A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.
Sapper Robert Armstrong Bell
Born: 1882 – Goldsborough, near Ballarat. Died: 17 September 1949 – Caulfield, Victoria
Enlisted: 24 January 1917 aged 33
Served: Western Front and Home Service in Australia
Robert was the son of Robert Bell and Isabella Pattie.
In 1909 or 1910 he married Annie Lavinia Cook and was living at Pakenham. By 1916, Robert was working as a “railway ganger” and also listed his occupation as a blacksmith.
Robert initially tried to enlist in April 1916, but was rejected due to defective eyesight, having lost his right eye as a child. He tried again in early 1917 and, despite initial reservations from the Army Medical Officer, Robert was enlisted into the newly formed 2nd Section, Railway Unit and embarked from Melbourne on 19 February 1917.
He subsequently served in France and Belgium with the 15th Light Railway Operating Company.
The construction of light railways significantly improved the transport of soldiers and supplies to the front line, where roads were in poor condition.
In April 1918, Robert was assigned to the military police in Melbourne, with which he served until April 1921.
His wife was tragically killed in March 1925 in a house fire, leaving Robert to raise four sons.
He subsequently remarried and worked as a health inspector for the Oakleigh Council. His son Reginald Armstrong Bell went on to play VFL football for Hawthorn.
Robert died in Caulfield in 1949 aged 66.
This is an extract from Patrick Ferry’s book A Century After The Guns Fell Silent – Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-18.
For more details on this and other profiles in the book, head to the website www.pakenhamww1.com