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George John Bell

Sir George Bell
9th Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
In office
23 October 1934 – 19 November 1940
Preceded byGeorge Mackay
Succeeded byWalter Nairn
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Darwin
In office
13 December 1919 – 16 December 1922
Preceded byWilliam Spence
Succeeded byJoshua Whitsitt
In office
14 November 1925 – 7 July 1943
Preceded byJoshua Whitsitt
Succeeded byEnid Lyons
Personal details
Born(1872-11-29)29 November 1872
Sale, Victoria
Died5 May 1944(1944-05-05) (aged 71)
Burnie, Tasmania
NationalityAustralian
Political partyNationalist (1919–31)
UAP (1931–43)
OccupationSoldier
Military service
AllegianceAustralia
Years of service1892–1927
RankLieutenant Colonel
Commands26th Light Horse Regiment (1920–27)
3rd Light Horse Regiment (1917–19)
Battles/warsSecond Boer War

First World War

AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Volunteer Officers' Decoration

Sir George John Bell KCMG, DSO, VD (29 November 1872 – 5 March 1944) was an Australian soldier and politician. He served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1934 to 1940. He represented the Tasmanian seat of Darwin in the House of Representatives from 1919 to 1922 and from 1925 to 1943, representing the Nationalist Party until 1931 and then the United Australia Party (UAP).

Early life

Bell was born in Sale in the state of Victoria, and was the eldest son of George Bell and Catherine Bell, née Hussey. Bell was one of 15 siblings, including William R. Bell. He received his education in the outback of Victoria, and worked on his parents’ farm, before joining the Victorian Mounted Rifles.[1]

Military career

Boer War

Following the outbreak of the Second Boer War, Bell enlisted in Victorian Mounted Infantry as a private. Although travelling back to Australia after the disbandment of the Infantry, he returned to the war, joining the Victorian Mounted Rifles Contingent. He was commissioned as a lieutenant, and was severely injured in a battle in early 1902. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his services in the war.[1]

World War I

After the war, Bell returned to Australia, settling in the state of Tasmania. On the outbreak of the First World War, Bell enlisted for the Australian Imperial Forces, and was dispatched for training in Egypt. He served at Gallipoli and Sinai, and was promoted from the rank of lieutenant to captain, to major and finally, to lieutenant colonel. Given command of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, Bell's most successful conquest was the capture of Es Salt, and the later successful evacuation of British troops from the stronghold. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in April, 1919.[1]

After his return to Australia, Bell married Ellen Rothwell on 5 November 1919.

Politics

Bell in speaker's garb

Soon after his demobilisation, Bell was proposed as a candidate for federal parliament at the 1919 federal election with the support of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League and the Tasmanian Farmers and Stockholders Association. He narrowly defeated the Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate Joseph Lyons in the seat of Darwin, with a campaign that "appealed to a largely rural electorate by condemning government extravagance and the favouring of 'the crowds of workers in the cities'".[1]

Bell joined the Nationalist Party in federal parliament. He was approached to join the Country Party prior to the 1922 election, but declined and was defeated by Country Party candidate Joshua Whitsitt with the help of ALP preferences. He reclaimed his seat in 1925 and retained it with comfortable majorities at the next six elections, joining the United Australia Party (UAP) upon its creation in 1931.[1]

In 1927, he was appointed as aide-de-camp to the Governor-General of Australia. Elected as chairman of committees in the House of Representatives in 1932, he became Speaker in 1934. Appointed as Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1941, Bell retired from politics in 1943. He died from cardiovascular disease, and was buried in the Burnie Anglican cemetery, following a state funeral.[1]

Personal life

Max Meldrum's 1939 portrait of Bell was awarded the Archibald Prize for portraiture, and was subsequently acquired by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.[2]

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Bell, William G. (1979). "Bell, Sir George John (1872–1944)". Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 7 ed.). Melbourne University Press.
  2. ^ "Max Meldrum: Hon GJ Bell, CMG, DSO, VD (Speaker, House of Representatives) oil on canvas". Art Gallery of NSW. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
Parliament of Australia Preceded byGeorge Mackay Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives 1934–1940 Succeeded byWalter Nairn Preceded byWilliam Spence Member for Darwin 1919–1922 Succeeded byJoshua Whitsitt Preceded byJoshua Whitsitt Member for Darwin 1925–1943 Succeeded byEnid Lyons
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George John Bell
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