Arrochar Tarbet and Ardlui Heritage Group

 

 

 

                     Middle Part - 85 > John Alexander 'Jock' Bell                                                                                            | Cemetery |
 

Gravestone


The inscription reads: -

 

BELL

in loving memory

of

John Alexander Bell

Died 28th Aug. 1980

Aged 65 years.

Beloved husband

of

Mary Bain

Died 6th May 2000

Aged 89 years


 

 

 

 

This is the grave of John Alexander Bell - father of Mary Haggarty.John Alexander Bell outside the butchers shop 1939

My father was born at Braeside in Arrochar in September 1914, his birth started the 4th generation of the Bellís to live in Arrochar.

He grew up in the village and attended Arrochar Primary School, of which in his leaving year 1928 he was dux. As he now had seven younger brothers and sisters, instead of going to university, which was recommended by the school, he had to leave education and work in order that more money was coming into my Grandparents home.

The local butcher offered him work and my father accepted. He worked there until the start of WW11when through the conscription process he was required to serve the war effort. He was recruited into the RAF in late 1939 and was stationed at Linton on Ouse. In 1940 he married my mother and I was born. By 1942 he was with Bomber Commandís 78th Squadron flying in Halifaxís. As one of the crew of  HR659 he had completed 18 successful runs over Europe before on the fateful night of the 16/17 April í43,   returning from a mission, bombing the Skoda

Armaments Works in Pilsen in Czechoslovakia (The Bren gun used by the British Army during the War was invented by Skoda) they were attacked at Bitburg, near to the Moselle Valley, by a Messerschmidt 210 night fighter. F/Lt Mortenson , the pilot and Sgt. Pitman, the rear gunner were killed in the first burst of cannon fire from the fighter.  In the second burst the intercom was knocked out so the crew could not speak to each other. The port wing was burning and the plane was going down. My father Jock Bell  F/E left the plane with Lawton Minshaw the A/G on that night. They landed in an open field about 100 yards apart. 

My father had badly injured his leg on landing and Lawson wrapped up his parachute, hid it and helped my father to his feet. They started to move away from the area.  They could hear dogs barking in the distance and the sound of vehicles moving so they decided to make themselves scarce. My father was limping rather badly but they managed to make some distance keeping going until it got light and then they settled down in some woods, on the basis, that they would walk at night and lay low during the day. They had a compass, maps printed on silk handkerchief, and their emergency rations which they thought would last them for a short period. They decided to head for Luxembourg but after a couple of days my fatherís leg was in a bad way, it had now turned black and he was having great difficulty moving.  John Alexander Bell 1943

Eventually they were taken in by the Germans and taken to Trier. My father had been put into a cart as he now could not walk at all, Lawson had to walk behind it.  They were paraded through the town to jeers and shouts from townspeople then placed in a cell in a building something like a town hall. From there they were taken to an office and were ranted and raved at by a man who was the local Mayor.  They didnít understand what he was saying and they were later returned to their cell.  After a couple of hours they were collected by a Luftwaffe Officer and taken by truck to their next destination, a Luftwaffe Station.  There they were put into a dormitory with a couple of guards. Later they were taken one a time to be interviewed and interrogated. The following day they were put on a train en route to Dulag Luft. The image to the right is of my father on that fateful night in 1943

Later information shows my father to have been taken to Stalag Luft 111 then to Stalag Luft V1 at Haydekrug. East Prussia. When Stalag Luft V1 was evacuated in July í44 because of the advance of the Russian troops westward he was taken to Stalag 357 at Fallingbostal. Liberation came for him in May í45 by British Forces somewhere in the Lubeck / Hamburg area.

RAF Dog Tag    Stalag Luft111 dog TagHe was a member of the Caterpillar Club having saved his life by parachute.

He returned from the war weighing a little over six stone. When his health recovered he went back to the local Butcher shop, and never really talked about his days in the prison camps. It was after is death in 1980 that a local joiner working in the loft of Prospect View above the butchers shop, found his dog tags of Stalag luft 111. I was lucky that the joiner was local and knew of my father, if this hadnít been the case they might just have been thrown away. It was on receiving the Tags I became curious about his war days and researched his story.

Written by Mary Haggarty 
 

Peter Cunliffe: author, speaker, RAF bomber command researcher:A Shaky do-The Skoda works raid available in paperback, iBooks, and Amazon Kindle: - http://www.bombercommand.jigsy.com/

 

 

If you have a loved one and would like a page made up for them please EMAIL HOWARD - include as much information as you have and please include the text from the grave stone. Pictures are also welcome.

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