The Old Kit Bag

old-kit-bagSergeant Robert Douglas Bell, c. 1939We’re remembering my dad Robert Douglas Bell 1918-1990, who died twenty-four years ago today.

We’re lucky to have a number of group photographs of him in the early days of World War II taken when he was part of a light anti-aircraft unit in a Territorial Army regiment of the Royal Artillery.

I was fascinated to find a photograph of his kit laid out for inspection taken somewhere in England. He’s labeled the items on the surrounding card mount and I’ve superimposed his labels in white on the photograph here.

He never took much interest in drawing so I was surprised by his neat hand-lettering but his pre-war job was as an accountant so that must have demanded meticulous accuracy on ledgers and on balance sheets, which in those days would have been mainly, if not entirely, entered by hand.

Special Investigations

desert, 1941

His regiment were soon sent to North Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope, and in one of the later group photographs, taken near Cairo, you can see the base of a pyramid in the background.

When he talked about extreme heat, he often used the expression ‘stinking hot’. I can imagine that it was stinking hot out there.

There was something of a lull in the desert campaign and my father found himself transferred to the Special Investigations Unit. He didn’t talk much about it but his cases included one in which two servicemen – presumably somewhat inebriated servicemen – challenged each other to a race down from the top of a pyramid, with predictably fatal results.

Perhaps my father’s reports on such incidents are preserved in an archive somewhere, written up in his meticulous hand.

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