Article provided courtesy of John Robinson, Canada, 23rd January 2018

Henry Kell – Sgt. R.E.M.E.

Henry (Harry) Kell,  was born on the 15th August 1907 in Trimdon Colliery, Co Durham. He died on active service on the 29th March 1944 in Burma. – Killed In Action.  He was married on the 2nd of September 1930 in Thornley, to Gladys May Bushby . She was born on the 2nd of July 1909 in Thornley, and died on the 29th of May 1993 in Blackhall. She was the daughter of Alfred Bushby  and Sarah Hannah Bushby .

Harry was only 9 months old when his father Henry died, his mother Ellen was left with three young children, Eveline age 5, Jennie age 2 and Henry age nine months. His father Henry was a quarryman, they lived in a terrace house on Commercial Street, next door to Harry Baldwin’s shop.  The house had only two rooms: upstairs a bedroom divided with a curtain and downstairs the room served as the kitchen, laundry and living room. There was a nettie (toilet) in the back yard.

Having no income, Ellen would have to rely on the Parish Relief. To supplement her income she took in washing and scrubbed floors. Ellen was an excellent baker, her mother was from Cornwall and Ellen knew how to make very good Cornish Pasties. She used this skill and started to sell them in the community, they were available hot from the oven when the miners returned home at the end of their shifts. Over time, this home baking business provided a steady income on which she was able to survive for the next 30 or so years.

In 1909, she met and married Harry Mortimer, a miner living in Trimdon Colliery. We have very little information about Harry Mortimer except that he enlisted into the army in 1914 and served in France. They had two children: Olive in 1912 and Joseph Osborne (Ozzie) 1916. It was in 1916 that Ellen found out that she had been duped, Mortimer was a bigamist. He married his first wife in 1903 at Hunslet, then while still with Ellen, married a third wife in Rochdale while recovering from wounds received in France. His real name was Henry Coghill, Mortimer being and alias.

Ellen, as did her mother Annie Shorthouse, believed in education. From 1909 when she unwittingly bigamously married Harry Mortimer, until he was sentenced in 1918, would have received the Army Separation Allowance and be a little better off financially. Harry’s eldest sister Eveline passed the examination to go to the Henry Smith School in Hartlepool, but at that time, the family could not afford to send her, she left school and joined the workforce. His sister Jennie, one year older than Harry did attend and Harry himself also passed the examination and attended. (Later, younger brother Ozzie Mortimer also passed and went to the newly opened Wellfield School.) They were very bright children, as very few students made the grade, only about 4% of those taking the exam.


Northern Daily Mail Friday August 20th 1920.

District News. Trimdon.
At the recent Examination for County Council Junior scholarships the following boys, pupils at Trimdon Foundry Senior Boys School, were successful. John W. Dewbrey, Tom Patterson, and Henry Kell.

Northern Daily Mail Friday January 26th 1923.


The Shocking Accident at Trimdon.

The shocking death of John William Dewberey (15), the Henry Smith school boy who was killed near Trimdon Station on Tuesday evening was the subject of a Coroner’s inquiry at Trimdon this afternoon. Mr. F. H. R. Alderson, head master of Henry Smith’s School, was present. Deceased was the son of Mr. John Dewberey income tax collector, 1 Coronation Terrace, Deaf Hill.

Frederick Chapman, insurance agent of Shincliffe, who appeared in court wearing an eyeshade, said he joined the train in which deceased was traveling at Wingate, getting into a compartment in which were deceased and two other boys. After the train left Wingate there was some tapping in the next compartment, and, as they were approaching Trimdon, deceased went to window and lowered it. He seemed at first to be going to put his arm out to touch the window of the next compartment, as witness had seen boys do before; but instead of this, he stretched himself partly out of the window.

Witness was just going to say “Take care,” when he heard a thud and felt as if someone had thrown a brick through the window and hit him in the face. He put up his hand and found blood running down his face, and knew nothing more until he got into the station. His eye and nose were cut by splinters of glass. When the train reached the station and recovered himself he found the deceased lying over his knee.

