John (Jack) Bellis was born in Flint in 1893 and baptised 10th November, 1893 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint. He was the third of twelve children to Peter Bellis and Catherine Anne (Cooper) and was the brother of Private Thomas Bellis.
The family resided at the Leadbrook Cottage, Oakenholt, which had been the family home for decades, and before the war Jack was employed as a papermaker at the Oakenholt Paper Mill, and was a bachelor.
He enlisted in Wrexham in August, 1914 and was moved to Salisbury Plain but by February, 1915 was at Blackdown, Sussex. He landed at Gallipoli in about June, 1915 and subsequently served in Mesopotamia (Iraq).
Private Bellis, writing to his parents under date of 21st September, 1915, stated he was with the 8th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Dardanelles. They had been out of the trenches three weeks for a rest, but instead of a rest they had been hard worked night and day digging and unloading transports. He referred to a Jack Brockley having been badly wounded a fortnight after his brother was killed; whilst another man named “Spikey” was also killed. Ernie Joyce, from Flint, had been down to see him and others in his battalion on the 20th September. There were two killed from Flint, and their names were Gunther and Evans. Neil Owens, who used to live in Pentre, was killed there that morning, the 21st September. He had received a copy of the “County Herald.”
In a further letter, dated 28th September, 1915, he wrote that the 8th Battalion had been in the thick of the fighting, just as much as had the 1/5th. He had been with others out on sniping duties and they could account for putting a good many Turks out. Will Bennett wished to be remembered to all at home. Writing on 11th October he mentioned that the men were receiving parcels from friends from Flint, and that he was receiving his from home because they were packed securely for the long journey. It looked as though there was to be a winter campaign there, for they were preparing making special winter dug-outs. There was a draft of reinforcements a week prior to his writing, and he was surprised to see Sammy Jones, who worked in the Co-operative Society’s Stores, Flint, and who was of the 16th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. George Hughes, Hogan, and the Sergeant had all gone to the hospital. Hogan went with a sprained ankle. He said that he was living close to Hulley and Moulton and both were doing all right and Sam Williams was keeping well.
John’s brother, Ben was also with the 8th Battalion at the Dardanelles and was a Dispatch Rider and in November, 1915 forwarded a letter to his parents. He said that his battalion was near that of the 1st 5th Battalion, and they were visited by some of the men. They had E Joyce to tea; and Joyce was now a Lance Corporal. On another occasion they had tea with Lieutenant Alexander, of Oakenholt.
The following are more letters Private Jack Bellis wrote home.
Pte J Bellis
Monday August 28th 1915
Dear Sister & Bro
Just these few lines, as I have managed to scrape an envelope & writing paper, to let you know we are both keeping quite well. We have had a stiff time of it here at it night & day and when we do get a chance of a rest in the daytime we cant get it for the flies are something terrible here its agony getting your meals with them especially when there is jam knocking about which we are very seldom without. It is a very hilly country and warm make it hard to go about but it is going very cold at night now. We get plenty of the weekly papers as there is a lot comes with every post that comes up. I had a Homing & Racing Pigeon last Saturday I don’t know how they pop up here I lot of photos of fanciers that have joined the colours. better put ours, is Joe’s pigeons keeping alright. I expect you will soon be having your new teeth in soon. I shall want some of I get over this safe for they are dropping out now. I have not seen Joe Hully & Moulton for three weeks now as they are with the machine gun and are attached to another lot for a bit but we all hope to be going down to the base for a rest soon for we can do with it.
I must now conclude hoping you are all quite well. Remember me to all.
