Victoria Cross

Collection Highlights | Updated 9 years ago

Front and back views of a Victoria's Cross medal
VC Medal
Image copyright of WA Museum

Lieutenant Frederick William Bell was the first Western Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).

Bell was born in Perth in 1875 and volunteered for the South African War, also called the Boer War, in October 1899. Despite being severely wounded in 1900, he re-enlisted and was commissioned Lieutenant in the 6th West Australian Mounted Infantry Contingent in 1901.

On 16 May 1901, as the men of the 6th Contingent were searching the marshy grasslands at Brakpan in the Transvaal, they were ambushed by the Boers. Under heavy fire, Bell was riding to safety when he saw a dismounted soldier and returned to pick him up. His horse fell under the weight of two men, so Bell insisted the soldier take his horse. He then gave covering fire from behind an anthill allowing this man and others to retreat to safety.

It was for this bravery that Bell was awarded the VC by King George V. He was awarded nine other medals for his service in South Africa as well as later military service for the British Army including the First World War.

Before and after the First World War Bell worked in the British Colonial Service in Africa. He retired to England in 1925, visited Western Australia in 1947 attending a function with three other VC recipients, and died in Bristol in 1954.

The Western Australian Museum acquired Lt FW Bell’s VC in 1984. It is the only VC in the Museum’s collection.

History Department collection