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Edwin BELL

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 1702 20y1m 18 Aug 1915 3 Aug 1919 6
Private Charles Edwin Bell (1895 – 1964)

Family background

This soldier’s name is shown on one of the Wharf Street honour rolls in the Merrington Anzac Memorial Peace Chapel as Edwin C. Bell. His mother, Margaret Ann Counsell (1864 – 1922) came to Australia from England on board SS Taroba, arriving at Peel Island on 7 January 1889 and Townsville a week later. She completed her voyage to Bowen in North Queensland on the Royal Mail Ship Quetta and the Steam Ship Quiraing on 19 January. Margaret Counsell who was born in Somerset in England was a machinist in a shoe factory in the Welsh town of Trevethen in Monmouthshire. Aged 25 and leaving her parents and siblings in Wales, she had come to Queensland alone, beginning a new way of life in a new land. In about July 1895 at Kangaroo Point, Margaret Ann Counsell gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Charles Edwin Counsell.

An unusual succession of events occurred in the year 1904. On 22 February when Edwin was eight years old his mother married Joseph Bell who worked for McGuire’s, a tobacconist in Queen Street.

Their marriage was brief as Joe Bell died on 29 May, leaving Margaret Ann a widow living at 24 Jane Street, Kangaroo Point where Mr Joseph Bell’s funeral was held. He was buried at the South Brisbane Cemetery. Their twins Doris Ada and Archibald Bell were born later that year. Mrs Margaret Ann Bell and her three children remained at Jane Street till the year 1912. Afterwards, they moved to other addresses in the same suburb - 117 Main Street and later to 24 Annie Street.

Enlistment and service

Margaret Bell’s eldest son became a labourer and at the age of 20 years and one month, enlisted in Brisbane on 18 August 1915 in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) to serve overseas in the Great War. His name was Edwin Bell. He stood just 162.5 cm in height, was of fair complexion and without previous military experience. His mother at 24 Annie Street Kangaroo Point was his next-of-kin and he gave his religious denomination as Church of England.

Private Edwin Bell, Regimental Number 1702, was allotted to reinforcements for the 5th Light Horse Regiment and embarked from Sydney on SS Hawkes Bay on 21 October 1915 bound for Egypt and the Middle East where he remained throughout his war service. His unit did not participate in the Gallipoli Campaign but trained on arrival in Egypt in the vicinity of the Suez Canal at the Australian Light Horse Camp at Maadi.

Shortly after Private Bell’s arrival the AIF was undergoing major expansion. In 1916, the infantry began to move to France while the mounted infantry units remained in the Middle East to fight the Turks. Australian troops of the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division saw action in all the major battles of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, playing a pivotal role in fighting the Turkish troops that were threatening British control of Egypt.

Private Bell was transferred soon after his arrival in Egypt to the 2nd Light Horse Machine Gun squadron which was often used to give support during the battles of the campaign. He was ranked as a gunner after successfully completing a course of instruction in Moascar. The ANZAC Mounted Division saw considerable action in the Battle of Romani between 3 and 5 August 1916 against the Turks who were eventually pushed back. Following this victory the British forces went on the offensive in the Sinai, although the pace of the advance was governed by the speed by which the railway and water pipeline could be constructed from the Suez Canal.

Rafa was captured on 9 January 1917, while the last of the small Turkish garrisons in the Sinai were eliminated in February. The advance entered Palestine and an initial, unsuccessful attempt was made to capture Gaza on 26 March 1917, while a second and equally unsuccessful attempt was launched on 19 April. A third assault occurred between 31 October and 7 November and this time both the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division took part. The battle was a complete success for the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF).  Later, Australian troops assisted in pushing the Turkish forces out of Palestine and took part in actions at Mughar Ridge, Jerusalem and the Megiddo.

The Turkish government surrendered on 30 October 1918. Units of the Light Horse were later used to help put down a nationalist revolt in Egypt in 1919.


Private Bell’s involvement in these actions was minimal. Throughout his war service he was quite sick. He suffered from bronchitis and numerous other illnesses needing hospital treatment often for periods of several weeks.

On several occasions he rejoined the EEF for a few days, only to be admitted to a field ambulance station or hospital for further treatment. There were instances such as a blood test at Jerusalem, debility at Gaza, indigestion at Abbassia, diarrhoea at Cairo, gastroenteritis at Rafa. He would have welcomed the news that he would be returning to Australia.

Return to Australia

He embarked on the hospital ship Madras from Kantara on 27 June 1919 and was discharged from the AIF on 27 September 1919 at Brisbane. For his services over a long and difficult period, Private Edwin Bell was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Post war

Edwin Bell’s mother would have welcomed her eldest son to the peace and comfort of their home at 24 Annie Street, Kangaroo Point. His sister Doris Ada had become a leather worker and he resumed his employment as a labourer. Doris Ada Bell at the age of fifteen married Hubert Hardy Gregory on 17 March 1920.

Marriage and a new career

On 1 July 1921 Charles Edwin Bell married Olive Rowntree, daughter of George Wilson and Harriet Rowntree who lived at Beeford, 72 Heath Street, East Brisbane. Edwin and Olive Bell lived there too and remained there for the rest of their days. Mr George Rowntree was a plumber. Edwin became a gas fitter, no doubt assisting his father-in-law in his plumbing business.

Edwin Bell’s mother died on 27 October 1922. The friends of all her family members (Mr and Mrs C E Bell, Mrs and Mr H H Gregory and Mr A Bell) were invited to her funeral.


Charles Edwin Bell died in 1964, aged 68 years. Olive, his widow died in 1983.

• Ancestry, on line
• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1
• Australian War Memorial, unit histories and World War 1 Embarkation Rolls
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1907 – 1963
• Queensland State Archives, Assisted Immigration Records (1848 – 1912)
• Brisbane City Council, cemetery records
Telegraph, 30 May 1904, page 4
Brisbane Courier, 28 October 1922, page 6

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane.  January 2017 © 



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