James Foster Bell

First Name: 
James
Middle Name: 
Foster
Last Name: 
Bell
Date of Birth: 
Wednesday, August 5, 1885
Mother's Name: 
Thomasina (nee Green)
Father's Name: 
John Bell
Date Enlisted: 
Friday, January 21, 1916
Rank at Enlistment: 
Sapper
Rank at Discharge: 
Sapper
Unit: 
Tunnelling coy
Company: 
2nd
Awards: 
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Date of Death: 
Saturday, June 4, 1966
Place of Death: 
Austinmer
Details: 

Sapper James Bell (Service no. 1407) was born in Mount Kembla on 5th August, 1885. He was a single, 29 year old miner when he enlisted in the AIF. He embarked on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 20th February, 1916, with 2nd Tunnelling Company, 1st Reinforcements, first serving on the Western Front.

In June, 1917, Sapper Bell and the 2nd Tunnelling Company were in Belgium, engaged in the extensive mining operations of the Battle of Messines. By the beginning of July, the 2nd Tunnelling Company were in Nieuport (Belgium), working towards Operation Hush. However, disaster was to strike on the 10th July, 1917, when, bombarded by German shelling, the pontoons connecting the various elements of the Allies over the Ypres were destroyed; 30 members of 2nd Tunnelling Company (along with other units) were taken prisoner. Sapper Bell was reported missing on the 10th July, and later reported as a Prisoner of War. A declaration by Sapper J Wiedmer, also of the 2nd Tunnelling Company, states that he saw Bell taken prisoner at Dendermonde (Belgium) on the 22nd July, though both men's war records state they were taken at Nieuport/Nieuport Bains on the 10th. From postcards sent by James, it appears he was first interned at Limburg POW camp, then in September he was transferred from Dulman POW camp to the German training camp at Hammelburg, Germany (the location, in WWII, of Stalag XIII-C).

Sapper James Bell was repatriated to England at the end of the war and returned to Australia in March, 1919. He was discharged on 23rd July, after which he went home to Austinmer. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Sources: 
NAA: B2455; BELL J F

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