Topic: Private Sidney Bell

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Soldier of the Great War who died of heart disease after his discharge and return to New Zealand.

Sidney Bell gravePrivate Sidney Bell - 63989    

Sidney was born at Radcliffe on Trent, Nottinghamshire, on 17th March 1872, son of Samuel, a farmer, and Catherine Bell. He lived at The Manvers Arms, Radcliffe on Trent and then Barrow House. He was an auctioneer's assistant in 1891 and auctioneer's clerk in 1911 before emigrating to New Zealand that year. In between he had served in the Boer War 1899-1902. Records list a Sidney Bell, no 43908, a Trooper with the 39th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry. Before enlisting he was working as a labourer for G. Sheath. He was 5ft10 ½ in tall with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. He was also slightly deaf.

Sidney enlisted on 17th November 1915 at Trentham and was assigned to 10th Reinforcements, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company.   He embarked with them on 4th March 1916 and disembarked in Suez on 8th April 1916. It was a very brief stay for on 13 April 1916 he embarked again this time on the Kinfauns Castle  for France. He marched into Base depot at Etaples on 24 April 1916. After serving 6 months in France with the 2nd Battalion Canterbury Regiment he was sent to England by hospital ship on 29th October with what was diagnosed with enteric. At hospital in England he was diagnosed with Paratyphoid type A in December 1916. Paratyphoid fever is an enteric illness caused by one of the three serotypes of Salmonella enterica. He probably contracted it in the unsanitary conditions in the trenches. After treatment in England he was reviewed by a medical board held at Codford 31 August 1917 which discharged him to return to New Zealand citing two disabilities; over age and rheumatism. He had aggravated pain in his legs and back. He was classed as unfit on 28th September 1917 and embarked for New Zealand on board the SS Tainui on 2nd November 1917. On his return to New Zealand he faced a final medical board and was finally discharged and granted a pension on 5 January 1918.

He died suddenly in Killinchy after his return aged 46. As the Press reported “An inquest was held at the residence of Mr H. S. Chappell, Killinchy, on Friday afternoon, by Mr W. J. Lunn, J.P., and a jury, concerning the death of Private Sidney Bell, a returned soldier, who died suddenly on Thursday afternoon. The evidence was to the effect that deceased had not been in good health since his return from the front a few weeks ago. While on active service he had suffered from trench fever, shell shock, and rheumatics. He complained of feeling unwell on Thursday, and while sitting in a chair in Mr Chappell's orchard exclaimed, "Lord, preserve me from such pain." and immediately collapsed and died. Dr. B. Volckman. who conducted a post-mortem, stated that he had found deceased's heart very much dilated and enlarged. In his opinion death was due to dilatation of the heart. A verdict in accordance with the medical testimony was returned.”

He was buried in Killinchy Cemetery, Selwyn after a large funeral. Again the Press reported “The funeral of the late Private Sidney Bell took place at Kitlinchy on Saturday afternoon, a large number of friends attending to pay their last respects to the memory of the departed soldier. The service was conducted by the Rev H. G Hawkins. The bearers included four returned soldiers, one of whom, Private James O Boyle, returned from England on the same hospital ship as the late Private Bell a few weeks ago. Keen disappointment is felt in the district over the fact that the late Private Bell was not accorded a military funeral. Everybody expected that a military funeral would have been arranged, especially as the late soldier had not received his discharge from the forces at the time of his death. In addition to the service rendered by Private Bell in the present war, he served in South Africa.”  

In New Zealand he is remembered on the Leeston Plaque, Ellesmere County War Memorial. He is also remembered in his home-town on the War Memorial in front of St Mary’s Church. The tall cross bears a bronze figure of St George with head bowed in silent grief. His name was initially misspelt with the Ts later being converted to Ls.

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Private Sidney Bell


First Names:Sidney
Last Name:Bell
Date of Birth:17 March 1872
Place of Birth:Radcliffe on Trent, Nottinghamshire
Date of Death:24 January 1918
Place of Death:New Zealand
Memorial or Cemetery:Killinchy Cemetery - The cemetery is on the Leeston-Dunsandel Road, Killinchy.
Age at death:46
User Name:L M Seaton
Occupation before enlisting:Labourer
Marital Status:Single
Nominal Roll:26/14
Regiment or Service:10th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company
Country:England
Enlistment details:17 November 1915
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of Sam and Catherine Bell.(Sister) Mrs C. Marshall, Barrow House, Radcliff-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England
Service Number:6/3989
Rank last held:Private
Embarkation:4 March 1916
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Transport:Willochra or Tofua
Theatres of War:Egypt, Western Front
Cause of Death:Died of heart disease
Other biographical information:had served in the Anglo-Boer War