b. 28/10/1882 Bombay, India. d. 01/02/1961 Kamloops, Canada.
Edward Donald Bellew (1882-1961) was born on 28th October 1882 at Malabar Hill, Bombay, India. His father was Surgeon Major Patrick Francis Bellew, who had studied medicine at St Andrew, Devon and was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon in the Bengal Medical Department on 6th September 1854 and served in the Sonthal Insurrection of 1855-1856. He eventually retired from the Indian Medical Service in 1882. Edward’s mother was Sophia Elizabeth nee Fordyce, and his parents married in 1862 in Bayswater, London. Sadly, his mother died when he was just three, and his father re-married to Letitia Louise Box later that year in Paddington, London. Edward had a sibling from each marriage.
Edward was educated at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, Devon and Clifton College, Bristol until 1900. He joined the Royal Military College, Sandhurst as a Gentleman Cadet in 1900 and won the Heavyweight Boxing and Rugby Football Cups. He was commissioned into 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment on 8th May 1901 and served in India and Afghanistan until resigning his commission on 26th August 1903.
Edward married Charlotte Muriel nee Rees on 24th August 1901 at Fulham. They migrated to Canada in 1907. Edward spent three years in northern British Columbia as a prospector and explorer, prior to joining the Provincial Forestry Service. In 1912 he joined the Dominion Civil Service as Assistant to the District Engineer of Public Works, employed on harbour construction at New Westminster, British Columbia.
On 10th August 1914, Edward was commissioned into 11th Irish Fusiliers of Canada as Machine Gun Officer. He transferred to 7th Battalion CEF at Valcartier on the creation of the CEF. He sailed for England aboard the Virginian on 3rd October 1914, arriving in Plymouth on 16th October. The Battalion trained on Salisbury Plain before going to France on 10th February 1915, arriving at St Nazaire on 15th February.
It was during the Second Battle of Ypres that a mass attack on the Canadian line developed on the morning of Saturday 24th April 1915 near Kerselaere, Belgium. The Canadians were suffering heavy casualties. The advance of the enemy was temporarily stayed by Lieutenant Bellew, the battalion machine-gun officer, who had two guns in action on high ground when the enemy’s attack broke in full force. The reinforcements sent forward having been destroyed, and with the enemy less than 100 yards (91 m) away and no further assistance in sight, Lieutenant Bellew and a Sergeant Peerless decided to fight it out. The sergeant was killed and Lieutenant Bellew wounded, nevertheless, he maintained his fire until his ammunition failed, when he seized a rifle, smashed his machine-gun and, fighting to the last, was taken prisoner.
Having been taken as a POW, he was taken to Staden and tried for breach of the laws of war, as he continued firing after part of his unit had surrendered. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was about to be shot when he protested to the commander that word of this crime would become known and reprisals would follow. The officer returned Bellew to custody. A retrial took place and he was acquitted and sent to a prison camp in Saxony with a large party of wounded Canadians. He spent two years and eight months as a POW in six different camps across Germany. A Swiss medical commission assessed the condition of the men in December 1917 and Bellew was selected for interment in neutral Switzerland. He was repatriated back to England in December 1918 and was admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital, Marylebone, suffering from neurasthenia, bronchitis and sciatic neuritis. He returned to Canada when he was well enough in March 1919, and demobilised in November 1919.
Details of his actions were known during his imprisonment, but it was decided not to announce the award of his VC until he had been released. He received the VC from General Ross, Area Commandant Vancouver, British Columbia in 1919, with Ross standing in for the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia who had fallen ill before the ceremony.
Edward returned to the Public Works Department until 1922 as an Inspector of Dredging on the Fraser River. He retired to ranch at Monte Creek, British Columbia to pursue his interest in fly fishing, youth welfare and gardening. He was a committee member of the VC and GC Association, Honorary Member of the Royal Society of St George and a life member of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. When he was invited to the 1960 VCGCA Reunion he was in poor health and advised not to go. He did attend, but on his return to Canada, he suffered a stroke and died at the Royal Inland Hospital, Shaughnessy, Kamloops, British Columbia on 1st February 1961. He was buried at Hillside Cemetery, Kamloops.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals passed to his brother in law, Mr Crossman, and were sold at Sotheby’s for £6,000 on 5th July 1974, which was then a record price. Spink’s purchased the medals and presented them to the British Columbia Regiment. The group were transferred to the Royal Canadian Military Institute where sadly the VC was stolen sometime between 1975 and 1977. Sadly, it has not been recovered.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: STOLEN.
BURIAL PLACE: HILLSIDE CEMETERY, KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA.
Bill Mullen – Grave Image from Hillside Cemetery, Kamloops, British Columbia.