Churchill College is pleased to announce that thanks to a donor (a friend of the College and member of the University Library Advisory Board), it has recently established an award to support original historical research in honour of Colin Bell DFC.
Colin Bell (5 March 1921 to present time), served in Bomber Command in East Anglia (RAF Downham Market and RAF Wyton) as a ‘Pathfinder’ pilot of a Mosquito Aircraft during the Second World War. He regularly visited the historic Eagle hostelry in Bene’t Street in Cambridge where his 608 squadron features on the ceiling (listed as a public monument) of the RAF Bar. After the war he went on to have a distinguished career working for HMRC as a district valuation officer, then set up his own Chartered Surveying practice until his retirement aged 99.
Colin Bell is a distinguished speaker on aspects of aerial warfare during the second World War, he is also a supporter of the RAF Benevolent fund and is undertaking a fundraising drive for its benefit during September, supported by Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill’s great-grandson and honorary Fellow of the College.
The objective of the new fund established at the College is to make an annual award, to be known as ‘The Colin Bell Award’, to support any archival, educational or research work undertaken on the papers of Sir Winston Churchill, the Second World War and other related collections within the Churchill Archives Centre (‘CAC’). It will be open to UK and international researchers and Churchill college anticipates that it will further our understanding of this globally significant period of the twentieth century. Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre said:
This is a great way of linking the generation that fought through the Second World War with the researchers who now study their period. We look forward to making the first award.
Those who are interested in applying for the Colin Bell award should contact Allen Packwood, Archives Centre director, in the first instance.
Photo: Colin Bell with Development Director, Fran Malarée
Full biography of Flt/Lt (Ret’d) Colin S Bell DFC AE FRICS IRRV (Hons)
Colin Stuart Bell served in WW2 on operations as a Mosquito Bomber Pilot.
He was born on 5 March 1921. He joined the Royal Air Force towards the end of 1940. His flying training was carried out in the United States of America prior to their entry into the War before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941. During this interim period, he was nominally a civilian and wore civilian clothes provided by the Royal Air Force. Following Pearl Harbour and having been commissioned into the RAF, Colin Bell was retained by the American Army Air Corps as an advanced single engine flying instructor responsible for training American and British Cadets.
On his return to the UK in 1943, he converted to twin engine Mosquito Bombers at RAF Wyton and joined 608 Squadron (Pathfinder Group) based at Downham Market in Norfolk. In between sorties, he and colleagues regularly visited Cambridge, including the Eagle Pub in Bene’t Street where 608 Squadron is prominently featured on the celebrated ceiling (listed as an historic monument) in the now-named RAF Bar. Colin, then only 23, recalls engaging in snowball fights with undergraduates in the winter of 1944/45 and having meals in Greek Cypriot restaurants (the Eraina and Varsity) nearby.
During his tour of operations he undertook 50 bombing raids. These were all over Germany with 13 of them carried out over Berlin, the most heavily defended city in the country. He experienced much action and survived many close scrapes, all with a wit and good humour that is still present today.
Subsequently, he was transferred to ferry duties bringing back newly built Mosquitos from Canada to the UK with stop-offs at Goose Bay, Labrador, Bluey West 1 (on the West coast of Greenland), Reykjavik in Iceland, and finally into Prestwick in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Colin ended his full time RAF service in 1946 flying out of Blackbushe near Camberley carrying Diplomatic mail to Embassies situated in various parts of Europe and Africa.
Post World War 2, he qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and joined the Inland Revenue (now HMRC), serving for many years as HM Government District Valuer & Valuation Officer of Southwark. This important post was the second largest (after Westminster) rating authority in the UK. On retirement in 1981, Colin set up his own firm, Stuart Bell, Chartered Surveyors, specialising in the valuation of industrial premises for rating purposes. Colin was executive Senior Partner (until the age of 99) and took some important cases to the Lands Tribunal, now named the Upper Tribunal (Property Chamber), a branch of the High Court. In 2020, his practice was taken over by the highly regarded City firm Daniel Watney LLP.
He married his late wife Kathlyn in July 1943, has two children, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Colin lived for many years in Royal Tunbridge Wells and is now in Eltham, close to a granddaughter. His interests outside his family include walking, touring the UK, supporting the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund through speaking engagements, socialising, and enjoying good food and wine. He is an active member of the Royal Air Force Club Dining Society and attends most of their functions. Until recently he served on the Committee of the Air Crew Association, Biggin Hill Wing. He was made a Freeman of the City of London on 13 January 1987 and of the District of Huntingdonshire on 17 August 2013.
From the 1980s Colin employed his personal experience to explain the role he and his colleagues played from 1939 to 1945, helping to contribute to a more nuanced general understanding. In 2012 this was recognised with the unveiling by the Queen in London’s Green Park of the Bomber Command Memorial to the 55,573 Allied Airmen who lost their lives. Colin is an accomplished public speaker on WW2 with particular reference to the Air War. Subjects include: Public awareness: 1935–1939; Plans by the Nazis for the subjugation of the British population after a successful invasion; German Air supremacy over the UK a pre requisite before invasion; The Battle of Britain – 1940; Defeat of the Luftwaffe; The German air attacks on London, Plymouth, Coventry, Exeter, and Liverpool; Support given by the United States to the UK both before and after Pearl Harbour; Training given by the United States Army Air Corps to RAF U/T Pilots; Reasons for the RAF Bomber Offensive; The early attacks on German Cities, later attacks led by the Royal Air Force Pathfinder Force; Experiences of flying at night over Germany whilst under attack; The effectiveness of the Bomber Offensive from a German point of view; The political background and support for Sir Arthur Harris Commander in Chief Bomber Command during and after the War; The Dresden Factor; V1, V2 & V3 German weapons.
Colin has had an increasing public presence as a pre-eminent representative of veterans from WW2. He has travelled twice to the US as a guest of USAF, appeared in the press and been on national television in UK on a number of occasions to comment on matters of historic and national importance, including the passing of the late Queen. In 2018, he performed a central role in the televised Remembrance Day performance at the Royal Albert Hall that was attended by all main members of the Royal Family. In 2019 he met Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street. In 2020 Colin was introduced to the Queen on her visit to the RAF Club. Also in 2020 Colin was given the ‘True Englishman Award’ by the UK’s security services, presented at a ceremony and lunch for 800 in London. To mark his 100th birthday in 2021, he received a congratulatory message from the Queen and a personal, handwritten message from the President of the United States; a fly past of Spitfires over his home was broadcast on BBC. In 2022, Boris Johnson asked the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Question Time to rise and show their gratitude to Colin Bell and his brave colleagues in the RAF; this was followed by a 15 minute audience in the PM’s private office in the Palace of Westminster. In 2023, Colin met and spoke at length with the King at RAF Coningsby. He has also held numerous meetings with leading politicians and dignitaries in the past year, including the Rt. Hon. Johnny Mercer, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Sir Graham Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee of the Conservative Party and Mr Randolph Churchill.