A World War One soldier has been given a marked grave and a rededication ceremony more than 100 years after he died in battle – thanks to the efforts of a Highland Perthshire archive and local charity trust.
David Bell enlisted in 1914 and was one of 93 Scottish Horse soldiers killed in action in France on October 7, 1918 at the age of 36.
David, an engine cleaner, had no physical grave that anyone knew about and was only mentioned on a memorial.
The journey to discover the soldier’s past began in 2019 when Dunkeld Community Archive – which holds the Regimental Archive of the Scottish Horse, a Dunkeld-based regiment first raised during the second Boer War in 1900 – began to carry out research on a notebook which belonged to the Rev Wilfred Callin.
Reverend Callin had served with bravery and distinction in the Army Chaplains Department with the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Black Watch during the First World War.
This notebook contains the names of 93 Scottish Horse soldiers, who were at that time serving as the 13th (Scottish Horse) Battalion Black Watch under the command of the 149th Brigade in the 50th (Northumbrian) Division.
The notebook lists the name and rank of soldiers killed in action during the months of October and November 1918 and the trench map coordinates where they were initially buried.
The archive checked their names on the War Graves Commission database and discovered that one of the soldiers, Second Lieutenant David Bell, was only mentioned on a memorial in Vis-en-Artois, France and had no actual grave.
Archivists thought that he may still be buried at these trench map co-ordinates after all these years.
This information was sent to the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Center Commemorations Team, known as the MOD War Detectives.
They carried out their own thorough research, cross referencing with exhumation and re-burial papers from 1919.
They then confirmed that the soldier lying in an unmarked grave – labeled III.D.5 – in Prospect Hill Cemetery near Gouy, France was in fact Second Lieutenant David Bell.
Funding donated by the Basil D’Eath Trust of Highland Perthshire enabled two representatives from the Dunkeld Archive to attend the rededication ceremony for David in France on March 22.
Ruth Brown, manager and archivist at Dunkeld Community Archive, said: “It was an extremely moving experience, and one I am proud to have been part of.”
MOD War Detective Louise Dorr added: “It’s always a very great joy to us when a soldier’s name is returned to him and we’re able to recognize and rededicate his grave in the presence of his military family. May Second Lieutenant David Bell rest in peace.”
David Bell’s father George Bell died in a mining accident in 1893 age 32. He was originally from County Antrim and his mother was Agnes Bell (nee Armour).
They lived at 4 Wellpark Road, Saltcoats where David attended the Ardrossan Public School.
After his father’s death they moved to Paisley where David was an engine cleaner. He listed in 1914 and married Elizabeth McRae Lang Bell in 1917.
David had one brother, Robert, who died in 1919 and five sisters, Mary, Agnes, Jane, Elizabeth and Ellen.
Those with any information on David Bell’s family can message Ruth Brown at [email protected]
The Dunkeld Community Archive collection has recently been digitized by The Army Museums Ogilby Trust and is now available online to search along with many other regiments at www.theogilbymuster.com
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.