Sergeant John Ogilvie Bell RAFVR
15 Squadron Royal Air Force

Town Memorial World War II


Service Number: 1811656
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
15 Sqdn.
Died 11 June 1944
Age 20 years old
Buried or commemorated at
Grave 2.
Son of Morris John and Elizabeth May Bell, of Leatherhead, Surrey.
Personal Inscription

RAF Bomber Command Losses in the Second World War: WR Chorley: 1944

10-11 Jun 1944
15 Sqn Lancaster III LM468 LS-F Op: Dreux
Pilot Flt Lt W Dobson
Flight Engineer Sgt TB Rees
Navigator Fg Off M Hills
Bomb Aimer Flt Sgt JW Robinson
Wireless Op Sgt N Davis
Mid Upper Gunner Warrant Off G Radcliffe
Rear Gunner Sgt JPO Bell

Took off 2300 from RAF Mildenhall to bomb rail installations.
Crashed at St-Gemme-Moronval (Eure-et-Loir), 3 km E of Dreux.
All are buried in St-Gemme-Moronval Churchyard.
Flt Lt Dobson, an Australian  from Geraldton in Western Australia, had joined the Royal Air Force a short Service Commission in the late 1930s.

The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book: 1939-1945: Middlebrook and Everitt

10/11 June 1944

423 aircraft - 323 Lancasters, 90 Halifaxes, 19 Mosquitoes - attacked railway targets at Achères, Dreux, Orléans and Versailles.
All targets are believed to have been hit but few further details are available. 15 Lancasters and 3 Halifaxes lost.

The Highgate RSL Branch in Perth, Western Australia commemorates the Pilot, Flt Lt Dobson. Its research on him records that nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. A post war report by a Missing Research and Enquiry Unit stated “the aircraft crashed at St Denis de Moronval at approximately 0100 hours on the night of 10/11th June 1944. The aircraft jettisoned its bombs and tried to make a forced landing but crashed and all crew members were killed."

The crew are the only war graves in the cemetery. Their plot and a photo of the crew can be seen at the In Memory website by Pierre Vandervelden

His life

His birth was registered in April 1924 in Lambeth, London

His father was Morris John Bell, born 15 April 1889, Forest Gate, West Ham, Essex and baptised 16 May 1889  St John, Stratford, Essex. He was the son of Thomas Ernest Bell, an Enrolement Official at the time of Morris's marriage, and Isabella Choat from West Wratting, Cambridgeshire. Morris died at the age of 60 on 26 September 1949.

His mother was Elizabeth May Strachan, born 17 May 1889 in Granville, New South Wales, Australia. She was the daughter of George Ogilvie Strachan, an Inspector of Mines at the time of her marriage, and Elizabeth McCall Jack. She was living with her Strachan grandparents in Arbroath, Scotland at the time of the 1901 Census. It appears her parents moved to South Africa and in 1913 she had qualified as a trained nurse there. She then came to London.

They married on 6 December 1916 at St James the Apostle, Knatchbull Road, Lambeth. Both were aged 27. Morris was at that time serving with the 5th (City of London) Bn London Rifle Bde. The address for both was 48 Calais Gate, Lambeth, Surrey. 

John had two sisters: Joan Mary Bell, born 23 May 1919, died 1985; and Nancy Elizabeth Bell, birth registered July 1920.

In April 1925 John, aged 1, travelled with his mother and sisters Joan aged 6, and Nancy aged 4 to South Africa, returning the following month in the same vessel, the Dunluce of the Union Castle Line. Their home address at that time was still 48 Calais Gate [Myatts Park, London SE5].

John's family lived at 48 Calais Gate until 1930. They then moved to 14 Highlands Avenue, Leatherhead, Surrey.
In the 1939 England & Wales Register his father is described as a Bank Accountant.

It is not yet known where John was educated and what he did between school and joining the RAF. All aircrew were volunteers.

After the war

His parents lived on at 14 Highlands Avenue, his father dying in 1949. His mother later moved to 21 Clinton Road, Leatherhead and died in Poole, Dorset in July 1965.

John Bell is remembered on these memorials
Leatherhead Town Memorial
Leatherhead RBL Roll of Honour, Leatherhead Parish Church

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him, his headstone, and any recollections of him

last updated 27 Jul 20