Jack Bell

Timelines: Ribbon of Remembrance Jack Bell

Story submitted by Mrs Drury.

Jack (John Adam) Bell was the son of a gamekeeper at Langdon Beck in Teesdale, County Durham. He grew up in the countryside a became a railway clerk. When he joined the army and went to experience life in the trenches he had the horror of standing next to a fellow soldier when his head was blown off. Jack also had to endure the news that his own brother had been killed.
Jacks country knowledge became most useful in the mire of Flanders. He would cut trenches to make a sleeping place out of the mud, trap rabbits and stew them in a metal helmet. He would look after horses for officers who had never had to look after their own mounts before. He described how starved the horses were near the front line – the near stampedes when fodder was brought and how the horses gnawed each others’ manes and tails for food. He remembered how long the cavalry had to stand mounted and how weak horses collapsed.

Remounts were needed constantly and Jack was sent in to break in and train them. He was stationed on the Thames, possibly at Tilbury, to receive horses, practically wild sent by ship from South America and often in a sorry state on arrival. He had six weeks to prepare each batch (size unknown) for dispatch abroad. During this training Jack rode these recovered and lively horses with a ladies side saddle as he said it was easier to jump off when necessary form a side saddle than from astride!

It was on 26th June 1918 when Jack received his commission as Second Lieutenant. Later, as Captain, he dealt with German Prisoners of War in Italy. He was also involved in the Macedonian Campaign 1915-17 but that is another tale. After the war he attended Magdalen College, Oxford on one of the courses the University put on for officers. He enjoyed rowing on the Isis and soon married Nancy Bainbridge, one of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and they saw their golden wedding anniversary when we had a fine family party.

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