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41472 Private Harold Turner Bell – Otago Infantry Regiment

Harold Turner Bell was born in Petone, Wellington on the 29th September 1894[i] the oldest child in a family of five
born to Tudor Elizabeth (nee Wilkins) and James Lewis Bell. Harold’s mother had been born at sea on the Tudor in
1865 when her parents were travelling to New Zealand hence the unusual given name[ii].

On 9th November 1916 Harold Turner Bell enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.[iii]

Harold entered camp on the 2nd January 1917 as 41472 Private Harold Turner Bell, F Company, 24th Reinforcements. Private Bell is listed as being a clerk working for the Union Steam Ship Company (USS Co), Wellington living with his
parents and he gave his mother Mrs Tudor Elizabeth Bell, 52 Britannia Street Petone as his next of kin[iv].

Following basic training Private Bell was loaded on board the troopship Pakeha on 14th April 1917 with F Company,
24th Reinforcements. The troopship may have had issues as the troops were disembarked on the 18th April 1917 and
did not sail from New Zealand until 25th April 1917.

The Pakeha arrived in Devonport, England on the 28th July 1917 and the reinforcements were sent to the Sling Military training camp. At Sling Private Bell was allocated to A Company of the 4th Otago Reserve Battalion for more training.
As the New Zealand Division prepared for the Battle of Passchendaele training was brief and on the 5th September 1917 Private Bell was shipped to France. Troopship Pakeha returned to Wellington within four days and sailed again on the
25th April 1917. However after arrival in France Private Bell caught German Measles and was admitted to hospital then following recovery to a convalescent hospital eventually being considered fit enough for service on 7th December 1917.
On 27th December 1917 Private Bell was again in hospital seriously ill with pneumonia. The military records are not
clear if Private Bell was in the front lines but there is an entry that he was evacuated from France in February 1918 with Trench Fever and admitted to hospital in England. Private Bell was finally discharged for duty at the No 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst in March 1918.

Private Bell’s final medical report noted admission to hospital in April 1918 with a poisoned hand. Following the final discharge in May 1918 it appears that Private Bell remained attached to Brockenhurst Hospital until 2nd December 1918 when at Liverpool he was embarked on the Maunganui for repatriation to New Zealand.

Private Bell arrived in New Zealand on 11th Janaury 1919 and following leave was discharged on 8th February 1919
“being no longer fit for war service on (D A H )”

DAH is military shorthand for Disability of the Heart and Harold returned to his parent’s home in Petone. The results
of the war and the impact on Harold’s health were disclosed when on 30th April 1920 Harold Turner Bell was admitted
to Porirua Mental Hospital with dementia praecox[v].  A large number of returned soldiers presenting symptoms of
what would be known as ‘shell-shock’ were diagnosed with ‘delusional insanity’ and ‘dementia praecox’ which we now
know today as schizophrenia.[vi]  

Harold remained for the rest of his life in Porirua eventually dying on
2nd  March 1933 of cardiac  failure consequent upon chronic bronchitis[vii].

Harold Turner Bell is buried in the Soldiers section of the Karori Cemetery,
Wellington.  

References
NZ BDM
Paperspast Online
Auckland Cenotaph Database
The Poetry of Shell Shock: Wartime trauma and healing in Wilfred Owen
Coroner’s Report: Harold Turner Bell 1933

Photos
Private H T Bell’s grave: Auckland Cenotaph

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 41472 Private Harold Bell
[iii] Call to Arms, 9th November 1916, Evening Post
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 41472 Private Harold Turner Bell
[v] Coroner’s Report  
[vi] The Poetry of Shell Shock
[vii] Coroner’s Report 

Harold Turner Bell's grave - Karori Cemetery