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Bell, Frederick Secker (1897–1973)

Not least of the honours which have fallen to Captain F. S. [Frederick Seeker] Bell, C.B., R.N., Commander of the Exeter, was that of being entertained by the City of London, one usually reserved for visiting Royalty. In the subsequent speech which Captain Bell delivered in response to his greeting, following the Graf Spee victory, he stressed the importance of self discipline and training. Listening to his firm, decided tone on the broadcast from London, he struck his friends as a man who had surely found himself.

Bell of the Exeter should, by rights, be a Devon man (the city of Exeter, by the way, has bestowed on him the freedom of its city), but to his friends he describes himself as a Cockney, having been born within the sound of Bow Bells, but owing to his association with Australia, both through his term of service here and his marriage to the former Miss Dulcie Barnet, third daughter of the late Nahun Barnet, of Melbourne, he, now calls himself a 'Dinkum 'Aussie,' by which it is understood that he desires to share his honors with us.

To his friends and intimates it did not come as any great surprise that he so distinguished himself. Born in 1897, he is now 43 years old, and at the outbreak of the Great War he was doing his Naval course at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, being one of the last class of cadets to graduate from there. He was drafted to a submarine, which was torpedoed by the enemy, and he was one of two of the whole ship's complement who was saved. He was picked up by the enemy and spent the rest of the Great War as a prisoner-of-war in Germany. And on his repatriation he possessed nothing except the old pair of tennis slacks and jacket, in which he was clothed.

Captain Bell served on the China Station after the War and then was sent on exchange duty on the Australian Station, where he first met his future wife. He was Director of Naval Intelligence at Naval Headquarters, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, after serving in H.M.A.S. Australia. The Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Station at that time (1929-31) was Admiral Sir Edward Evans, K.C.B., popularly known as Evans of the 'Broke' which ship he commanded, in 1917, and which did such wonderful work in the Sea of Marmora. Admiral Evans, commenting on the work of Exeter recently, specifically mentioned that he was intensely proud of their achievement, as he had singled out Captain Bell at the time that he commanded the Australian Station as one of the coming younger men of the Navy; and he promoted him then to the rank of Commander.

On his return to England, Captain (then Commander) Bell went through the Staff College at Greenwich and then did staff work at the Admiralty. After this he was Commander in H.M.S. Repulse, the ship that conveyed the King and Queen to America on their visit last year. During his three years in the Repulse, he had occasion to show his mettle when his ship, then in the Mediterranean Station, was despatched to Haifa during the troubles there in 1937. When martial law was proclaimed he was appointed as Governor of the town.

Promoted to the rank of Captain in the January, 1939, list, he was appointed to the command of H.M.S. Exeter just prior to the outbreak of war.

How well he acquitted himself is now a matter of history and pride to the Navy. No man worth his salt is without a nickname. On the Australian Station it naturally became 'Ding-Dong' Bell.' Standing over six feet in height, broad in proportion, a typically genial Naval man, with a Wellingtonian caste of nose, he is 'Hookie' Bell to his family and intimates. Like all sailors he is superstitious and invariably carries in his pocket a lucky four shilling piece, which has never left him from his cadet days. He carried it in the submarine and in the Exeter. May his luck continue and his greatness increase.

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'Bell, Frederick Secker (1897–1973)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/bell-frederick-secker-21977/text31970, accessed 21 November 2019.

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