Thursday, June 4, 2009


I have written several times about my Uncle John Bellew. His story was a sad one for me and I've put it in great detail in the following posts:

A Christmas Greeting From the Son Left Behind
My Heart Just Broke
Margaret's Journey and Her Heartbreak

If you've not read these posts, the post you're currently reading won't mean as much. Short version - John's mother left him in England when his family came to the US during the 1920s. He later fought in WWII and was killed - really go back and read those other posts, it's a great story.

Anyway I've been exploring Newspaper Archive recently and came across a couple of articles on my Bellew family in the North Adams Transcript Newspaper that I didn't have - so of course I had to investigate further. Upon pulling up one of them I had that excited butterfly stomach thing going on... right there on the screen was a photograph of Uncle John. A young man that no one still living in my family had ever seen - he'd never made the journey to the US in his lifetime.
Here's the photo from the site and I've copied the write up from the adobe file as the text didn't come through clearly.

Adams Parents Informed Of Soldier Son's Death
Mr. and Mrs. John Bellew of 4 Allen Street Notified by War Office at Warwick, England, That Pvt. John Bellew of British Expeditionary Force Died in France on May 20 and is Buried in Military Cemetery at Lille—Was Previously Reported Missing—Believed Victim of Flanders Disaster.

Pvt. John Bellew of the 4th battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry, British Expeditionary Forces, is officially reported to have died "somewhere In France" on May 20 of (his year, in a letter received yesterday by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Bellew of 4 Allen street, from the British war office at Warwick, England. This is the first war death report received in Adams from the British war office, so far as is known. The report terminates a period of suspense that Mr. and Mrs. Bellew have experienced since July 8 last when they received an official letter from the war office at Warwick stating that their son was listed as "missing, date not known." This letter was dated June 18 and contained a reminder that In reporting Pvt. Bellew as "missing" this did not necessarily mean that the young man was dead as he might have been taken prisoner by the German forces.

Fear that instead of being a prisoner and alive their son was dead deepened as week followed week after the report he was "missing" and no word was heard from him or of him. These fears were confirmed with the receipt yesterday of the latest report from the Warwick war office. Tills report was dated Nov. 28 and read Us follows: "It is my painful duty to inform... you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying of the death of Pvt. John Bellew, 4th Bn Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry, which occurred In France on the 20th of May, 1940. "The report is to the effect that he is buried in the Military Cemetery St. Andre, Lille. France, Grave No. B.' "I am to express the sympathy and regret of the Army Council at the soldier's death in his country’s service, "I am, Madam, your obedient servant. Lieut. G. Harly, Officer In Charge of Records.

Although the official report from the war office carries no information other than that above it is believed by members of his family that Pvt Bellew was one of the victims of the Flanders disaster of lust spring when the French army and its assisting British Expeditionary Force were routed by the Germans. Pvt. Bellew had never visited In Adams but was in frequent communication with his parents here. The last word I hey received from him was just before the German army invaded the low countries. Al that time he was "somewhere in France" and In his letter to "is parents slated that he was well that the troops were well fed, and that the general opinion was that the war would soon be over. Pvt. Bellew was one of the young men called up for military service in the spring of 1930 and was on active service after the start of the war In September of that year. His letters to his parents were cheerful and expressed the hope that all would soon be right with the world once more.

While grief stricken over news of their son's death. Mr. and Mrs. Bellew today expressed the hope that the sacrifice of his life was not in vain but that England would triumph over the forces against which she is now battling. Pvt. Bellew was 22 years of age. Survivors besides his parents include three brothers, William Bellew of the British embassy staff at Washington, D. C., and Hugh and Alfred Bellew of Adams.

As you can well imagine, this was quite a find for our family. I can't wait to share it with my Grandmother - John's sister-in-law. What I wouldn't give to have laid eyes on some of the letters to his mother that are mentioned in the article. No one has any clue what may have happened to them. Being the keeper of his mother's things, I would love to have seen just one of them in her items.


  1. I'm really happy for you and know just how you feel! Last week I discovered NewspaperArchive and have spent too many hours this week scouring its pages of my hometown. I've had tremendous success! It's wonderful that you made this discovery. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  2. Congratulations - Newspaper Archive is a great resource as is GenealogyBank!

    Thomas MacEntee

  3. Oh my dear friend what an amazing find. All that time you have searched and searched and to find this gem !!!! its fantastic. So sad but amazing to find something finally of john, i am thrilled for you. What a brave young man he was too and i know how proud you will be right now
    Missed you my friend and glad i saw this to catch up a little
    Hugs June xxx

  4. This is a tremendous find! Based on the successes you and Becky have had with Newspaper Archive, I'm going to have to check them out.