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Old 20-09-2009, 11:09 AM
Ian Nannestad Ian Nannestad is offline
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Donald Bell, VC

I am researching the football career of Donald Bell, 'the football VC' and wondered if anyone could help regarding his connections with Crystal Palace. He was a student at Westminster College in London from September 1909 to 1911, and most sources confirm he played for Palace. This is supported by a comment in a Harrogate paper which stated that he had signed for Palace at the time of his departure to London. However, despite some preliminary work in the Sportsman & Crystal Palace District Times newspapers I haven't located anything else. He doesn't appear in the AFS details of Southern League appearances, suggesting he was only a reserve, and he doesn't seem to have played in the London League team in 1910-11. Does anyone have any records for the reserve team for 1909-10 and 1910-11 who could throw some light on this. Otherwise any suggestion for newspapers I could look at for line-ups (I assume these are South Eastern League for 1909-10 and Kent League for 1910-11). Also, bearing in mind it seems he had planned in advance of arriving in London to sign for Palace, was there a connection between the club and Westminster College at this time (or possibly someone in the club had a link with Harrogate/Knaresborough).

Any help would be much appreciated.

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Old 20-09-2009, 11:36 AM
Ian Nannestad Ian Nannestad is offline
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Donald Bell, VC

I am researching the playing career of Donald Bell 'the football VC'. He was apparently attached to Crystal Palace during the period 1909-1911 when he was a student at Westminster College. Does anyone have any information about his Palace career, or, assuming he was a reserve player, which newspapers I could consult to find out more about this. I also wondered if there was a link between Palace and Westminster College at this time, as he appears to have decided to join Palace when he was still living in Yorkshire.

Any help will be much appreciated

Ian Nannestad
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Old 20-09-2009, 09:09 PM
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Your best bet is the former Club historian, the Rev. Nigel Sands. He retired as the rector of four Lambourn Valley Parishes in June this year, but he can - I think - still be contacted at the Wickham Rectory, Newbury, Berks RG20 8HD.

Nigel has detailed records going back to the the start of the Club in 1905 - including Team sheets. If anyone can help, it's him. Good luck with your research.
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Old 21-09-2009, 07:45 AM
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I can confirm that he never played in the Southern League, FA Cup or other first team games. You could try the Central Library at Croydon which has microfiche of all Croydon Advertizer newspapers, though not sure how much coverage this paper would have given Palace at that time.
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Old 21-09-2009, 10:04 AM
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There's a very good piece on Donald Bell in Palace Echo, issue 67, Summer 2005, researched and written by Alan Russell.

He played as an amateur for Palace's reserve side in the London and Western League in 1907; scored twice in a 6-2 win over Luton in February 1907. Was with the club for around 6 months.
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Old 21-09-2009, 10:12 AM
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Is this the same person ? The thread starter refers to the 1909 - 1911 seasons. I was told that the Bell who played in 1906/07 was called Edward. There was a piece in the Independent last year about sporting VC's which mentioned Bell as being an amateur for Palace, but didn'tmention any seasons.
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Old 21-09-2009, 06:05 PM
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I have Edward Inkerman Bell playing for Palace feb 1907. Scoring twice in the game mentioned above on the 13th, he also played v Leyton a d 1-1 on the 18th I have us being in the United League that season . He is mentioned in the Southampton Alphabet as being born in Gibralter 1886 playing for South Farnboro then Palace and Southampton March 1907 back to South Farnboro 1908 playing for Barrow 1911 and then Portsmouth 1912. All the Southampton book says his father was a soldier in the 7th regiment. he played 4 games for Southampton the same for Portsmouth. I cannot find any mention of Donald Bell playing in the year mentioned, but I do not have every reserve line-up. Of course the Southampton book may have the details wrong, and so may I!
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Old 21-09-2009, 09:37 PM
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Just looked up Donald Bell VC, he was born 3rd Dec 1890, which would have made him still under 16 when the 1906/07 season started. Doubt very much that he is the Bell who played that season. Would agree with Tony1947's facts that it was Edward Bell.
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Old 22-09-2009, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by James
Your best bet is the former Club historian, the Rev. Nigel Sands. He retired as the rector of four Lambourn Valley Parishes in June this year, but he can - I think - still be contacted at the Wickham Rectory, Newbury, Berks RG20 8HD.

