567353 Flight Sergeant (Rear Gunner), 97 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Robert ronald bell

photo from Ann Moss, daughter of his sister Marion

killed in action 8th August 1941 aged 23

Ronald was born on 9th March 1918 the only son of John (a farm labourer from South Killingholme) and Mary Ann Bell (nee Allison, of Manton).  He had five older sisters named Alice, Annie, Emily, Kathleen (who died aged 8), and Edith Marion.

His baptism was at St. Peter's Church on 14th April 1918 and the family lived at Scotterthorpe.

Ronald attended the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Gainsborough and then joined the Royal Air Force in the mid 1930s, working as an apprentice at RAF Halton.

On 2nd August 1937, he and his father were the witnesses at the wedding of his sister Marion to George Herbert Walker, an excavator from Messingham.

By 1940 he was at RAF Hemswell with 61 Squadron and the next year was based at Coningsby with 97 Squadron, part of 5 Group, Bomber Command, who were flying Avro Manchester bombers.

On 6th August 1941 he married Joan Radley of Morton near Gainsborough at her local church.  The day before he had been on a mission attacking the docks of Dunkirk and 24 hours later was recalled to duty.  His young bride never saw him again.

Just after midnight on the morning of 8th August 1941 he and his crew flew in Hampden AE303, with 4 other bombers from the Squadron, in an attack on the Krupp's factory at Essen, Germany.  They linked up with planes from other airfields and headed East.

The Operation Records book states 'Missing from ops - no news after leaving base.'

They had been attacked by night fighters operating from the German Frisian islands.  It was four months before the Air Ministry confirmed the enemy had recovered his body from the North Sea.

Terschelling cemetery

picture from the Longway Terschelling project

Flight Sergeant Ronald Bell was buried at Terschelling (West-Terschelling) General Cemetery on the island off the north coast of Holland.

His burial was witnessed by Second Officer Sundermeyer, of the Dutch Navy, and his fiance who were walking in the sand dunes.  They got in touch with Ronald's family and the Sundermeyers continue to visit the grave which is looked after by the teacher and school children of the island.

The bodies of the his fellow airmen were never found.  Pilot Officer Benjamin Bernard Hunter Rodwell, Sergeant Gerald Percy Imison and Flight Sergeant Maurice Charles Harvey are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Ronald is remembered on the gravestone of his parents in Scotter Cemetery.  His sacrifice, and that of Dennis Edgar, is also commemorated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Gainsborough..