IMAGES: Honour for Harrogate war hero footballer

A footballer awarded the Victoria Cross for destroying a German machine gun position has been honoured almost a century after his death in battle.

Tuesday, 28th October 2014, 8:55 am
For The Fallen train. Image: Steve Riding.

A memorial event took place at Leeds station in front of rail company East Coast’s specially-liveried ‘For the Fallen’ locomotive.

The locomotive carries the insignia of five historic regiments from the East Coast route as well as those of their modern-day successors, including the Yorkshire Regiment.

Harrogate-born Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, the first professional footballer to sign up for service in the First World War, and who won the Victoria Cross with the Yorkshire Regiment before he was killed in action in 1916, was remembered at the ceremony.

For The Fallen train. Image: Steve Riding.

Mr Simpson Bell’s great nephew Malcolm Dawson and representatives from the Professional Footballers’ Association were in attendance.

East Coast managing director Karen Boswell said: “For The Fallen is East Coast’s individual tribute to those who went to war, and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“This includes the 20,000 rail workers who signed up for the War, never to return.

“We’ve been working on this loco with five regiments on the East Coast route. It will take some of the stories, images, facts and history behind the regiments, and the Great War, to millions of our passengers across the country.

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“By setting an example, sportsmen played a key role in encouraging young men to sign up for service. One of those brave men was Donald Simpson Bell.”

Donald Simpson Bell, who had played football for Bradford Park Avenue, won the VC during action on the Somme on July 5 1916. On his own initiative, and supported by two other men, he set out to destroy a German machine gun position. A superb athlete, he sprinted ahead across open ground, shot the machine gunner and blew up the machine gun before throwing bombs into the trenches and killing more than 50 of the enemy.

He lost his life five days later during another attack.

The Harrogate Advertiser Series is marking 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.