Reinventing the school newspaper for the digital generation
You are here: Student News Trust/School History

School History

Donald Bell VC

VCDonaldSimpsonBell1Donald Simpson Bell was born on the 3rd December 1890. He was an English school teacher at Starbeck Primary School. Before the war Bell had a promising football career ahead of him, having become a professional with Bradford Park Avenue Football Club. He made his debut in 1913 as a full-back against Wolverhampton Wanderers and had made five league appearances for the club when the Great War broke out in August 1914. Determined to fight for his country, he asked the Bradford directors to release him from his contract and in November of that year signed up as a volunteer soldier with the West Yorkshire Regiment. He quickly rose through the ranks and in less than a year of joining he had been made an officer in the 9th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards).

Just a year later, in June 1915, having just got married, he was part of Lord Kitchener’s new Volunteer Army which crossed the English Channel to get to the Western Front in readiness for the Battle of the Somme.

On the evening of 5 July, 1916, his battalion was given the order to enter the fray and soon captured a German position, known as Horse Shoe Trench. But they quickly came under attack again from another enemy machine gun. Without a second thought for his own safety, 25-year-old Bell crept up a communication trench and then dashed towards the gun across open ground. He was a superb athlete and moved with incredible speed. Within minutes he had reached the post, he shot the gunner with his revolver and blew up the rest with hand grenades before throwing more bombs into a dugout, killing more than 50 Germans.

During the First World War he was awarded the Victoria Cross for wiping out a German gun post in the Somme, only to die 5 days later. Before his success he attended Harrogate Grammar School before attending Westminster College. When World War I broke out, he became the first professional footballer to enlist into the British Army – joining the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1915. He was rapidly promoted to Lance Corporal and then was commissioned into the 9th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales' Own) in 1915. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 5 July 1916 at Horseshoe Trench, Somme, France. He was killed in action on 10 July 1916. He is now buried at Gordon Dump Cemetery, France.  His Victoria Cross was formerly displayed at the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, Yorkshire. On 25 November 2010 it was auctioned by London medal specialists, Spink. It was purchased for a reported £252,000 by the Professional Footballers' Association and will go on display at their museum in Manchester.

To watch the BBCs coverage of his heroic achivements click on the photo below.

Click to watch BBC video


This is some real footage from The Battle Of The Somme: