Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bell, John (1782-1876)

BELL, Sir JOHN (1782–1876), general, was born at Bonytoun, Fifeshire, 1 Jan. 1782, being the son of David Bell of that place. It was not until 1805 that he abandoned the more lucrative prospects of mercantile life open to him by family connections, and followed the bent of his own inclination by accepting a commission as an ensign in the 52nd foot on 15 Aug. in that year. He was ordered to join his regiment in Sicily in 1806. Throughout the Peninsular war he was actively engaged in the majority of the more celebrated actions, and was wounded at the battle of Vimeiro by a shot through the shoulder. He was appointed permanent assistant quartermaster-general during the later years of the war. He received the gold cross for the battles of the Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse, and the silver war medal with six clasps for some other battles and sieges. He was employed for the last time in active service abroad against Louisiana, December 1814 to January 1815. From 1828 to 1841 he was chief secretary to the government at the Cape of Good Hope, and from 1848 to 1854 lieutenant-governor of Guernsey. The colonelcy of the 95th foot was awarded to him in 1850, which he exchanged for that of the 4th foot three years afterwards. He was nominated a C.B. as far back as 4 June 1815, and for his many services he was made a K.C.B. 6 April 1852, and a G.C.B. 18 May 1860. Immediately afterwards he became a general, and before his death he was the senior general in the army. He died at 55 Cadogan Place, London, 20 Nov. 1876, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. He married, 14 June 1821, Catharine, the elder daughter of James Harris, the first earl of Malmesbury. She was born at St. Petersburg, 29 May 1780, and was named after her godmother, the Empress Catharine. She died in Upper Hyde Park Street, London, 21 Dec. 1855.

[Illustrated London News, lxix. 541 (1876), with portrait; Men of the Time, 1875; Army Lists, &c.]

G. C. B.