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Memorial to a Harrogate war hero given revamp ahead of centenary commemoration

060314   Neil  Collinson Managing Director of  Dales of Thirsk finishing off the memorial to  Donald Bell VC the only professional footballer to  be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War One, before it is shipped to France . Picture by Gary Longbottom  (GL1002/43b)

060314 Neil Collinson Managing Director of Dales of Thirsk finishing off the memorial to Donald Bell VC the only professional footballer to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War One, before it is shipped to France . Picture by Gary Longbottom (GL1002/43b)

 

A memorial at the Somme to Harrogate war hero, Second Lieutenant Donald S Bell VC, is to be refurbished ahead of this summer’s centenary commemoration of the First World War.

The memorial was built through an initiative of The Friends of The Green Howards Museum and was unveiled by General The Lord Dannatt, then Colonel of the regiment, on July 9, 2000, at the spot where Donald lost his life on July 10 1916, now known as Bell’s Redoubt.

Five days earlier he had sprinted across open ground under fire and destroyed a German machine gun position by throwing a bomb with great accuracy, an action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

A new plaque to enhance the memorial has been supplied by Neil Collinson of Dales of Thirsk, and is being transported to France.

Richard Leake, of The Friends of the Green Howards Museum said: “Donald Bell’s story is one to capture people’s imagination.”

Donald was educated at Harrogate Grammar School and worked as Assistant Master at Starbeck School before the war.

Between 1910-1912 he played amateur football for Crystal Palace, Bishop Auckland and Newcastle United and to supplement his teachers salary of £2.50 per week, he decided to become a professional footballer with Bradford Park Avenue Football Club in 1913.

Donald Bell was the first professional footballer to enlist as a volunteer in November 1914. He was commissioned into The Yorkshire Regiment, The Green Howards in June 2015.

Donald Bell was also the only English professional footballer to have earned the Victoria Cross and his medal sold for £252,000 at auction in 2010.

The Professional Footballers’ Association paid the third highest ever auction price for a VC after a fierce bidding battle at specialists auctioneers Spink’s in London.

The pre-sale estimate was £140, 000 - £160, 000 and the medal is on display at the Professional Footballers’ Association museum in Manchester.

Neil Collinson said: “I was delighted to be a part of it and it was an honour to be asked to refurbish it 14 years later.”

l Have you any old photographs, letters or cuttings from 1914-1918? We will be sharing stories and welcome reader help and input. Contact us in writing at 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate HG3 1RZ, email Ackrill.news@ypn.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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