Ordinary Seaman Richard Douglas Bell J49456 HMS Active

HMS Active. Courtesy IWM PC 666

HMS Active. Courtesy IWM PC 666

This post is unashamedly off-topic.  It’s not immediately related to the Manchester Regiment, although somewhat relevant to see a family’s contribution to the War.

Richard Douglas Bell – known as Douglas – was 2 ½ junior to his older brother Arthur.  Born in November 1896, Douglas lost his father when he was four years old and his mother died when he was twelve.

WACOS CrestEducated at the Manchester Warehouseman and Clerks Orphans’ School, Douglas was working as a warehouseman during the early part of the war.  At 5 ft 11, he was a tall young man with auburn hair and a fresh complexion.

Douglas will have seen Arthur enlist with the pomp of the 2nd Manchester Pals, alongside the boys’ brother in law Herbert Vernon.   He will have remained in touch throughout hostilities.  It is also quite possible Douglas lived with his sister Dolly – Hebert’s wife – when the older men left Manchester.   In this context, there would be a natural assumption that Douglas would have followed his family into the Manchester Regiment.  However, the communication with men in Trenches near Maricourt in the winter of 1915/16 may have provided a clear picture of the reality of life in the infantry.  One may speculate Douglas’ family even have discouraged him joining them.

Irrespective of this musing, Douglas enlisted in the Royal Navy on 31st January 1916 number J49456; soon after his nineteenth birthday and a matter of days after the Military Service Act came into force.  Service Records from the National Archive records show he spent the spring of 1916 training at HMS Vivid I base in Devenport.  On 5th April he was posted to scout cruiser HMS Active.

Active had been patrolling the Channel off Harwich with her two sister ships, HMS Amphion and HMS Fearless.  Amphion was the first British Naval ship to sink in World War 1, having hit mines in the Channel on 6th August 1914.

In 1915 Active was reassigned to the Grand Fleet, and on 31 May-1 June 1916 she took part in the Battle of Jutland after Douglas had joined the ship.   She survived the battle and later that year was assigned as leader of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth.   In 1917 she was at Queenstown and later that year was deployed in the Mediterranean. She survived the First World War and was sold for scrapping on 21 May 1920*

Records indicate Douglas stayed with Active throughout his service as an Ordinary Seaman until he was demobilised in January 1919.  Throughout his Service, he was assessed as Very Good character and and satisfactory Ability.  Douglas received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.  He later appears to have travelled to Quebec in 1919 and later married and moved to Coventry.  Douglas died in Nuneaton, aged 65 in the 4th Qtr. 1961.

*Courtesy Wikepedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Active_%281911%29

More photos of Active Class Scout Cruisers

Thanks to Lara on http://manchesterfamilyhist.proboards.com/ for finding the records of my great uncle; that have eluded me for many years.

 The ACTIVE class scout cruiser, HMS AMPHION. Leader of 3rd Destroyer Flotilla at the outbreak of the First World War, HMS AMPHION became the Royal Navy's first casualty on 6 August 1914 when she ran into a minefield laid by the KONIGIN LUISE, which the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla had just sunk. © IWM (Q 43259)


The ACTIVE class scout cruiser, HMS AMPHION. Leader of 3rd Destroyer Flotilla at the outbreak of the First World War, HMS AMPHION became the Royal Navy’s first casualty on 6 August 1914 when she ran into a minefield laid by the KONIGIN LUISE, which the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla had just sunk.
© IWM (Q 43259)

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One thought on “Ordinary Seaman Richard Douglas Bell J49456 HMS Active

  1. Pingback: Manchester Warehouseman and Clerks Orphans’ School – Manchester Regiment | 17th Manchester Regiment on the Somme

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