171591 Pte. Robert James Bell born on February 22nd, 1891, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was the second child, first son of Robert James Bell and Mary Jane Convery (Convey). His parents were both born in County Down, Northern Ireland, and had immigrated to Canada in June 1888. He was baptized at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Toronto.

Robert is shown on the 1901 census for East York, as living at Lot 8 Concession 2, with his parents and six other siblings, though eventually there would be eight children born to Robert Sr. and Mary Jane.

On October 18th, 1913, Robert married Sarah Ann Brown at 11 Belshaw Avenue, York. He was 22 years old whilst Sarah was 26 and both were listed as Methodist, according to their marriage certificate. They subsequently had a child on June 21st, 1914, in Toronto, and named him William Robert Bell. Sadly William died on July 9th, 1914, in Toronto and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario.

When Robert enlisted on August 11th, 1915, in Toronto, he attested into the 83rd (Queen's Own Rifles) Battalion and was assigned service number 171591. After training, during the time that Sarah was expecting their second child, the 83rd battalion was sent to Europe, embarking at Halifax on the S.S. Olympic, on April 28th, 1916, and disembarking at Liverpool, England, on May 7th, 1916.

After a further period of training and orientation, the men of the 83rd BN were transferred to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles as reinforcements on June 6th, following the latter's huge losses in the 'Battle for Mount Sorrel' on June 2nd. He landed in France on June 7th and joined the 4th CMR in the field on June 10th. Following a period of service the 4th CMR had moved into the front line trenches at Mouquet Farm, near Pozières, France, on the evening of September 11th, in support of actions amidst the 'Battle of the Somme.' That very evening the battalion came under gas shell fire and Robert was gassed and died of wounds at No.6 Canadian Field Ambulance station on September 12th, 1916.

Robert was laid to rest in the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension in France, grave reference #I.N.26. His wife Sarah had given birth to their second son, Fred Bell, in Toronto in May 1916. Sadly, too, Fred died on October 18th, 1916, and was buried in Prospect Cemetery, Toronto. It is not known if Robert knew he had another son.

Though not eligible for the Star, Victory Medal or British War Medal, Robert's family should have received a Memorial Cross. This cross was sent to Sarah on February 25th, 1921. At that time her address was listed as 124 Amelia St., Toronto, however the cross was returned undelivered. The authorities then tried to deliver it to 178 Lumsden Ave. East York, and the cross was again returned. A third attempt was made when they tried to deliver it to 13½ Mortimer Ave, Toronto. The form listed May Jane Bell living at 1139 Donland Ave, Toronto at this time. The Files state that the plaque was returned on November 20th, 1923. It does not state if the plaque was ever received by the family. By 1923 Sarah had remarried and was thereafter known as Sarah Stitt.

Robert is listed on page 53 of the Book of Remembrance - First World War, on the National Archives website.

The death notice from the Toronto Star Newspaper, dated Wednesday September 20th, 1916, reads:

Pte. R.J. Bell is Dead

Pte. Robert J Bell, who is reported to have died from gas poisoning and wounds, was married and lived at 11 Belshaw Avenue. He enlisted with the 83rd Battalion and left for overseas in April of this year. On his arrival in England he was transferred and went into active service at once. He was only in the trenches for a little over four months. His wife was ignorant of the fact that her husband had been wounded until the telegram announcing his death was received. Before enlisting, Pte. Bell, who was 25 years of age, was employed as a teamster.

Biography details with thanks and credit to: Sharon (Bell) Hurst.