Heroes of Hartlepool Great War mystery

Gordon Bell
Gordon Bell

THE nephew of a Hartlepool Great War soldier believes he has identified two more men from town buried on foreign soil after they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Gordon Bell has been researching his uncle Wilson Bell, who was killed in the First World War at the tender age of 21.

He is buried at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Essex Farm Cemetery, in France, where Gordon is a regular visitor.

While paying respects to his uncle, Gordon’s attention was drawn to the graves of three other members of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI), which Wilson fought in.

One is of George Albert Shaw, who came from Briar Street, West Hartlepool.

They others are for fellow DLI privates S Dent and T Stockton.

Gordon, 82, has been unable to find out where they came from but believes they may well be from Hartlepool.

All the men were killed in action on the same day May 31, 1916.

Gordon, who is originally from Hartlepool but now lives in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, said: “A reference to the cemetery register shows that George Albert Shaw along with my uncle Wilson Bell both came from West Hartlepool, however there is no indication in the register as to where S Dent and T Stockton came from.

“But I feel sure that both came from the Hartlepool region as their Second Battalion DLI was almost certainly a ‘Pals Battalion’.

“The closeness of their service numbers indicate that they all enlisted within days of each other.”

Essex Farm lies on the banks of the Yser Canal in Boezinge Ypres, and almost 1,200 war dead are buried there.

Gordon also feels that all four soldiers may be have been encouraged to join the army following the devastating bombardment of Hartlepool in December 1914.

The Durham Light Infantry was flooded with new recruits after the bombing.

Gordon added: “I feel sure that this was instrumental in Wilson and his elder brother George and latterly the youngest brother John, my father, enlisting as undoubtedly the Bell family were directly affected by the bombardment.

“Perhaps this will stir memories in the descendants of not only those mentioned but of all the Hartlepool men and women who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War.”

Do you know who Privates Dent and Stockton were? Contact the Mail on (01429) 239355.