Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (25 & 26 June 2014)

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Date of Auction: 25th & 26th June 2014

Sold for £270

Estimate: £200 - £250

An unusual Second World War Middle East operations M.B.E. group of six attributed to Lieutenant-Colonel Sir G. W. Bell, Sudan Political Service and latterly Governor of Northern Nigeria, who saw action with the Arab Legion against the Vichy French in 1941

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, M.B.E. (Military) Member’s 2nd type breast badge; The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Officer ‘s (Brother’s) breast badge, silvered-metal and enamel; 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; War Medal 1939-45, together with the recipient’s private metalled identity disc, Arab Legion cap badge and buttons (2), generally good very fine (14) £200-250


M.B.E. London Gazette 30 December 1941. The original recommendation states:

‘This officer commanded the 3rd Druze Legion Squadron on formation. Early in July 1941 he was appointed Political Officer to the Jebel Druze and in that capacity working, and still is, in close co-operation with myself. By his tact, knowledge of local conditions, and untiring energy, he has been largely responsible for the present friendly relations between the British authorities and the local government and notables.’

Gawain Westray Bell was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in January 1909, where his father was an executive of the New Zealand Shipping Company. Returning with his family to England at the age of 10 years, he was educated at the Dragon School, Winchester, and Hertford College, Oxford, and entered the Sudan Political Service in 1931. His postings having taken him to the Nuba Mountains and Kurdufan in the interim, he was seconded to the Government of Palestine in 1938, where he worked with the Police in Gaza and eventually became C.O. of the Beersheba Camel Gendarmerie.

Commissioned on the General List on the outbreak of hostilities, he was appointed to the command of the 3rd Druze Cavalry and participated in the capture of Suweida from the Vichy French in 1941, in addition to the above cited deeds, and was appointed M.B.E., and afterwards rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Arab Legion.

Post-war, he returned to Khartoum, where he became Deputy Civil Secretary and later Permanent Under Secretary to the Ministry of the Interior, following which he departed the Sudan in 1955 to take up appointment as British Political Agent in Kuwait during the Suez Crisis. In 1957, however, he was invited by the Colonial Office to take up office as Governor of Northern Nigeria, in which capacity he worked with notable success until stepping down in 1962, not least in smoothing relations with the Sardauna of Sokoto.

In retirement, and having worked on a number of projects in the Middle East, Bell concentrated on voluntary and charitable work, serving as Chairman of LEPRA and on the Governing Board of the School of Oriental and Africa Studies at the University of London. He also published two volumes of memoirs, namely Shadows on the Sand and An Imperial Twilight. Sir Gawain died in July 1995.