Walpeup, Julian Clavijo and Camilo Delgado
About the work
Harold Thomas Bell was born in Walpeup, in northwest Victoria, in 1901. Typical of many boys growing up in the region during that era, Harold was not a keen student, preferring to spend his time outdoors – he was described as a ‘boy of the land’.
At sixteen, with war breaking out, Harold was still, very much a boy – a diminutive 5ft 4 and barely 8 stone, but he was strong and fit. He was a capable bushman, he knew his way around a rifle and had a natural affinity with horses.
As the local men began signing up to fight for their country, Harold looked on with envy. He was full of youthful exuberance and bravado and was eager to join the older boys, whose exploits he read about. Even as local boys returned home wounded, missing limbs, while others never returned at all, Harold’s desire to be part of the action never waned.One night, in the cover of darkness, he left a note on a table, telling his family he was off to try his hand at jackarooing in Queensland but instead, like his brother before him, he headed out the front door and into Mildura to sign up for the Light Horse Regiment.
Lying about his age, name and family circumstance, Harold completed the paperwork, assuring the recruiting officer that he was 21. With a few strokes of a pen, Harold Thomas Bell, became Harold Thomas Wickham and on March 17, 1917, sixteen-year-old Harold enlisted to fight in a very adult world.
With a childhood spent in the bush, Harold proved his worth and was eventually allocated to the 4th Light Horse and on June 22nd 1917, he left Australia, arriving in Egypt six weeks later. Harold spent his time undergoing further training in Egypt, he was assigned his horse and was subsequently selected for the Hotchkiss machine gun section.
On October 28, Harold’s regiment got their orders – they were moving out. Once again travelling under the cover of darkness, Harold edged towards his fate. After a twelve-hour trek, the 4th and 12th regiments still in ‘reserve’, found themselves overlooking the town of Beersheba, where a battle raged. When the call to charge finally came, it was sudden. The sounds of thundering hooves and calls of battle filled the air as 16-year-old Harold rode into a maelstrom of gunfire.
Critically wounded when he was shot in the leg, Harold died the next day and was eventually laid to rest in the Beersheba War Cemetery.
The Army Headquarters sent a telegram to Harold’s only living relative, an uncle, according to his enlistment forms, to inform him of his nephew’s death.
Upon receiving the telegram, Thomas Bell wrote back: “I don’t have a nephew named Harold. I do have a son by that name, but he couldn’t be in the Army, he’s only 16.”
Less than a year after Harold’s death, Thomas Bell would receive another telegram, this time to be told the war had taken his other son, Samuel.
The silo was funded by Mildura Regional Development, Mildura Rural City Council, RSL Mildura, Graincorp, and the Dept of Veterans Affairs.