Bell Francis Turnbull 2/Lt 96785

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Personnel Entry

Captain F T Bell
Captain F T Bell

Name Bell Francis Turnbull
Army number 96785
Rank 2/Lt
Decorations M.B.E.
Date of birth Registered 2nd Quarter 1918, mother's maiden name Longshaw.
Age 0
Unit Royal Artillery - enlisted as gunner. Durham Light Infantry - Commissioned as 2/Lt in the 12th Bn 2/9/1939. Trf Black Watch 20/12/1939. Posted 1 TS 1/2/1940. Not on the 1 TS Officer Return for 4/5/1940 which indicates that he was not with the Battalion in France. Posted 4th Bn Black Watch. Released from service 1946. Joined 17th Bn Parachute Regiment TA - formerly 9th Bn DLI - Captain 5/11/1948, TARO 18/5/1950.
Company/Battery D Coy
Platoon or other sub-unit
Task or role Duty Officer
Joined Brigade 02-Sep-39
Promotions W/S Lt 2/8/41, T/Capt 8/4/44.
Prisoner of War
Died/Killed in action 27/3/2011.
Home address Educated Royal Grammar School, Newcastle. Addresses: 5, Roseworth Avenue, Gosforth. 1, Broadway West, Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne 3. Research into passenger lists suggests that he emigrated with his wife and young son to work on the Gilbert Islands 30/4/1953, returning to the UK and then moving to Lagos, Nigeria in 1958. This is confirmed through the obituary information included below.
Source table 1TS

Captain Bell's Obituary appeared in the November 2011 issue of the Black Watch Regimental Journal - The Red Hackle - and the text from the two contributions has been extracted and transcribed below. Thanks are due to the Black Watch for the use of this material.


It is with regret that we report the death, on the 27th March 2011, of Frank Bell, our Branch President and friend. Frank had suffered from failing eyesight for a number of years. This severely restricted his ability to attend the Branch but not to wander unaccompanied about Gosforth High Street.

Frank was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle and worked in the City prior to the Second World War. He Joined the Tyneside Scottish in 1939 at the age of 21 as a Second Lieutenant and ending the war in the rank of Captain. During his service in Burma, he was responsible for a contingent of African troops and became embroiled in the Battle of the Admin Box. His African troops disappeared during the night, but resurfaced the following day when they discovered that there was nowhere else to go.

Following the war, the Foreign Office was fortunate enough to obtain his services and he spent some time in Africa exercising his diplomatic skills. Eventually, he transferred into the Nigerian Civil Service and was instrumental in establishing proper rules of conduct and departmental organisation within the embryo government. Retiring at 55, Frank returned to Newcastle and eventually joined the Association, becoming Vice President and subsequently President.

He was a member of a little known Church organisation, dedicated to the consumption of good alcohol and the pursuit of lively argument. More churches should have such groups. He had a lifelong passion for rugby football and was a keen supporter of Gosforth RFC.

Frank died during his 93rd year, leaving us with nothing but good memories of a perfect gentleman who had many special gifts. Branch members attended his funeral service and the internment of his ashes at a later date. Our condolences go to his two surviving sons and to their families.

Malcolm Dunn

Captain Frank Bell was a wartime soldier and a Territorial Officer, who on the outbreak of war was commissioned into the Tyneside Scottish. He later served in the 4th Battalion The Black Watch, commanded a Company of The King’s African Rifles (KAR) in Burma and after the war served with the Parachute Regiment (TA). He did not deploy to France in 1940 with the Tyneside Scottish but underwent further training in Scotland as well as Home Defence duties before a move to Ireland with the reformed Tyneside Scottish. While the text in the Journal has been included as published it will be clear to users of this Website that this particular statement is not correct.

He successfully underwent training with the Army Commandos in the Highlands of Scotland but was then posted to the 4th Battalion The Black Watch in Gibraltar before undertaking jungle warfare training in East Africa with the KAR. He learnt Swahili during his time in Kenya but then took part in the operations in the Arakan as part of Slim’s Forgotten 14th Army. Commanding East and West African soldiers he suffered the privations of operations, fighting the Japanese and was involved in the Second Battle of the Admin Box.

At the end of the war he returned home and for a short time worked in his pre-war job as an electrical engineer before successfully applying to join the Administrative Wing of the Colonial Office. Newly married to Dorothy, in 1950 he set sail for Tanganyika and a new life. His first son Jeremy was born in Dar es Salaam and then in 1952 he was posted for 3 years as Senior Auditor to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now known as Kiribate and Tavalu).

Their final posting was to Nigeria where they were to stay for 17 years. On independence in 1960 he was asked to stay on to help and became a Nigerian Civil Servant. His last job was as Deputy Auditor General for the Western State. On his return to the UK he was awarded the MBE for services to the Commonwealth and his knowledge of Nigeria was much sought after by different Government agencies.

A second post war career began and for 10 years he worked as the Office Manager for the Washington New Town Development but he was also greatly involved in the development of the Open Air Museum at Beamish. A keen and talented sportsman, he was present at a Newcastle Falcons past players’ dinner in 2009 and was the oldest club member by 10 years.

Frank was a gentleman who was highly respected by those who knew him and he was part of a generation that sacrificed much in their own lives for our benefit. He was hugely proud of his service in both the Tyneside Scottish and The Black Watch and was for many years President of the Newcastle Branch of The Black Watch Association. He is survived by two sons Jeremy and Anthony.

Jeremy Bell

Captain Bell is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour in his Gosforth Church. To view the details of the entry, please click [here].