Your loving Bro
Pte J. Bellis
C. Co. R.W.F 8 Batt
Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
Tuesday Sept 21st 1915
Dear Sist & Bro
Thanks for the parcel we received here on Sunday although it had been badly damaged and got mixed up with Joe Hullys but I only think there was some cakes missing as we got soap, chocolate, licorice root, sweets and the bottle of oil which I am sure will be very handy. I shall enjoy the sweets in the trenchs (sic) into which we came last night. I have not received Lils parcel up to now. Very pleased to hear that you both enjoyed your holidays at Liverpool. I hope to have a good one if I get over this lot which I hope I shall. Things are very quiet here now, only we are preparing for a winter campaign so it looks like lasting a while yet. There is very little news to tell what there is you get from home so I now conclude hoping all are quite well as it leaves me.
Your affect Bro
XXXXXXXXX For Willie
The first part of this next letter is missing which was probably written in late 1915.
…… days. There is very little hopes of 8th getting home for Xmas as you say the talk is it looks very like us spending it in the trenchs (sic). Ben’s knee soon got alright and he is now doing well. I expect you would feel a bit awkward having your teeth in for the first time. I wish that I could get a few of mine out as they have been plaguing me a lot.
All the boys are doing well and wishs (sic) to be remembered.
I now conclude hoping all are quite well.
Your Affect Bro
XXXXXXXXX For Willie
12583 Lce Cpl J. Bellis
C. Co. R. W. F, 8 Batt
Meditterranean Exp Force
Dear Sister & Bro
Just a few lines in answer to your letter I received safe but I have not seen anything of the parcel which you say you sent along with the fiths? But all the mails were held back Christmas time owing to the evacuations of the Peninsula. I was in the both evacuations of Suvla Bay & Cape Helles as our division made a success @ Suvla we had to go to Cape Helles to do the evacuation there and we got a rough time of it too.
We are now in Egypt and out of danger at present. I don’t know for how long but I believe we are out for a good spell this time. There is talk of us going to do garrison duty. I had a letter from H Forrester last week the first we had heard of him since last August he has been at hospital at Cairo with scarlet fever. he is now waiting for new teeth. It is very hot here in the day. Hulley & Co are all doing well.
I now conclude hope you are all quite well as it leaves me.
Your Affec Bro
XXXXX For Willie
12583 L/C J. Bellis
C. Co. R. W. Fus 8th Batt
Indian Exp Force ‘D’
April 30th 1916
I received your very welcomed letter safe this morning April 30th also the one for Ben who you will know by now as (sic) been wounded in the hand in the second attacked we made —– the Turks trench on the —– when Sam Williams was also wounded. Willie Bennett from Flint was wounded in the first attack made. I have not heard from any of them yet. Surprises to hear of Uncle Tom being wounded. I expect he is right for a few weeks holiday now, they have the benefit over we out here for they are soon in Dear Old Blightie.
I think the only time as we shall get home is when the war is over although as you say we deserve a bit of leave if next at home and well deserve it the way we have been knocked about it to be hoped Joe has never to go out. Very sorry could not send you anything the short time we had in Port Said as we just had a fortnight there having a few hours notice to move and while we were there and had a chance to enjoy ourselves a little they would not pay us out. Well five shillings we got the whole second day we got there and with that we bought a bit of bread so you can see we have very little chance of buying presents to send home which I should very much like to have done. I beleave (sic) Sam Williams sent a few things home the time in was in hospital at Alesandria. I have never been to any hospital yet. I don’t know how Harry got it. I was in one but I know there as been rumours about that I was wounded by some of the sick that return from home for some of them seem surprised to see me. Sorry you have not received many letters. I have had very few since we left for Port Said.
Dear Sis the sun is getting terrible hot out here much hotter than was on the Peninsular and are getting spine protectors to guard against sun strokes in spine also mosquitoes nets for these things don’t have bight at night. I should be very thankful if you would send me a small parcel of a few cigs and something enjoyable that will keep.
We are all very sorry to hear of the deaths of Mr & Mrs Bushell. Hulley & Moulton are both keeping quite well and wish to be remembered. Remember me to any of the boys when they get home. I now conclude hoping you are quite well as it leaves me.
