b. 18/05/1824 Laudguard Fort, Essex. d. 10/11/1879 Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Edward William Derrington Bell (1824-1879) was born on 18th May 1824 at Laudguard Fort, Essex, the son of Lieutenant General Edward Wells Bell of the 7th Royal Fusiliers, who had fought at both Vittoria and Salamanca during the Napoleanic Wars, and later became Governor of Jamaica. Bell’s mother was Marianne Chapman, the sister of Sir Thomas Chapman, Baronet, of Killua Castle, County Westmeath, Ireland, who was the widow of Captain Battersby, RN, who was in command of the ship which had transported Napolean Bonaparte to St Helena.
Edward, due to his father’s background was always destined for a military career, and entered Sandhurst at the age of 14 in 1838. He then joined the Army in 1842, being posted to Canada. He was promoted to Captain in December 1848. During the Crimean War, Bell was involved in the Battles of Alma and Inkerman and the Siege of Sebastopol. It was during the Battle of Alma on 20th September 1854, that he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
During the battle, the embrasures were empty and in the rear of this work, long artillery teams -eight and ten horse teams were rapidly dragging away the guns. When the redoubt was captured by British forces, there was only piece of enemy ordnance left behind, a brass 24 pound howitzer. The gun was being pulled away from the redoubt by just three horses. Captain Bell, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, ran up, overtook it, and pointing his pistol at the driver, ordered him to stop instantly and dismount. The driver jumped from his saddle and fled. Bell seized the bridle of the near horse, and had turned the gun round, when Sir George Brown arrived and ordered him back to his company. Bell obeyed dragging the gun down the hill. Bell went back to the corps, and his services were needed as the commanding officer, Colonel Chester, had been killed, and Captain Campbell, having taken command, was wounded and fallen back to the rear. The honour of bringing the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers out of the action then fell to Captain Bell, and he also had the honour of capturing the first and only effective field gun from the enemy. The gun was became known as Bell’s gun was returned to England, and in 1885 was placed outside the brigade depot at Wrexham. It is now housed in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum, Caernarvon Castle.
Bell’s Victoria Cross was gazetted on 24th February 1857, and in addition to his VC, he was awarded Brevets of Major and Lieutenant Colonel, British Crimean Medal with three clasps and was mentioned in despatches. He was also given the Legion of Honour by the French, and the Turkish War Medal. Later that year, he married Alice Brooke at Woodbridge, Suffolk, not long before his departure on 23rd June 1857 on HMS Melville heading for China. On route, news was received of the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny and the Melville was re-routed. Due to adverse weather, the ship didn’t reach Calcutta until the 18th November 1857. In December 1857, Bell and three companies joined the HQ at Alambagh. He was present at the Siege of Lucknow and mentioned twice in despatches when crossing the Goomtee.
Following service in the Indian Mutiny, he was appointed to command 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers based in Malta. He would command the 2nd Battalion for 12 years until 1872. During this time, he sadly divorced his wife Alice sometime between 1866 and 1869, and was posted to Quebec in Canada. On 3rd August 1869, he married Charlotte Wadsworth (nee Bartell), widow of a surgeon called John Davies, at St Mary’s Church, Cheltenham. The couple would have four children, Caroline Mary Ann, Margaret Derrington, William Edward Derrington and Katherine Annabella.
He was promoted to Major General in 1868, and later during the 1868 General Election campaign, a disturbance broke out in Newport, South Wales. Bell commanded his men to fix bayonets and disperse the crowd. During the skirmishes that followed, a woman was killed. The Royal Welsh Fusiliers were absolved of all blame for the incident. Bell was then given the command of the Belfast Division, a position he held until his death, on 10th November 1879 at his residence, Lisbreen, Fort William Park, Belfast. Bell’s body was returned to the village of Kempsey, Worcestershire and was laid to rest in a vault in St Mary’s Churchyard. Bell’s connection to the village was that his parents lived at The Lodge prior to their deaths.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS MUSEUM, CAERNARFON, WALES.
ST MARY’S CHURCHYARD, KEMPSEY, WORCESTERSHIRE. NEAR YEW TREE IN SW CORNER
Thomas Stewart – VC Medal Group and the RWF VC Board at Caernarvon Castle.
Steve Hoar – The captured cannon by Edward Bell VC at Caernarvon Castle.