Bell, William Robert (No. 12487)

Bell, William Robert (Cully)


No. 12487, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Killed in action on Monday 14 December 1914 (aged 39)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Le Touret Memorial, France (Panel 42 and 43)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s)

Newtownards LOL No. 1948, Newtownards Orange Hall (as William R. McCully)


In the Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919 database it is recorded that William Robert Bell was born in Newtownards.

The death of Rifleman William Robert Bell was reported in the 6 February 1915 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle under the headline Another Newtownards Man Killed in Action and the article contained the following details:

William Robert Bell was a brother of James Bell, 25 Queen Street, Newtownards.  He joined the ranks of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 5 November 1892 and served abroad for eight years.  He was invalided home and discharged from the Army on 22 December 1901.  His army record was unblemished, he was a first-class marksman and he had earned the Indian Frontier medal with two clasps in 1895.

He was known to his friends as Cully Bell and, when he came home, he lived at 9 Little Frances Street, Newtownards with his grandmother, Mrs Martha O’Brien.  Before that he had lived in Greenwell Street, Newtownards

Cully Bell was a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1948 in Newtownards.

In September 1914 William Robert Bell re-enlisted in Newtownards and joined the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.  In October 1914 he was drafted to the 1st Battalion and went to Winchester Camp in England.  From there he went to the Front in November 1914 and he was 39 when he was killed in action near Tilleloy on 14 December 1914.

At that time, because of persistent rain, the soldiers in some parts of the trenches were up to their thighs in mud and, because of the cold, frostbite was a serious problem.

Rifleman William Robert (Cully) Bell was killed in the trenches by a German sniper.

According to World War 1 Irish Soldiers:  Their Final Testament Rifleman William Robert (Cully) Bell had made a will and his property and effects were received by his brother, James Bell, who lived at 25 Queen Street, Newtownards.

In the Army Register of Property and Effects, James Bell is recorded as his brother and sole legatee.

In December 1915 James Bell and his wife Mary Ann placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the Newtownards Chronicle.  It contained the verse:

One long and dreary year has passed

Since this great sorrow fell;

The shock that we received that day

We still remember well.

Although we’re in a far off land

And your grave we cannot see,

As long as life and memory lasts

We shall remember thee.

In the booklet produced for the Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony for Newtownards and District War Memorial which was held on Saturday 26 May 1934 William Robert (Cully) Bell is described as a Private in the Royal Irish Regiment.

In the Roll of Sacrifice for LOL No. 1948 in Newtownards Orange Hall William Robert (Cully) Bell is listed as Rifleman William R. McCully 1st RIR.

Rifleman William Robert (Cully) Bell is also commemorated in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).

William Robert Bell was born on 18 July 1875 in Newtownards Workhouse and he was a son of Mary Bell.  Mary Bell had three children:

William Robert (born 18 July 1875 in Newtownards Workhouse)

James (born 12 February 1885 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)

Margaret Jane Smith (Maggie, born 16 February 1893 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)

In 1911 Mary and her three children were living at 116 Greenwell Street, Newtownards.  William and James were both working as farm servants and Maggie was a seamstress.

Mary Bell died of tubercular enteritis on 24 July 1912 (aged 58) in Greenwell Street, Newtownards.  Her son James was with her when she died.

James Bell of 116 Greenwell Street, Newtownards married Mary Ann McNeilly on 10 January 1914 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).  Mary Ann McNeilly from Newtownards was a daughter of David McNeilly, a weaver.  James Bell cited William Robert McCauly, a farmer, as his father.  James and Mary Ann had a son (unnamed in civil registration records) on 8 December 1914 in Queen Street, Newtownards.

Margaret (Maggie) Bell of 116 Greenwell Street, Newtownards married William John Stevenson on 15 June 1914 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).  William John Stevenson of 116 Greenwell Street, Newtownards, a painter, was a son of Benjamin Stevenson, a weaver.  Margaret (Maggie) Bell cited Harry Bell, a labourer, as her father.