Archive and Special Collections

Books for the dead

The war memorial in the James Graham Building at our Headingley Campus rightly attracts attention around the time of Remembrance Day. It becomes a focus for the University’s events during this time, the most visible memorial that survives of the constituent colleges that eventually formed the University.

Another less obvious memorial to the students who fell during the wars of the twentieth century are the college books dedicated to them by their parents and  loved ones. One such book is a second volume of  “Building Construction” dedicated to E. A. Bell by his parents. Edgar Allan Bell was born in Sheffield on the 13 January 1896 the youngest son of Alexander Brown Bell, a journalist who for a time worked on the Yorkshire Evening Post.  Edgar Bell enlisted at Leeds in 1913 joining the Yorkshire Hussars and was part of the British Expeditionary Force during 1915.  By 1916 he had joined the South Staffordshire Regiment and continued in the war, being promoted to Lance Corporal, until he was wounded at Angres in May 1917, he died of his wounds eight months later.

Bell was training to be an architect, studying at the Leeds School of Architecture and had passed the RIBA Intermediate Examination before the war started. Like so many others of his generation his hopes and aspirations were quashed.  Perhaps his parents  took comfort from his commanding officer’s comment that “You will be pleased to hear that he behaved splendidly”.  Perhaps  they were proud to see his name etched in stone or metal on some other war memorial.  But perhaps in the end they believed a book, relevant to his chosen profession, would best bear thier son’s memory to future generations.