Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £8,600

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

An extremely rare Great War D.C.M., M.M. group of five awarded to Petty Officer R. G. Bell, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a long-served member of Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division, who was twice wounded in Gallipoli, again in Belgium in November 1916, and then badly gassed in the “German Spring Offensive” in March 1918

Distinguished Conduct Medal
, G.V.R. (TZ-2452 L.S. (H.G.) R. G. Bell, Hawke Bn., R.N.V.R.); Military Medal, G.V.R. (TZ-2452 P.O. R. G. Bell, D.C.M., Hawke Bn., R.N.V.R.); 1914-15 Star (TZ. 2452 A.B., R.N.V.R.); British War and Victory Medals (T.Z. 2452 P.O., R.N.V.R.), good very fine or better (5) £5000-6000

Footnote

D.C.M. London Gazette 16 January 1919:

‘He led his men throughout the attack near Bucquoy on 21-28 August 1918 with conspicuous gallantry and skill, capturing several machine-guns, with their crews, and materially assisting the Company to advance, in spite of heavy fire and stiff resistance. He did fine work.’

M.M.
London Gazette 20 August 1919.

Robert Greig Bell was born in Walker-on-Tyne, Newcastle in July 1893, apparently a descendant of the famous composer Grieg, whose family had emigrated to Norway from Aberdeen, hence his second name ‘Greig’ - the original spelling. Young Robert, however - or “Bob” as he was known by his family - appears to have shown an early gift for football, rather than music, and was ‘given a trial for a First Division football team’, but chose instead to go to war (an accompanying family letter refers).

Enlisting in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in January 1915, he was drafted to Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division, and embarked for Gallipoli, where he received a ‘bomb wound, both legs’ on 9 October 1915 and was evacuated to Cairo in the hospital ship
Somali. Having then rejoined his unit in the Peninsula, he was again wounded on 22 November, this time by a gunshot wound in the hand, and treated at 1st Field Ambulance before returning to his unit in the following month.

The Gallipoli campaign over, Bell was embarked for France in H.M.T.
Franconia, where he next went into action with Hawke Battalion and was wounded for a third time near Wimereux on 14 November 1916, this time by shrapnel in the backside and one of his feet - he was evacuated to the U.K. in the hospital ship St. Denis and admitted to the Town Hall Hospital at Walton Abbey, Essex. Having then been sent on furlough, and served in the 4th Reserve Battalion, he rejoined Hawke Battalion in France in October 1917, only to be re-admitted to hospital with bronchitis, and he did not return to active duty until February 1918 - just in time for the “German Spring Offensive”, during which he was severely gassed and admitted to No. 9 General Hospital at Rouen in March.

Bell was subsequently moved to a convalescent depot at Trouville, from whence he rejoined Hawke Battalion in May 1918, and went on to win his D.C.M. and M.M., the former for an attack at Bucquoy in late August, and the latter via Routine Order No. 4801 of 2 February 1919 - as further verified by his service record, the D.C.M. was forwarded to the Mayor of Newcastle and presented to Bell in November 1919. Bell, the recipient of a 20% disability pension, was demobilised as a Petty Officer in early 1919; sold with the above mentioned family letter and several photocopies taken from a family album.