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Ian: A Memoir

19/05/2016

Ian: A Memoir

J.R.S Bell

Past Club Trustee, Robin Bell, has recently finished writing a book about his father’s early life including in particular his service in the 7th Battalion The Royal Scots from 1913 to 1922.

Robin’s book is not for sale as it is primarily for family and friends. However, he very generously is offering 100 free copies to Royal Scots, Royal Scots Club Members and any others interested, if they would consider making a donation to Combat Stress of £15.00. Club members can pick up a free copy along with the donation form from the Club. Or, complete this form to have a copy posted out to you.

Essentially this is a love story, albeit an unusual one, not least because it has been written by the son of the two principal characters in the book. Ian met Cecile in 1911, he was just 17 and she 15. They married in 1922, notwithstanding some opposition from Ian’s family and of course the separation they both endured during Ian’s long and distinguished service in the Great War.

Robin Bell, a former officer of the 7th/9th Royal Scots and a former long serving trustee of the Club, has skilfully pulled together material from the extensive correspondence between Ian and Cecile and his family and the various military histories that cover the exploits of the 7th (Leith) Battalion of The Royal Scots. The blend of often enjoying military service, while sometimes loathing it, and the pull of home, especially Ian’s separation from Cecile, makes this a gripping human story.

The narrative includes Ian’s joining the 7th in 1913, the fateful Gretna train crash and his service in Gallipoli when, aged just 21, he gained command of No. 1 Company which he was destined to lead throughout the battalion’s time in the Middle East.

The story covers the 7th’s later progress fighting in Egypt, where Ian was wounded at Romani during the defence of the Suez Canal, and Palestine, where he was again wounded at the Second Battle of Gaza. In early 1918 the battalion was sent to the Western Front where, as Second-in-Command of the battalion, Ian won a Military Cross at the Second Battle of the Somme.

Ian’s active service then came to an end but his campaign to win Cecile continued, at times turbulently, but ultimately successfully. They married on 29 June 1922, almost eleven years after they first met, and enjoyed a long and happy life together.

If this were just a story about a young man’s service in the Great War it would be interesting. However, laced as it is with Ian’s complex and enduring relationship with Cecile, it is simply compelling.

The Royal Scots Club

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