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BELL, Colin Carstairs OBE (1902-1961)

BELL, Colin Carstairs OBE (1902-1961)


Colin Carstairs Bell (Rowing 1920).

Colin Carstairs Bell (Rowing 1920).

Colin Carstairs Bell became one of Geelong College's legendary sportsmen by participating in the Head of the River 1st VIII crews on five occasions. He coxed the 1st VIII in 1916 and 1917 before joining the crew as a rower in 1919, stroke in 1920 and 1921, as well as becoming Captain of Boats in 1920 and 1921.

Rowing wasn't the only sport he excelled in as he was a member of the 1st Football XVIII for four years from 1918 to 1921 and Team Captain in 1921. He was also a member of the Athletics Team for five years 1915-1916 and 1918-1920. In 1920 and 1921 he was also a School Prefect.

Colin Carstairs Bell (Rowing 1921).

Colin Carstairs Bell (Rowing 1921).

Colin Bell, sometimes known as 'Josh', was born at Geelong on 21 March 1902 to Lewis Bell (1860-1934) and Euphemia Russell nee Aitken (1862-1938). At the time of his enrolment as a boarder at the College on 1 June 1915 his family were living at 'Leslie Manor', Kariah near Camperdown. Colin had earlier attended Camperdown Grammar School. He left Geelong College in September 1921.

He married Rachel Isabel Joy Morton (1911-1989) in 1938 at Woollahra, Sydney, and they had three sons: Lewis Morton Bell; Colin Morton Bell; and Andrew George Bell.

During World War II, Colin enlisted (No. 251819) in the RAAF and served in the Pacific theatre, rising to the rank of Group Captain. In the latter part of the war he was on Earl Mountbatten's staff at Supreme Allied Command South East Asia (SACSEA).

As a result of his war duties he was awarded the OBE, receiving his insignia from the Governor of Victoria, Major-General Sir Winston Joseph Dugan GCMG, CB, DSO, at Government House, Melbourne, on 10 July 1947. The Pegasus of June 1946 carried a report of this:
'Group Captain Colin C Bell won his OBE as Director of Psychological Warfare as SE Asia Command HQ. He was first with Australian psychological warfare - for a time as deputy director - and joined SEAC at the request of Admiral Mountbatten. In the course of his work he travelled widely on liaison visits and was one of the first Australians to meet Australian prisoners of war after the Japanese surrender.'

He was discharged on 30 November 1945.

The AWM website ('Australians at War') described his role with the Far Eastern Liaison Office:
'FELO (or Military Propaganda Section of Allied Intelligence Bureau) was initially responsible for preparation of propaganda material useful to the other sections and initially for dissemination by them to lower the morale of the Japanese forces; misleading the Japanese regarding our military intentions; and lastly influencing the New Guinea native populations so they would impair the Japanese war effort and assist the Allies. Group Captain C C Bell, RAAF was appointed Deputy Controller of FELO. He set up Camp Tasman at Indooroopilly in Brisbane where FELO created leaflet propaganda.'

Pegasus reported his death in June 1961:
'Colin Carstairs Bell, who died on May 19 at the age of 58, was a member of the athletics team, member and captain of the 1st XVIII, and cox and stroke of the 1st VIII, during his time at the College from 1915 to 1921. He was Prefect in his last two years. In the 1939-45 War, he rose to the rank of Group Captain with the RAAF, and was awarded the OBE for his services as director of psychological warfare at South-East Asia Command headquarters. After the war, he became a member of the Melbourne firm of sharebrokers, Guest & Bell. Mr Bell was a member of the College Council from 1948 to 1959.'

The Colin Carstairs Bell Pathway Rowing Bursary funded by the Albert Bell Club (ABC) was named in his honour.


Sources: Pegasus June 1961 p70; 'Geelong Collegians at the Second World War' compiled by James Affleck. pp122-123 (citing The Pegasus; Australian War Memorial; National Archives).
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