A free weekend on a well known family history website led to a chance identification of a second family member who lost his life in World War I. The Bell name was very common in Manchester and I had not previously been able to cross reference one of Arthur Bell’s cousins with any particular Herbert Bell. I then recognised this Roll of Honour (RoH) record with the 48 Renshaw Street address – where Arthur Bell’s sister had lived with her Aunt Isabella in 1911. Here’s my attempt to help remember Herbert:- Herbert was born in Manchester on 2nd April 1893 and was christened in Holy Trinity Church, Hulme soon after. His father William had married his mother Mary Jane Henshall in Holy Trinity, on 19/1/1889 as witnessed by his brother Richard; Arthur Bell’s father. William’s father, Andrew is noted to be a Mechanic and he was probably living with Andrew at 48 Phillips Street. Herbert was their second son. Elder brother William Henry had been born in 1891 (went on to be a Lieutenant in RGA). Younger sister, Edith was born in 1903. William is noted as an Assistant teacher in the Baptism record and 1901 and 1911 census when the family lived in 16 Phillips Street and 29 Beresford Street respectively. By 1911, Hebert was an 18 year old Clerk working in a Home Trade Warehouse. Later newspaper reports indicate Herbert had been employed in Granby Shirt Company in Altrincham, prior to enlisting in Salford. As a man with half dozen family members who joined the Manchester Regiment, it is not known why Herbert chose the Lancashire Fusiliers as a Private – 2344 – with whom Herbert arrived with the 1/7th Battalion in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Egypt on 3rd November 1914. Unconfirmed thoughts suggest Herbert may have been a pre-war Territorial soldier. The LF Medal Roll suggest Herbert was renumbered in early 1917 as 280493.
The 1/7th LF were part of the East Lancs Division and entered Gallipoli in 1915. At some stage after 4th July, Herbert was wounded (Wounded list published 7th July). The War Diary for 5th July describes the principal action in the period “The Turks attacked on both flanks, but were driven back with heavy loss. We again relieved the 8th LF in the firing line.” He was evacuated to Egypt and spent time in the Lady Douglas’s Convalescent Home in Alexandria. The extracts of his letter illustrates the good treatment he received and some indication the “Turkish Delight” he had experienced in the Dardanelles. The Manchesters and their Division returned to Europe in August 1915 and it is anticipated Herbert was posted to the Machine Gun Corps after his recovery. He was latterly posted to 155th Company of the Machine Gun Corps and allocated number 59137. The 155th Brigade had arrived in Gallipoli with the 52nd (Lowland) Division in June 1915 and they withdrew to Egypt in January 1916. 155th Brigade include Territorial Battalions of the 1/4 & 1/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers and Kings Own Scottish Borderers. After time spent in Cairo, the Brigade moved to the Gaza Defences of Palestine in 1917. Herbert Bell was killed on 6th June 1917 after the second battle for Gaza. He is buried in Gaza War Cemetery.
Herbert’s Effects were left to mother and father, along with a large share to his fiance Edith Cox. His grieving father arranged the inscription on Herbert’s grave “He nobly fell at duty’s call. He gave his life for one and all” The extensive Obituaries in the Manchester Evening News in 1917 and anniversary 1918 illustrate the loss to family and friends. William and Mary Jane Bell’s testimony to their son is repeated:- Some day we hope to meet him, Some day, we know not when, To clasp hand in the better land, Never to part again. Herbert’s younger sister Edith and brother Will remembered their brother and reference is made to ‘sisters’ little Marie and Alice.*1 Edith wrote on the first anniversary of Herbert’s death:- One long, sad year has passed away Since our great sorrow fell, Yet in our hearts we mourn the loss Of one we loved so well. Herbert’s Brother Will was serving in France, Commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery when he wrote:- He nobly fell at duty’s call. He gave his life for one and all, A loving brother, good and kind, A beautiful memory left behind. Herbert’s ‘broken hearted sweetheart’,
Edith Cox remained deeply grieving when she wrote for the anniversary:- I that loves you sadly missed you, As it dawns another year, In my lonely hours of thinking Thoughts of you are ever near. Writing from 48 Renshaw Street*2 Herbert’s aunt’s Mary Ann (Polly) remembered him with her sister Isabella Ridge who was grieving her own son Alfred Ridge (18th Manchesters)The supreme sacrifice – his bright young life. The message also refers to Cousins Edith, Bessie and Frederick Foulkes (21st Manchesters) Aunt Ethel (Unidentified) and Uncle Joe (in France) also paid their respects along “May his reward be as great as his sacrifice” with Aunt Ria and Uncle Will (in Palestine). This was probably William Foulkes.
Photos before and after planting in 1926, courtesy CWGC Archives
The development of this website has created some charming moments and Highlights. I remain moved by the help received from a young man in Gaza, who provided the photos of Herbert’s grave. Ibrahim Esam Jaradah works for CWGC in the Gaza strip and kindly took the photos the day after my request on twitter. Ibrahim’s twitter explains his perspective in the continuing pride in his family’s work “It’s an honor to Jaradah family to be in a work team of the
#CWGC in Israel and Gaza since the establishment and till now, some of its members earned MBE title.”
This site is not a voice for current world affairs, or my own views on issues in Palestine. However, the news of recent missile strikes close to Herbert’s grave is a firm reminder of the daily tensions faced by Ibrahim and his family 100 years after my distant cousin was fighting there. Ibrahim placed a poppy wreath on Herbert’s grave for us:-
NOTES *1 The 1911 census confirmed only three siblings, meaning Alice and Marie must have been spiritual sisters, in laws or nieces. *2 48 Renshaw Street was the Foulkes family home in 1911. Polly and Bella Bell were younger sisters of William Bell. *3 Cousin Ethel and Joe (in France) have not been identified at 48 Renshaw Street. Neither has Aunt Ria and Uncle Will (in Palestine) of 81 Palmerston Street, Moss Side. Probably William Ewart Henshall and Maria Henshall who lived at the address in 1911. Uncle Will was Mary Jane’s brother and Herbert’s aunt.
William Henry Bell was Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery 17/12/1917 and demobiliesed 25/10/1919, following which he relinquished his Commission on 1/4/1920, retaining the rank of Lieutenant (LG 13/12/1920). William was a Cadet at No 2 RGA Officer Cadet School, Maresfield Park, Sussex from 18/7/1917. He had previously served as a Gunner 292476 with 125th Heavy Battery RGA, which has served in France from April 1916. He enlisted on 29/5/1915. The 125th Heavy Battery was raised with the Manchester Pals as part of 30th Division, although arrival & service in France was separate. They took part in the great bombardment of the German trenches prior to 1st July 1916 and the maintained the advance through hard fought territory including Mametz and Montauban.
The Historical Record for the Battery notes “Our stay in this part of the line [Savy] which lasted until May 31st war remarkable for the number of men sent home to train for Commissions. Gunner Johnson left us for that purpose at Liancourt, B.Q.M.S. Hill and Staff Sergeant Saddler Boone at Vaux and others were Sergeant Wheeler, Bombardier Baker, Gunners Bell and Newman.”
Records show William’s address with his mother at 29 Beresford Street, Moss Side and show his last unit as 260 Siege Battery. He had been a clerk prior to enlisting with W Ramsden, Painter & Decorators of 70 Spear Street. William was educated at Ducie Avenue Higher Grade School, Greenheys.