Donald Simpson Bell

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Donald Simpson Bell
VCDonaldSimpsonBell.jpg
Donald Simpson Bell as depicted on a Cigarette card
Born 3 December 1890
Harrogate, England
Died 10 July 1916 (aged 25)
France
Place of burial Gordon Dump Cemetery, France
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1915 - 1916
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit 9th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own)
Battles/wars World War I - First Battle of the Somme
Awards Victoria Cross
Other work Teacher
Footballer

Donald Simpson Bell VC (3 December 1890 – 10 July 1916) was an English school teacher and professional footballer. During the First World War he was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions in the Somme.

Football[edit]

Bell was born on 3 December 1890 to Smith and Annie Bell, who resided in Queen's Rd, Harrogate. He attended St Peter's Church of England Primary School and Harrogate Grammar School before going to Westminster College. A noted sportsman at college while studying he played as an amateur with Crystal Palace and later for Newcastle United. He returned to Harrogate and became a schoolteacher at Starbeck School and a member of the National Union of Teachers,[1] and to supplement his salary in 1912 he signed professional forms with Bradford (Park Avenue).[2] He was married to Rhoda Bell.[3]

World War I[edit]

When World War I broke out, he became the first professional footballer to enlist into the British Army – joining the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1915.[4] He was rapidly promoted to Lance Corporal and then was commissioned into the 9th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales' Own) in 1915. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 5 July 1916 at Horseshoe Trench, Somme, France. He was killed in action on 10 July 1916.

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.[5]

VCDonaldSimpsonBellGrave.jpg

He is buried at Gordon Dump Cemetery, near Albert.[3] His Victoria Cross was formerly displayed at the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, Yorkshire. On 25 November 2010 it was auctioned by London medal specialists, Spink.[2] It was purchased for a reported £252,000 by the Professional Footballers' Association and will go on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester.[6]

A book on his life and that of his friend and fellow VC Captain Archie White called "A Breed Apart" by Richard Leake was published in 2008 by Great North Publishing. On 9 July 2000, through the initiative of “The Friends of the Green Howards Museum”, General The Lord Dannatt, then Colonel of the regiment unveiled a memorial dedicated to Bell on the spot where he lost his life at Contalmaison, now known as Bell’s Redoubt. It was an event well covered by television and every year since then a small service has been held there. In 2010 the tenth anniversary of the unveiling was celebrated and in 2016 at Bell’s Redoubt, with a much improved memorial, there is scheduled to be a remembrance service on the hundredth anniversary of Bell's heroism.[citation needed]

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