Topic: Arthur Offley Bell (1877-1915)
Enlisting from Tauranga, labourer Arthur Offley Bell was killed in action at Gallipoli during the Battle of Chunuk Bair on 8 August 1915. He was aged 38. Story researched and written by Fiona Kean.
Private Bell, a member of the Auckland Infantry Battalion, took part in the assault on the slopes of Sari Bair (8 August 1915), known as the Battle of Chunuk Bair. His military record states that he was killed in action on that day (reg. 1918/40879). His body was never identified and with no known grave his name is recorded on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey.
“The Turks crept up to bombing range, and along the whole line the fighting was hand to hand. Every moment our men grew fewer and fewer. Still they held on. Heat, thirst, wounds and death could not daunt them. “Hold on! Hold on!” If they could but hold on for a few hours longer surely the English would come …The English did not come. So the manhood of New Zealand dwindled hour by hour through all the long day of August 8th, Wellington in the front on the crest, Auckland in support in and about their captured trench. The fight had raged for three days, and the New Zealanders were utterly spent. As darkness fell on the 9th, the hope of victory had almost vanished.” O. E. Burton, The Auckland Regiment.
Arthur Offley Bell was born on 20 March 1877 in Rockhampton, a busy town with a thriving port in Queensland, Australia. The eldest son of Alfred Burnie Bell, a stock dealer and drover, and Mary Bell (nee Banks) who married in Australia on 3 April 1876. Arthur would eventually have six siblings the last being born in 1890.
It is not known when Bell arrived in New Zealand. However, he first appears in the Electoral Rolls in 1905 as living in Longburn, a small settlement outside of Palmerston North. He was employed as a labourer at Smith’s Mill. By 1911 the roll records Bell as working at Matai Mill in Moutoa, northern Manawatu, and in 1914 he is employed at Tuakau, near Pukekohe.
However, strangely, Tauranga is his last New Zealand address. A possible explanation for this is that when he and Leslie Shannon arrived in town, jobless and homeless, they were assisted to enlist:
“Shortly after the main Expeditionary Force left New Zealand two men arrived in Tauranga having walked from Huntly. They were in search of work on the railway line, but were unsuccessful. They were willing to enlist, but having neither money nor food were unable to stop here unless provided for. Captain Mirrielees and then Mayor, Mr Robins, arranged for them to camp in the baths and for necessary food supply and the men subsequently left New Zealand with 2nd Reinforcements. One of the men returned invalided and has just died in Dunedin Hospital. ” Bay of Plenty Times, 27 January 1916.
That Bell was the other man is supported by the fact that he enlisted on the same day as Shannon, 16 October 1914. Both he and Shannon record their last employer as ‘Antwistle’, Tuakau. Both were also Australian and it’s not hard to imagine the two mates signing up together. While Bell’s death went unrecorded in Tauranga, the town played its roll in his service and he can, without question, be claimed as one of Tauranga’s men.
by Fiona Kean (2014)
Bay of Plenty Times (27 January 1916).
Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).
Cenotaph Record (Auckland War Memorial Museum).
Fiona Kean (Tauranga Heritage Collection).
Military personnel file (Archives New Zealand).
How to cite this page: Kean, Fiona (2014). Arthur Offley Bell (1877-1915). Retrieved from http://tauranga.kete.net.nz/remembering_war/topics/show/2309 (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (Kean, 2014)