In an article in the Australian Pioneers Club Bulletin
for March 2002, John Boger writes about a table he presented to the Club:
The Mark Bell Table belonged to Colonel Mark Sever Bell, VC CB, the son of Hutchinson and Emily Bell (née Royes) of Darlinghurst, New South Wales. Mark Bell was born in Sydney in 1843 and died at Sunninghill, Surrey in 1906.
In 1874 [4 February], Lieutenant Bell, as he then was, Royal Engineers (British Army), was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in the Ashanti wars at the battle of Ordashu, West Africa. It is recorded that he urged and encouraged a party of unarmed Fantee labourers, who were exposed not only to the enemy, but to the wild and irregular fire of the native troops in the rear. He was always in the front and, by his example, he made these men do what no European party was ever required to do in warfare, namely, to work under fire in the face of the enemy without a covering party.
His Victoria Cross was awarded fairly early in the history of the award and, while it is not an Australian one because he was not serving with Australian forces, it is the first awarded to a British subject born in Australia.
Colonel Bell's career was distinguished in other ways than for valour. His last command was of the Royal Engineers, Western District from 1894 to 1898. He was ADC to Queen Victoria from 1897 to 1900. But perhaps he should be remembered most of all for a forced march of 600 miles (1000 kilometres) in Afghanistan in 1868. He was an inveterate traveller and, it is recorded, travelled 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometres) in generally unknown parts of Central Asia, China and the East. Finally he was the author of important military and geographical articles. To those who are familiar with the sapper (military engineer) role, his record is typical of the distinguished sapper of his day.
The table's provenance is certain. Colonel Bell died in 1906. From his widow Nora (née Boger) the table and other possessions were inherited by his daughter, Ianthe, who died in 1959. Ianthe was single and, as a distant cousin, left the table to my sister, Elizabeth, who died in 1972. She left it to me and in 1995 I gave it to the Club.
CB = Companions of (the Order of) the Bath - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Bath
states "Born in New South Wales, Australia, his family travelled to England when he was an infant."
References to publications (see http://www.idcpublishers.com/ead/dsc.php?c01=all&faid=374faid.xml)
Observations on N.E. China as a recruiting-ground for transport and on the Chinese as foreign levies, transport attendants, hospital bearers and labourers / Lt F.E.Younghusband & Lt-Col Mark Sever Bell.Intelligence Branch, Quarter Master General's Department in India Date(s): July 1886.
China: being a military report on the north-eastern portions of the provinces of Chih-li and Shan-tung; Nanking and its approaches; Canton and its approaches &c. &c., together with an account of the Chinese civil, naval and military administrations &c. &c., and a narrative of the wars between Great Britain and China. Prepared in the Intelligence Branch of the Quarter Master General's Department in India. By Major Mark S.Bell, V.C., Royal Engineers, Assistant Quarter Master General.
From Rev Sebastian Jones, All Souls' Church, South Ascot:
Colonel Bell's widow and daughter, Ianthe, worshipped in All Souls' Church, South Ascot, where he is buried. In the year folowing his death they gave the church a very splendid stained glass East Window. This was followed by two other large windows, all designed by Messrs. Powell and Sons of Whitefriars Glass Works.
Colonel Bells Son, Captain Mark Bell, was killed in action in 1916. The font in the church was carved and presented as a memorial to him, together with six further stained glass windows of six soldier saints representing the allied nations of the Great War.
BELL Mark Sever (Reg. No.80)
Lieutenant, Corps of Royal Engineers
London Gazetted on 20th November 1874
VC Medal's Custodian is the Royal Engineers Museum.
Born on 15th May 1843 at Sydney, NSW., Australia.
Died on 26th June 1906 at Windlesham, Surrey.
Digest of Citation reads:
On 4 February 1874 at the Battle of Ordashu, Ashanti West Africa, Lieutenant Bell was always in front, urging and exhorting an unarmed working party of Fantee labourers who were exposed not only to the fire of the enemy, but to the wild irregular fire of the native troops to the rear. He encouraged these men to work under fire without a covering party, and this contributed very materially to the success of the day.
Additional Information: Colonel Bell was the second son of the late Hutchinson Bell of Leconfield, Yorkshire. His education was private and at King's College, London. (Fellow 1890.) In 1862 he entered the Royal Engineers. In 1865-66 he served with the Bhutan Expedition, in command of the Royal Engineers as well as the Bengal Sappers and Miners. He also commanded the Engineers in the Hazara Expedition in 1868 earning a mention in Despatches after a forced march of 600 miles.
During the Ashanti Wars (1873-4) he was Adjutant to the Royal Engineers, Brigade and Special Service Officer. He was mentioned in Despatches for other acts which were in no way connected to his Victoria Cross award.
He married twice. His first wife was Angelina Helen Dickenson (daughter of Capt.R.B.F.Dickenson of the 15th Regiment.) Angelina Died on in 1879.
He was promoted to Major in 1882 (In The Victoria Cross 1856 to 1920he is stated as being a Captain) and served as an Intelligence Officer in the Burma Campaign of 1886-87. He was A.Q.M.G. of Intelligence 1880-85. He was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in 1883 and then to Brevet Colonel in 1887. He was the ADC to Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1887; D.Q.M.G. 1885-88 Col. Bell commanded the Royal Engineers, Western District from 1894-98.
He married for the second tome to Nora Margaret, daughter of Hext Roger Esq. Of Inceworth South Devon. In 1893 he was created a CB (Military. Because of ill health he was placed on half pay.
He was extremely well travelled covering more than 12,000 miles, visiting Central Asia, China and the East. Many of the places he visited were unknown. He was the author of many military and geographical papers and was the first winner of the McGregor Gold Medal of the United States Institute, Indiana.
He Died on the 26th of June 1906 at Earlywood Lodge, Sunnunghill, Surrey at the age of 63.
His Eldest son Anthony Bell served in the King's Own and was mentioned in Despatches as well as being awarded the Military Cross and the 1914 Star. The youngest son Robert, was killed in action serving with the KRRC on the 3rd September 1916 after being mentioned in Despatches on the 1st of January 1916.