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ph0ebus

Transatlantic Spies?

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phil@basildon
Is this relevant to his job?

CGM

On the census returns and commercial directories he is described as a "Commercial Traveller", very relevant I should think.

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Kath
On many of the film emulsions of the day red appeared as a very deep black. This is clear in photographs of the union jack taken during the same period where the red stripes look far darker than the blue background.

There is a scientific explanation for this but I am uncertain of what it is but I am sure someone on this forum does!

http://ph0ebus13.googlepages.com/t.s.s.california

"She had two black funnels"

Kath.

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phil@basildon
http://ph0ebus13.googlepages.com/t.s.s.california

"She had two black funnels"

Kath.

It is quite possible that the vessel would have been painted in Cunards house colours after the companies combined. The white upperworks however would be highly conspicuous and would almost certainly have been overpainted grey.

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Kath

Quote Philw:"It is quite possible that the vessel would have been painted in Cunards house colours after the companies combined."

Perhaps PhOebus knows if this happened.

So Mr. Bell bought a "stock postcard" (per PhOebus) and because he was on the ship when the funnels might have been painted in the Cunard colours, thought the California was disguised?

Kath.

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ph0ebus

Hi all,

I have never seen any picture or painting of the California with anything other than two black funnels. The postcard Mr. Bell bought on board in 1916 still showed her with two black funnels. As far as I am aware, though she was under the Cunard umbrella since 1911, she was still touted on paper etc. as being of the Anchor Line. I have quite a bit of ephemera on the California, much post-Cunard's merger, and Cunard is not even mentioned on it (menu cards, passenger lists, stationary, etc.).

So, dazzle paint is out. If she used a dummy funnel she did not use it for long, as she was sunk with only two, and both were real. No indications that I have seen of the California in Cunard colors...which begs the question, how do you 'disguise' an all black funnel? All gray, maybe. I have pictures of her from this period and they don't look any lighter in those pictures an in photos taken earlier in her career. I just looked at B&W pics of the Cunarder RMS Caronia, which shares a very similar profile and appearance as California, and in those pictures you can clearly tell her funnels are not all one color:

post-32240-1239501433.jpg

A follow-up question: what did Cunard do, if anything, to disguise her ships still being used for passenger service?

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

I have looked at the picture of the sinking of the California, bearing in mind that it is an artists impression not a photograph. The upper works of the vessel do appear to be greyish but this could be the result of 3 years work under wartime conditions.

Are there any directives from the Admiralty concerning toning down the colours of merchant vessels to make them less conspicuous? if so these would not have been issued until late 1915/early1916 when the u-boat threat was realised. Perhaps this had only just been done to the California which is why Bell commented on it.

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melliget

The $64,000 question for me is: why would they want to disguise a large passenger ship like the California?

Ok, adding a false funnel or painting over identifiable colours might lead a U-boat commander to be confused as to the identity of the ship but I don't think either of those measures would reduce her eligibility as a target.

I'm leaning back the other way now, that he was referring to himself as being in disguise. But in what way could he have been in disguise? If he was in one of the services and normally in uniform, that would make sense (wearing his civvies). But as a civilian.. ? This is a tantalising one.

In regard to the Anchor Line/Cunard Line issue, that particular voyage of the California was advertised in newspapers under the Cunard banner (see attached).

Martin

post-29417-1239506088.png

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Kath

Quote Martin:"I'm leaning back the other way now, that he was referring to himself as being in disguise."

O.K.

How about his description of himself being a Skilled Labourer when he was a Commercial Traveller?

Is that the disguise?

Kath.

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phil@basildon

Perhaps if we knew who the card was intended for it might point us in the right direction. On the 1911 census he had a new born baby son who had not even been named. If the card had been intended for a youngster might he have exaggerated just a bit?

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ph0ebus

Hi Phil, all...

I heard back from the fellow who sold me the card; it came from an album not original to Mr. Bell and there were no other cards of his in that book. The dealer had no more information for me, so I do not think we will ever know who the card was intended for. I would think that if it was for a child he would have signed it 'father', 'daddy' or some such, not his initials and last name. As an aside, I love the way he put a period after everything, even each date. So. Final. :)

Re: the Cunard connection, I always found it odd that post-merger the California was listed in advertisements under the Cunard umbrella but shipboard, everything was still Anchor Line, Ltd. Kath, the changing of one's occupation on the manifest but the keeping of his original name and personal details seems to be not such a great disguise...wouldn;t you agree? And re: Martin's question, an excellent question at that. Why take pains to disguise either himself or the ship? During the period in question, large British passenger liners were in not nearly the degree of peril they were during the first and second periods of unrestricted submarine warfare, so why the ruse? If Bell himself was in disguise, who was on board or at the Port of New York that he was concerned about?

At this point, I think Kew might be our only hope for an explnanation, and given I am in New York (and have a wee child at home) the odds of getting over there are basically zip. So, if Phil or another pal is interested in taking this on, I would be greatly in their debt. I will do all the digging I can from this end of the keyboard and at the NYPL and see if that shakes anything loose.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

As Bell had nine children there is a very good chance that there are plenty of his decendants are still around. Many local newspapers have a column for those seeking long lost friends or relatives. Would it be an idea to ask for any decendants of Mr. Bell in the Sheffield newspapers? I unfortunately live a long way from Sheffield so is there anyone in Sheffield who can make enquires?

My next visit to Kew will not be until next month at the earliest, but if there is anything you would want me to enquire about Daniel please let me know.

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phil@basildon

Daniel, there is two Sheffield newspapers, The Sheffield Star and The Sheffield Telegraph. They both have a forum page so I will be putting a blog on asking "Was your great grandad a spy." that should make people take notice.

