2nd Lieutenant, 10th Highland Light Infantry.
Killed in action 24th April 1917, age 31.
Remembered on the Arras Memorial.
Former student of education.
John was born on 24th February 1886 to Reverand Benjamin Bell, B.D. who was the minister of Withington Presbyterian Church. Educated at Woodlands School and Manchester Grammar School where he was one of the head boys. He then proceeded to Trinity College, Oxford with an open scholarship and a Brackenbury scholarship from the Grammar School, graduated in classics with honours in 1909 . In 1910 he came to Manchester University to study for a Teaching Diploma which he gained with distinction in 1911 along with the Withers Prize. He became a classical master at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh.
While in Edinburgh John his school’s Officer Training Corps and was commissioned in July 1916 to the 19th Highland Light Infantry. The University 1922 Roll of Service notes him as attached to the 12th Battalion at the time of his death, at Monchy near Arras on 24th April 1917, but this differs from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record.
The Manchester Grammar School magazine remembered him as “A true son of the manse – in his loyalty to duty, in his readiness for learning and all the things that are more excellent – his gentle simplicity and manliness of character, his sense of the Unseen over all. He would have gone far in despite of his utter lack of pushfulness and his constant habit of thinking more highly of others than of self”. Fellow officers wrote to John’s parents: “Your son was a most gallant officer, and very popular with all ranks. He was a fine fellow, beloved and admired by all with whom he came in contact” ; “I feel I have lost one of my greatest friends… It may prove of some consolation to you that your son died bravely at his post”; “His coolness under fire was a thing which we all admired and remarked on for it was exceptional. It was not a spirit of recklessness which would have run himself and perhaps others into unnecessary danger, but a faculty or a stamina which carried him through everything”.