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Announcements > Obituaries > Peter Bell (37-41B)

Peter Bell (37-41B)

The Association is saddened by news of the passing of Peter Bell.
21 Jun 2024
Peter Bell
Peter Bell

Peter Bell (1923 – 2024)

Peter is remembered for the OWBA by his son, Robert.

'Peter Brittain Bell, father to me and to my brother and sister, was born in Barnstaple more than a century ago. He boarded at West Buckland from the age of 14, excelling both academically and in sports such as running and shooting, and gaining his Higher School Certificate (today’s ‘A’ Levels) in 1941. Dad always recalled his time at school extremely fondly.

In 1942 Dad was conscripted (a “reluctant soldier”, as he later described himself) into a Royal Artillery field gun regiment. After attending the officer cadet course at Catterick in the winter of 1942-43, First Lieutenant Peter Bell commanded a unit using newly-designed equipment to locate enemy mortars and artillery. In the spring of 1945 he left the UK for France, where he joined an Allied force besieging German troops still holding out in Dunkirk.

Later that year Dad’s Indian Army adventure began, when he was ordered to Bombay (now Mumbai). For almost two years he played his part in preparations to free India from British rule, braving the heat, the monsoon weather, the insects and the seeming absurdities of army life abroad – but also enjoying lighter moments. One such saw him dragooned into the regimental sports day’s Officers’ Bullock Cart Race, in which, as he later wrote, his lethargic steed soon fell well behind the field: “My faithful sepoys, horrified to see me thus humiliated, rushed forward and twisted the bullock’s tail until it began what by its own standards amounted to a gallop. Out of control it overtook the opposition, scattering carts and animals in all directions and upsetting the judges’ table and all the day’s prizes on display. I won by several lengths, but was disqualified, by some pedant, on a technicality.”

On demobilisation in 1947, Dad returned to Britain and made for London, securing a trainee place with Legal & General (the City firm he stayed with until his retirement.) He discovered in mathematics and statistics a profound intellectual satisfaction, and qualified as an actuary in 1952. In 1956 Dad married our mother Gwyneth Wyllie, then a journalist on Woman magazine. They began raising their three children in north London before decamping for the Hertfordshire village of Wheathampstead in 1968.

At Legal & General and in the City generally Dad moved steadily upward, ultimately becoming Chair of the esteemed Investment Protection Committee of the British Assurance Association. Though he retired from full-time work at 60 he subsequently carried out a non-executive role on the board of several firms, including the Hospital Savings Association.

In 1983, Dad and Mum moved to the east Wiltshire village of Ramsbury, where they restored a notable Arts & Crafts house with a view of the River Kennet, and Dad volunteered with the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Red Cross. Having made a final move in 2007 to nearby Marlborough, where Mum sadly died in 2015, Dad continued to live independently until the end, still perusing the Times each day, studying The Economist each month, and enjoying PG Wodehouse most evenings.

A lover of language, poetry, family, dogs and nature, Dad is remembered by his children, his granddaughter and his wider family and friends as a generous, clever, quietly witty, unfailingly decent man. He made his last visit to West Buckland in 2006 in order to receive the highly prestigious Fortescue Medal, which the outbreak of war had denied him some 66 years before. Typical of his modesty, all he told us at the time was that he was going back to school to get an award for, “Oh, something or other…”.'

With our thanks to Robert for sharing these moving words about his father.

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