1917 was the single worst year in Australian History. Almost 77,000 Australians were killed, missing or wounded. Passchendaele, Menin Road,Polygon Wood and Bullencourt have become household names as we, a century, later commemorate the sacrifice, tragedy and horror of that time.
I have been doing some research into a young soldier, Harold George Bell from Bell’s Beach who headed off for battle in April of 1916.
By 1917 Harold, known to his family as Sonny, was in the thick of it in Belgium. On October 8th that year he as killed instantly when his by the shell of a Howitzer in the battle of the Menin Road.
Harold has no grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate, the monument in Ypres to the missing- 54,000 names of those who have no formal resting place.
In doing my research among army records, I came across this letter written by Harold to his sister Kathleen(Girlie) Bell who had sent him a pair of socks. Written on the battlefields of Belgium just exactly 100 years ago (July23rd 1917) and only days before what would be his last birthday – Harold would turn 26 on July 25th 1917. It is poignant and beautiful reminder of what our young men went through.
I am giving a talk on the Bell family and their significance in our area on Thursday August 3rd at Mt Duneed History group, in the old hall at Mt Duneed at 7.30pm , come long and hear their story and remember Harold and his sacrifice.