Second Lieutenant D.S. Bell’s VC group, including his memorial plaque, which sold to the Professional Footballers’ Association for £210,000 at Spink.

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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 war.

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 guns.

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 Contalmaison.

At Spink on November 24, Bell's medals were estimated to fetch £140,000-160,000.

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