Your Loving Bro
XXXXXXXX For Willie from Uncle Jack
And this is a letter Jack received from his sister Gertrude.
9 Gardeners Row
June 13th 16
I received your welcome letter this morning of which I was very pleased & thankful of for it is so long since I had one before off you but it is better late than never as the old saying is no news good news glad to hear you are keeping well you made me feel downhearted when I read your letter where you said you would not be home until it is all over it is to be hoped that wont be long some of the Sunday papers only give it three months but I think that is to good to be true but let us hope so mother was speaking to Miss (name crossed out) a sister to your captain she said she had had a letter from him & he said in it as he was expecting a leave home this month or next
Well Jack we have not heard there (sic) Ben is yet so we cannot write to him with us not hearing from him I was wondering if he could write or not if he is back with you again we have a new curate hear (sic) now & he is trying to get Dad back to Church I dont know if he is going he is very swankie & quite a young fellow to Well Jack it is Whit Tuesday to day but is nothing like it so there is no sports in Flint & all the shops open there as been no holiday throughout the Kindom (sic) this Whitsun
Willie Thomas Jones & Charlie Denton as been home from France & also gone back the time soon goes they both looked well I am sending you one of Willie’s Photos he had taken in school he is quite a big boy now he is always talking about you & Ben he asks me many times a day when are you coming home for as been home for three weeks with infleu & then worked one day & then home again with blood poison foot but is much better he is remembering to you & all & Charlie Denton was also asking for you what do you think of the Naval Battle & of Lord Kitchener being drowned it is bad news but let us hope for the best
The Russians seem to be doing good work. Keep your heart up hoping to see you soon your loving sis Gert xxx
I will send you something & a few cigs I will send a card to let you know they are on the road Good Luck
Private Bellis died of a fever, at No. 3, British General Hospital, Basra, Iraq on 22nd July, 1916 and was buried in Basra War Cemetery, Iraq, in Plot VI, Row A, Grave 12.
He is remembered on three war memorials: Flint Town, St David’s Parish Church, Oakenholt and the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor. He is also remembered on his parent’s headstone at Northop Road Cemetery, Flint (Grave 2, Line 40, South Side).
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
It transpired by means of a telegram received by Mr and Mrs Peter Bellis that their son John was lying seriously ill with fever in one of the Eastern Military hospitals in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf and that his other son Benjamin, was reported to be wounded. The following week they received the tragic news that John had died.
On hearing this news Private John Albert Hulley (who died of wounds in 1917) and a comrade in arms (probably Albert Moulton) wrote this letter to Private Bellis’s family.
Pte J. A. Hulley
8th Batt. R.W.F
40th Brig 13th Div
Mac. Gun. Sec
Mesopotamia Exp Force
Just a line expressing our sympathy with you & your Mother & Father & family in the sad news in which you will have received through the loss of your brother Jack. I know it will be a sad time for you but hope you will try & bare it with the help of God. I didn’t know till Albert Moulton told me & I was to busy to write then so he said he would write to your Father & I went to see him about ten days ago & he seemed to be pretty fair then, he was not in hospital then but he went the day after, I believe he left the hospital here & went into hospital down the river. I couldn’t realise it myself when I heard about it I was sorry we was not nearer to him as we could pay our last respects to him As far as I can hear he died of fever you feel quite well one day & you are down the next
Well I cant say any more this time their is only two of us have now out of the boy’s & trusting God will watch over all & I am sure Jack served his King & Country up to the last & died for the sake of them at home, expressing our sympathy once more from his two pals X X X X
Joe & Albert
On Sunday morning 20th August, at the St David’s Church, Pentre, Flint, an impressive memorial service was held in connection with the deaths of Corporal John Bellis, Private Peter Evans, of 4, Bennett’s Row, and Private Edward Hughes, of Gardener’s Row, of the same locality. They were members of Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ Battalions, having been abroad on active service for some considerable time. Bellis and Evans were first cousins, and all were respected by the residents of Oakenholt. There was a large attendance at the service, inclusive of the families, and relatives and friends of the soldiers and also representatives of the Foresters’ Court “County Town.” The Rev Canon Nicholas, rector of the parish, conducted the service, and in the course of his sermon made feeling allusions to the memory of the fallen soldiers. The following hymns were rendered:- “Art thou weary, art thou languid,” “I heard the voice of Jesus say,” and “O let him whose sorrow.”