Nigel has detailed records going back to the the start of the Club in 1905 - including Team sheets. If anyone can help, it's him. Good luck with your research.
Think Nigel has moved out of the rectory now as retired?

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Old 22-09-2009, 06:09 PM
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Rev Nigel Sands has indeed moved, I can give his address as a p.m. Rev Nigel did contact David Keats another Palace historian with a vast amount of knowledge and books as he had also drawn a blank, as someone had asked him about Donald Bell VC. David did find a small piece saying he had signed as a Amateur but like others could not find any appearances, first team or reserves.
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Old 22-09-2009, 07:44 PM
Ian Nannestad Ian Nannestad is offline
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Thanks for the posts so far, which are useful even if they don't reveal too much. I have a quote from the Leeds Sports Echo for 25 September 1909, which says that Bell was moving to London on that Saturday and that he had "signed for Crystal Palace." This suggests he already had a contact in London who had set up the signing. He only seems to have been in London during term time for the 09-10 and 10-11 seasons (Oct to mid Dec and again January to Easter). I've read that he had a trial with Herts county RU team while in London (although I'm not sure how he would be qualified), so it seems likely that he was also playing rugby around this time.

I am sure the earlier player is a different man as Donald Bell would have been living in Yorkshire at the time.

If anyone has any experience of trawling through the local papers covering Palace at this time I'd be interested to know which titles are the best to look at.
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Old 23-09-2009, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Nannestad
If anyone has any experience of trawling through the local papers covering Palace at this time I'd be interested to know which titles are the best to look at.
As I said in earlier post Croydon Advertizer is on microfiche at Croydon Central Library, though I'm not sure if they covered Palace during this period as we were playing at Crystal Palace Grounds then. Though saying that it's not that much farther away from Croydon than Selhurts Park so they might well have reported on the club. Possibly Tony1947 could verify this. Another paper that might be worth trying is The South London Press. Good luck in your search. I believe Bell is the only professional footballer to receive the VC
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Old 23-09-2009, 12:13 PM
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Good to see your name on here Ian, I've been a fan of Soccer History for a long time.

At the time when I did the research based on an article in the Telegraph (which mentioned he had been at Palace, although then I didn't recognise the name), the only Bell I could find mentioned at reserve level for Palace (and I trawelled through several seasons of stuff either way of when it might have been, in search of him) was the one in 1907, so I assumed that would be him.

I do have a fair amount of info on Palace's reserves around then, so I will revisit what I have and will get back to you directly. He certainly didn't play for our first team at any level (even minor cup competitions) which is a great shame.

I'll be puzzled if it turns out that he didn't play at all for the reserves as well.

Look forward to the finished article.
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Old 24-09-2009, 04:44 AM
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The Croydon Advertiser and times did not cover Palace that well before 1919, Croydon Common was their main concern.
The Croydon Chronicle and Croydon Guardian did. The Guardian especially gave reports and line-ups of most of Palace games up to the war when it closed. They are all on film at the Local Study Library in Katherine Street. As mentioned before I found some reserve details but no mention of that brave man. I could easily have missed something about him. The Lambeth library at Brixton has the South London Press which may help, I am not sure about Crystal Palace papers, a trip to 'Colindale' at the newspaper library may also bring something to light. They have copies of The Athletic News which had good coverage of Football at that time. There is also the Norwood News at the local studies but that did not give Palace much coverage. I also would be surprised if he did not play for the reserves, but finding it is another matter!
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Old 04-10-2009, 07:36 PM
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"The Greater Game: Sporting Icons Who Fell In The Great War" by Clive Harris (an Addick) & Julian Whippy (an 'appy 'Ammer) has a chapter devoted to Donald Bell. The VC winner born in December 1890 is the same who appeared as a triallist for Crystal Palace.

He was apparently "a strapping lad in excess of six foot tall with a physique to match" who played in reserve team games while he was studying at Westminster Training College in 1909-11, and also appeared for Hertfordshire County XV in rugby union. After moving back home to Harrogate he appeared for Newcastle United as an amateur, before joining Bradford Park Avenue.

He was awarded his VC for an action at Contalmaison in the Battle of the Somme on 5 July 1916, but was sadly killed 5 days later whilst carrying out another act of bravery. Donald Bell VC is buried at Gordon Dump CWGC Cemetery, and the helmet he was wearing when he died is now on display at the Green Howards' regimental museum.
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