b. 1845 County Down, Ireland. d. 07/03/1920 Gillingham, Kent.
David Bell (1845-1920) was born in 1845 in County Down, Ireland and enlisted with the 24th Regiment of Foot (later South Wales Borderers) and was serving in the 2nd Battalion when he was posted with his Regiment to India.
Shortly before the 7th May 1867, at the island of Little Andaman, in the Bay of Bengal, a ship called the “Assam Valley” had anchored, and some of the crew went ashore. Shortly afterwards, news came that the crew had been set upon and murdered by some of the natives, as none of them had returned. In order to ascertain the crew’s fate, a second steamer was sent from Rangoon and landed near the island on the 7th. Some of their crew was attacked by the natives and with a huge storm raging, a rescue mission was organised to try and reach them. With the soldiers in peril on shore, Dr Campbell Mellis Douglas and four fellow members of the 24th including David Bell, manned a gig and attempted to reach them.
They very nearly succeeded in their endeavours, but, the boat beginning to fill rapidly, they were forced to retire. They then made a second attempt and were successful in reaching the shore, taking off five men. On these being placed safely on board, the doctor and his four brave men turned once more to the rescue of the rest of the soldiers, and by their strenuous efforts the entire party was eventually taken off the island.
Bell alongside his four comrades, was gazetted for the VC on 17th December 1867, and was invested with his medal in Rangoon on 16th April 1868 by Major-General A Faunce, the GOC Pegu. Little is known of his career following the incident in the Andaman Islands, and he eventually retired and settled in Kent. He died on 7th March 1920 aged 75 at his home, 2 Unity Cottages, Gardiner Street, Gillingham. He was laid to rest at Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. His medals are held by the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOUTH WALES BORDERERS MUSEUM, BRECON, WALES.
BURIAL PLACE: WOODLANDS CEMETERY, GILLINGHAM, KENT. SECTION CH GRAVE 782
David Bell's VC on display at the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon, Wales. (May 2014).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
Roll of Honour at SWB Museum, Brecon
Bell VC (front row on left) in 1898 in Brecon with 6 other VC's (James Mace)