b. 28/08/1895 Enniskillen, NI. d. 01/07/1916 Thiepval, France.
Eric Norman Frankland Bell (1895-1916) was born at Alma Terrace, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland on 28th August 1895. His father, Edward Henry Bell, born at Devonport, Devon, was a shoemaker. He enlisted in the 108th Regiment on 2nd May 1878 and joined at Colchester. Eric’s mother was Dora Algeo nee Crowder, born at Manorhamilton, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland. She married Edward Bell on 19th April 1885 at St Nicholas, Church of Ireland, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland. In addition to Eric, they had four other children – Alan George Frankland Bell (born 1887), Dora Irene Frankland Bell (born 1889), Haldane Frankland Bell (born 1891) and Lorna Mary Frankland Bell (borrn 1893). Sadly Lorna died very young.
When war broke out in 1914, Edward was recalled on 5th August 1914. On 13th September he was appointed Quartermaster of 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and on 9th December became the Adjutant. On 31st March 1915 he transferred as Adjutant of 12th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. His war was littered with spells of illhealth and he finally invalided out on 20th April 1918. He died at sea aboard RMS Arawa en route to New Zealand on 5th December 1920.
Eric was educated at People’s Elementary School, Warrington, St Margaret’s School, Toxteth, Liverpool, Bedford Road Community Primary School, Bootle and Liverpool Institute. He then attended the School of Architecture, Liverpool University, where he trained as an architect and worked as an assistant to Professor Sir Charles Reilly. Eric was a gifted artist, working in oils and pen and ink. He was also a talented musician and spoke French and German fluently.
Eric was commissioned in 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 22nd September 1914. He transferred to 8th Battalion then 9th Battalion on 12th November, in which his father was Adjutant. Eric went to France on 5th October 1915, where he attended a trench mortar course. Promoted Lieutenant and attached to 109th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery.
On 1st July 1916, at Thiepval, France, while in command of a Trench Mortar Battery, he advanced with the Infantry in the attack. When our front line was hung up by enfilading machine gun fire Captain Bell crept forward and shot the machine gunner. Later, on no less than three occasions, when our bombing parties, which were clearing the enemy's trenches, were unable to advance, he went forward alone and threw Trench Mortar bombs among the enemy. When he had no more bombs available he stood on the parapet, under intense fire, and used a rifle with great coolness and effect on the enemy advancing to counter-attack. Finally he was killed rallying and reorganising infantry parties which had lost their officers. All this was outside the scope of his normal duties with his battery. He gave his life in his supreme devotion to duty.
Sadly, Eric’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, The Somme. Eric never married, so the VC was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC passed down through his sister Dora to her stepson, Sir Richard Bolt, who said “The VC had been a source of pride and inspiration in my own family, but I now wish to ensure that it is kept in appropriate hands…the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Museum…is where Bell’s VC should be.” The VC was presented to the Patron of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Museum at Enniskillen Castle on 15th February 2001.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:ROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS MUSEUM, ENNISKILLEN, NI.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE - ON THIEPVAL MEMORIAL. PIER AND FACE 4D/5B
War Illustrated, 28th October 1916
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Thomas Stewart)
Enniskillen War Memorial
St Anne's, Belfast