THE Professional Footballers Association were active at Spink's latest sale, successfully bidding £210,000 to acquire a Great War Victoria Cross group awarded to Second Lieutenant D.S. Bell, Yorkshire Regiment.
In 1913, after spells as an amateur with both Crystal Palace and
Newcastle United, Donald Bell signed with Second Division Bradford
Park Avenue F.C.
He made his debut for the club at full-back on April 13, against
Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineaux and the following season
(1913-14) he was a key member of the team which won promotion to
the top tier of English football.
But he is now best remembered for his decision, at the outbreak
of war in August 1914, to end his contract and enlist as a Private
in the 9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, reputedly the first
professional footballer to join up following the declaration of
Bell quickly rose through the ranks and it was as a Second
Lieutenant at the Somme on July 5, 1916 that he performed the
remarkable act that merited the VC.
Crawling with two of his team up a communications trench to an
enemy position known as Horseshoe Trench, he launched himself
across No Man's Land and charged the enemy gun at such speed that
its crew had little time to react.
Throwing his first bomb from 20 yards, he hit the machine gun
and put it out of action, before shooting the firer with his
revolver and killing another 50 of the enemy with more bombs.
The result was emphatic. Completely demoralised, the enemy could
offer no further resistance to the Allied advance, and Horseshoe
trench was taken, along with 146 prisoners and two machine
Sadly, five days after the attack and before he had learned of
his award, Bell lost his life during an attack on the village of
At Spink on November 24, Bell's medals were estimated to fetch
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, said: "I was sent
here today by the players to purchase this group as it is an
important part of our history as a country and as an association.
We are very pleased to have secured it for our National Football
Museum in Manchester."
The buyer's premium was 20 per cent.
By Roland Arkell