to D Company.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

On 28 December 1917 Bell was one of twenty-four former men of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment who transferred from the 9th (NIH) Battalion to the Tank Corps (No.304883). After training at the Tank Corps Depot at Bovington near Wareham, Dorset, on 24 March 1918 he was posted to a reserve battalion and appointed Tank Mechanic Class II.

On 8 April 1918 he was deprived of three days' pay for overstaying his final leave from 11.45 pm 4 April to 6.15 pm on 6 April.

On 2 May 1918 Bell embarked for France, where he was posted to a reinforcement battalion. On 9 June he was deprived of two days' pay for being absent from 11 am parade. Ten days later he was posted to the 1st Battalion, Tank Corps.

The 1st Battalion saw a great deal of action during the Advance to Victory offensive, including at Amiens (8-10 August), Albert (23-24 August), St Quentin Canal (29 September), 2nd Cambrai (8 October), and Selle (17 October).

Bell returned to the UK on 25 January 1919. He was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 24 February 1919.

In July 1919 Bell wrote to the War Office seeking information on how to obtain free passage to Australia, which "I have been given to understand ... is granted to any ex-soldier who wishes to settle in a British Colony."