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ph0ebus

Hi Phil,

You rock! Your idea re: the newspapers is a very interesting approach. Don't be surprised that if it bears fruit, I fall over in surprise.

Re: visit to Kew, I honestly don't even know what to suggest. Never been there and I am still trying to make heads of the web search features.

By the way, I had a thought...anyone know how to get in touch with Duncan Haws? He wrote a very thorough book in 1986 on the Anchor Line (amongst other things) and he might have some ideas re: this topic. I will see if I can find a way to reach out to him as well as Roderick Scott McLellan, who wrote another, albeit earlier work on the Anchor Line, though given his work was published in 1956; that may be a tougher nut to crack.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

Daniel. If the publishers are still in business that is the best way to trace an author, they can pass a message on on your behalf. If not try to find a later title by the same author and hopefully a different publisher. If all else fails put the title and/or author into your search engine. I done that once and found the authors blog!

Not everything at Kew is on the internet by a long way. The record cards from the embassies for one thing. I will probably wait until the summer as I have to cross London to reach Kew, not easy during the working day.

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sotonmate

Ps

The sobering thought is that IF he WAS a spy you aren't going to see anything anywhere as I can't imagine that even now it would be in the public domain !

Sotonmate

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ph0ebus

Sotonmate,

I certainly hope we can find something. This thing is just too intriguing for me to let go easily. Our best bet is if he was not a spy, but just a mysterious chap who was in the employ of the Admiralty on some hush-hush but neatly documented program to test new approaches to ship camoflauge. :)

I had no luck this afternoon finding Duncan Haws or a contact for his publisher but will keep fighting the good fight once things settle down this evening.

-Daniel

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ph0ebus

Hi Phil,

I see the last book he put out was in 2002; I had no luck tracking down his pulisher. Isn't that odd? No luck on the other fellow, either. I have already made contact with U. of Glasgow and will be putting in a request with them soon. I am going to try and get back to NYPL this or next week to have another look at Haws book and the other Anchor Line book, as the last time I saw them I only was focusing in the ship's construction and loss.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

Daniel, I've taken a look at the University of Glasgow site and had a quick look at the catalogue.

The goodies include ships logs 1870-1961, plans, newspaper cuttings, bills of lading and that is only the tip of the iceberg! Good hunting & best wishes Phil.

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ph0ebus

EUREKA! I hit the Ancestry mother lode:

Albert Edward Bell

Birth: 3 Apr 1871 - King Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Death: 18 Mar 1941 - Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

(Maybe now we can locate his obit!)

PARENTS:

John George Bell

Unknown-Unknown

Sarah Ann Connell

Unknown-Unknown

SPOUSE:

Lillian Blacktin

Birth: 8 Jul 1872 - Langsett Road, Sheffield

Death: 19 Jun 1965 - Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

CHILDREN:

1. John Richard Bell

Birth: 4 Sep 1894 - Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Death: 29 Mar 1918 - Belgium

A little sleuthing on CWGC discovered this son DIED IN THE GREAT WAR:

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_detail...casualty=852826

2. Maurice Colin Bell

NO INFO

3. Ronald Adolphus Bell

NO INFO

4. Victor Graham Bell

NO INFO

5. Albert Edward Bell

Birth: 4 Sep 1894

6. George Ernest Bell

Birth: 1895

Death: 21 Dec 1993 - Sydney, Australia

7. Arthur William Bell

Birth: 18 Sep 1898

8. Reginald Bell

Birth: 8 Dec 1900

9. Harold Stuart Bell

Birth: 13 Oct 1902

Death:

10. Lawrence Archibald Bell

Birth: 27 Aug 1904

Death:

11. Lilian Alberta Bell

Birth: 1907 - Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Death: 4 Sep 1911 - Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

All viewable here:

http://records.ancestry.com/Albert%20Edwar...x?pid=163012702

I am a bit speechless.

-Daniel

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ph0ebus

Hi all,

Can anyone add to the picture about Albert's son who died in Belgium?

Private JOHN BELL

250482, 1st/6th Bn., Durham Light Infantry

who died

on 29 March 1918

I will focus on Albert for now.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

Daniel, It looks as if the Albert Edward Bell you found on Ancestry is a Grandson. I was wondering how I missed it but I am only on Ancestry.uk . I can check a few details and look for other branches of the family. I did try the newspaper forum but it was more of a "lets meet at the pub tonight" variety rather than what I hoped it was. I will try again just simply asking for descendants of Albert Edward Bell.

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Kath

Free BMD:

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Births Jun 1871

Bell Albert Edward Ecclesall Bierlaw. 9c 255

Don't understand what Ancestry mean by "King" Sheffield.

Phil, which AL.Ed. do you mean?

Try this site:

http://www.sheffieldrecordsonline.org.uk/

There's a Forum.

Also:

http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=7

And:

http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/index.php?act=idx

Kath.

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ph0ebus

Hi Kath,

Thanks for the leads on the forums. I have submitted a registration request with Sheffield Records Online and Sheffield History and will hopefully be granted access soon, so I can post my query with each of them. Given you are actually in Sheffield, dare I ask, any Bells with variations of the names above listed in the phone book? :)

How sad that he lost two of his 11 children, at a minimum. I will be checking the 'no info' children to see if anything turns up in CWGC...let's hope not.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

Kath,There is an Al.Ed. on the Ancestry that Dan posted. Born 1916, died 2006 this I should think is a grandson. The fact that he died in Sheffield suggests that members of the family could still be resident in the area. There is an Albert Edward Bell in the phone books for 1949/50 this could be the son or grandson. Sadly the son on the CWGC is as I summised one of twins.

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