19 June 2015

Thomas BELL - Munitions Worker

"MR. THOMAS BELL." Newcastle Morning Herald
and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954)
17 Mar 1948: 4. Web. 24 Jun 2015

Thomas BELL was born in Jarrow, Durham, England in 1869, the son of Daniel BELL and Mary LEITCH. His father worked as a riveter in a local shipyard, as did his older brother Daniel. In 1889 he married Harriet Ann BOND, and they had three children, Harriet, Thomas Guy and Henry. His wife Harriet died in 1900 and he and his family moved in with his in-laws. By this time, Thomas was working as a marine-engine boiler maker (1901 Census). In 1903 he married again, to Laura Jane STILL and they had one daughter together, May. In addition, Laura Jane had a daughter from a previous marriage, Laura Allan HARNBY. In 1911 the family were separated when Thomas came to Australia in the beginning of the year, sending for the rest of the family in September 1911. They ended up in Newcastle, NSW where Thomas gained employment at Walsh Island as a boilermaker. Two of his sons, Henry BELL and Thomas Guy BELL served in the AIF during WW1.

At the beginning of the war he was approximately 45 years old, with children still at home. He didn't volunteer for the A.I.F but he did go to England as a munitions worker. By early 1915 it was clear that the current system in England couldn't meet production demands, one of the reasons was lack of skilled workers. In response, Australian Munitions Workers scheme was developed between the British and Australian governments. This scheme saw nearly 3,000 Australian workers go to England as part of the scheme.

He returned to Australia in May 1919 on board the Kursk. He died on Stockton in March 1948, leaving behind four sons and two daughters.

As a munitions worker, Thomas does have a file at the NAA, but I can't afford to pay for it! So if anyone is ever in Melbourne I'm looking for MT1139/1, BELL THOMAS (Barcode - 6447857).


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