Mr. Berwick Bell
WWII Veteran
Bren gunner with the 2nd Division
Black Watch

Liberator of the Netherlands

War is always on his mind

The war is something Berwick Bell has tried to erase from his memory for the last 60 years. It is an event in his life he has never talked about. But the ex-Bren gunner can’t forget.  “It’s something that’s on my mind every day. I try not to dwell on it.” Rather than thinking about his own experiences and the hell of battle, he tries to think about the victims. He tries to imagine how the Dutch people suffered. “I felt my heart belonged to them for what they went through.” Bell was with the 2nd Division Black Watch. He saw all the fighting a soldier needed to see. He was only in England 14 days after arriving from Canada when his unit was sent into France. After the battle at Falais Gap, he fought through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. “I joined in 1943 and went into battle in 1944. I was just 18 and I had been in the Kincardine militia since I was 15.” What remains uppermost in Bell’s mind is that he survived war and he feels it’s due to the close relationship he had with Padre Allan Reock. “He was my shadow.” Reock was with him in basic training in Listowel, all the way to B.C. when he lost track of the padre. Imagine his surprise when he next met him on the battlefield in Belgium. Bell remembers that before going into each battle, Padre Reock would have a communion service—the Last Supper. “He was the type of padre who would sit down and have a couple of beers with the boys. All the boys loved him.” Holland is what Bell remembers most. Two buddies were killed by flame-throwers. His unit had the SS pinned. His buddies were too far ahead, too close to the SS when the flame-throwers were called into action.  Every time he smells the smoke of a fire his only memory is of that day. In battle, Bell says he was “just going on nerve. We were just like machines.” “I used to dream that I would get wounded to get the hell out of there.” Bell was wounded in Groesbeek, site of the biggest Canadian War Cemetery in Holland. Medics removed 18 pieces of shrapnel from his right leg and two from his left. Three weeks later, he was back in the fight. Then on Christmas Day, 1944 he made attacks over the Maas River “to take German prisoners to get information. One civilian is about all we got.” In Holland, Bell says the Dutch people did the laundry for the Canadians. “We were the favoured troops.”  “We captured lots of Germans. I remember one fellow saying we were crazy, that we should be fighting together against the Russians.” When he left for the war, Bell was 18, just married. His wife, Kaye, was 17. Bell wasn’t a church-goer before the war, but he found religion because of the war and Rev. Reock. “I did more praying over there that I had ever done. I think that’s what took me to the church.” “I couldn’t believe it when I heard the war was over. I think we all cried tears of joy.” In 1948 the Bells had their first child, Bonnie, christened. Imagine his surprise when the guest speaker that day at the Kincardine Presbyterian Church was Rev. Reock—his shadow.

Kincardine News



photo: July 25th, 2005
Victoria Park,
Kincardine Summer Music Festival