No Larking.

In reply to the Coroner (Mr. C. E. Cadle., witness said that, beyond what he had described, there was no larking.

The Father: You don’t think my boy’s body was out of the window, because he was 6ft. tall, and if his body was out of the window he would have been dragged out altogether.

Witness: There was just his right arm out as far as I could see, and he was hugging the train.

A boy named Harry Kell, was in the same compartment, was called, and the deceased’s father asked if it were necessary for these boys to give evidence. They had had a terrible shock, and he would like to spare their feelings.

The Coroner said he sympathized with this view and would be brief.

Kell stated that the tapping occurred after they left Wingate. He did not know who was next door. When deceased got up he said, “I am going to look out of the window.”

Deceased’s Injuries.

P.S. Brown spoke to seeing the body at the station. The skull was badly fractured. Witness afterwards examined the bridge and found the boys cap underneath.

Mr.Deewberey: You and I saw the body together? –  Witness: Yes. Was my boy dead when I left? Yes, quite dead.

Mr. Dewberey said he wanted that out, as they had been a rumour going about that his boy lived for 20 minutes after he (Mr.Dewberey) left him.

Mr. Alderson remarked he thought the boy had not noticed the Deaf Hill cabin, and that he had not realized he was so near the station bridge.

Mr  E. Rodwell: A former stationmaster at Trimdon, said a porter was killed in a similar manner at this spot 20 years ago.

The Coroner said he would have to make a report to the Home Office, and would certainly say that in his opinion this bridge ought to be widened. He asked if it were the narrowest bridge on the branch.

A Narrow Bridge.

Inspector Atkinson, of the London and North Eastern Railway, said he did not know narrower one. He would also repeat the Coroners remarks.

The Coroner reiterated that he considered the bridge should be made wider. Although there were warning notices in the carriages he was afraid people did not take much notice of them. It was a natural thing to look out of the window, and an accident like this was not surprising at this particular point. It was a pure accident, and he thought with Mr. Alderson that the deceased had not observed he was beyond the cabin. If he had he would have taken more care. He would record a verdict the death was accidental, andI would call the attention of the Home Office to the dangerous nature of the bridge.

Mr Cadle and others expressed sympathy with the father, and Mr. Alderson remarked that the deceased was a fine boy. His death had been a great shock to the school. He added that they had had two boys traveling to and fro for 30 years, and this was the first fatal accident. There was one consolation- the accident was not due to any mischief or larking.


Northern Daily Mail Thursday June 10th 1926.

There were over 2,000 spectators last night at the Trimdon Comrades Club grounds to witness sports arranged for the men out of work.

“O’Grady’s Drill”:  1, Henry Kell; 2, J. Bell; 3, T McHale.


Northern Daily Mail Monday June 3rd 1935.

Co-op Society Committee:- At the half-yearly meeting of Station  Town, Seaham  and Horden Co-op Society Ltd. On Saturday night, the president (Mr. W. Emery) in the chair, the results of the voting members of the committee was announced as follows:

Employees representative (1) – Coun. G. B. Hobbs, Wingate, 48 (elected): Henry Kell, Thornley, 14.


Gladys was the daughter of Sgt. Alfred Bushby who was in charge of the policing of the Thornley and Wheatley Hill areas, with five constables. His wife Sarah Hannah died in 1915 when Gladys was about five years old and her older sister Florence (always Florrie), now married to George Hodgson, looked after her. This arrangement continued after the death of Alfred in 1922. Gladys went on to study nursing where she worked with Jennie Kell, Harry’s sister. Harry was working at the Station Town Co-op in Trimdon Colliery, where his aunt, Annie Shorthouse, worked in the Account Department, for the manager Mr. Brown.