The chief mourners for Bellis were:- Mr and Mrs Bellis (parents), Misses Blanche and Muriel Bellis (sisters), and Masters Eric and Edgar Bellis (brothers); Messrs J O Jones, Liverpool, and Thos Jones (uncles); Mrs Blackwell, Mrs Hughes and Miss E Gresty (cousins); Mrs G Hooson (Bennett’s Row), Mrs Jos Hooson (Boars Head, Northop Hall), Mrs Hulley, Mrs Fred Turley and her son (Golftyn, Connah’s Quay), Mr Thomas (Connah’s Quay), and Mrs Williams, New Western Terrace, Oakenholt.
The chief mourners for Hughes were:- Mrs Hughes (wife) and children; Mr and Mrs Hughes (parents); Mrs Small, Queensferry (sister); Mrs Richard Hughes (sister-in-law); Messrs Thos Hughes and Joseph Hughes (brothers); and Mrs M and E Hughes (sisters); Mr and Mrs Denton, and Mr Charles Denton.
The chief mourners for Evans were:- Mr Edward Evans (father), Messrs George Evans and E Evans (brothers), and Mrs E Joyce.
Jack’s father died 19th December, 1919, aged 56, at the David Lewis’ Northern Hospital, Liverpool after a long illness and was buried in the Northop Road Cemetery, Flint. He was born in Flint and had been a member of St David’s Church, Oakenholt for many years, having been a prominent member of the choir and taken a leading part in the anthems and singing. He was also an esteemed member of the Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes. He was employed as a papermaker.
His mother died 13th August, 1953, aged 86, at her home, 417, Chester Road, Flint and buried with her husband and son Edgar. She was born in Liverpool and had lived for more than 60 years in Flint and like her husband was a faithful member of St David’s Church and a member of the British Legion and of the Mothers’ Union. In her younger days she was a fine contralto singer.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF PETER
BELOVED HUSBAND OF CATHERINE A. BELLIS
LEADBROOK COTTAGE, OAKENHOLT
DIED DEC. 19TH 1919, AGED 56 YEARS
“THY WILL BE DONE”
ALSO BELOVED SONS OF ABOVE
CPL. JOHN BELLIS, DIED AT BASRA,
MESOPOTAMIA, BURIED AT
MAKINA MASUS MILITARY CEMETERY,
JULY 21ST 1917, AGED 23 YEARS
PRIVATE THOMAS BELLIS, KILLED IN
ACTION. BURIED AT COLONIAL HILL
MILITARY CEMETERY, GREECE.
SEPT. 18TH 1918, AGED 21 YEARS
DIED APRIL 18TH 1921, AGED 13 YEARS
“REST IN THE LORD”
CATHERINE ANN BELLIS BURIED 17TH AUGUST 1953, AGED 86 YEARS
Day by day our thoughts do wander
To a grave not far away,
Where they laid our darling son
Just a year ago today.
From his Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers. (County Herald, 27th July, 1917)
’Tis hard to bear the heavy cross,
But the hardest is yet to come,
When the Pentre heroes return the roll call,
Oh, how we shall miss among the cheering crowd
Dear Jack and his comrades beloved by all.
Sadly missed by his Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers.
(County Herald, 26th July, 1918)
“The Glorious Dead”, who won for the living all that the living have and enjoy.
Will be ever remembered by his Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers. (County Herald, 25th July, 1919)