Harry and Gladys lived in Thornley after getting married, Harry transferred to the Thornley branch of the Station  Town, Seaham  and Horden Co-op Society Ltd.. Part of his job was to go around the village taking orders from customers. Usually orders were placed one day and delivered another, the order man collected payment at the time a new order was placed.

He was a keen budgie breeder and had an aviary in his back yard. He was always keen to show his birds, especially to his nephews, who cycled over from Trimdon.

They had two children, Rex born 1931 and Florence Ann in 1937.

Harry enlisted in the army in 1940, we are not sure which branch, possibly the R.O.A.C. or the R. E. These groups were amalgamated in October of 1942 to form the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Harry served as an armorer with R.E.M.E. attached to the 7th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment. During his service, he was mentioned in Dispatches and he was accidentally killed in an aircraft accident, by friendly fire, when returning from a patrol in Burma in 1944.


The 7th Battalion had a short history outlined as follows:

7th Battalion: July 1940: The Battalion was formed at Nottingham. Its first role was beach defence.
September 1942: It set sail for India, where the Battalion was selected as the only non-regular Battalion for Gen. Orde Wingate’s Chindits Force.
April 1944: By now the Battalion had been in Burma for 18 months and causing disruption with the Japanese communications and ambushing reinforcements.
31 December 1944: The 7th Battalion ceased to exist – They suffered from exhaustion and disease such as dysentery and malaria. They became hospitalised all over India. It was decided that the ones who were fit for service to be transferred to the 2nd Battalion.


Letter from India to Aunt Annie Shorthouse.

Miss A Shorthouse
36, Station Lane, Deaf Hill,
Trimdon Station Durham

7636440 A/SGT. Kell H
R.E.M.E. Attn 7th Leicestershire Rgt
Karachi, India, 20 – 1 – 43

Dear Aunt,

I have one written to you before by sea mail and hope you have received it. I am keeping O.K. but by the letter I have had from Gladys you haven’t been so good. I hope by now that you are quite well, you don’t get much of a chance to keep well during the winter when you are working all day and then coming home to an empty house. Has anyone told you I had a cable from Ossie and he promised to write. You might tell Mr. Brown I’m doing alright but wish I was looking into the shop this afternoon to see him it’s Wed. and I think it will be about quarter end so he is bound to be there. I will have to close now, so for the present I will say cheerio to you (also Mrs. Smith)

Your loving Nephew Harry (Letter was censored by Unit Censor India S 106)


Casualty Details

Name:         KELL, HENRY
Initials:        H
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Serjeant
Regiment/Service: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Secondary Regiment:      Leicestershire Regiment
Secondary Unit Text:      attd. 7th Bn.

Age:  36
Date of Death:       29/03/1944
Service No: 7636440
Awards:      Mentioned in Despatches

Additional information:  Son of Henry and Ellen Kell husband of Gladys May Kell, of Thornley, Durham.
Casualty Type:      Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference:      4.D.14.

Gauhati, the capital city of the state of Assam in North East India is on the Eastern side of the River Brahmaputra some 600 kilometres east of Calcutta. It is best reached by air either from Delhi or Calcutta. The war cemetery is in the residential area of Silpukhuri on Navagraha Road, leading to Navagraha Hindu Temple which is situated on the hill top past the war cemetery.


Northern Daily Mail April 12th 1944.

KELL: – On March 29th. In India, Armourer Sergt. Kell, R.E.M.E. beloved husband of Gladys and dear daddy of Rex and Florence, of 109 Thornlaw, Thornley, and beloved son of Mrs. and the late Mr. Kell, of 14 South Road.

Gladys did nor re-marry and continued to live in the house in Thornlaw Road until just before she died in 1993, in a care home in Blackhall. Throughout her life she was a very caring person, quiet spoken and kept in touch with her extended family. Her door was always open to visitors. At family weddings you could always see Gladys with Aunt Annie, sister-in-law Jennie and cousin Minnie Craggs, having a good natter.