RESPECT: Joffre Bell, front right, with Clifton RSL secretary Anne Glasheen, president Vaughan Pauli, Phil Moar (back), Gavin Smith, Bernadette Trimingham, Fred Harber and Colin Newport at a Clifton High School ceremony.
RESPECT: Joffre Bell, front right, with Clifton RSL secretary Anne Glasheen, president Vaughan Pauli, Phil Moar (back), Gavin Smith, Bernadette Trimingham, Fred Harber and Colin Newport at a Clifton High School ceremony. COURTESY ANNE GLASHEEN

Clifton soldier still marches for past and future

WHEN Anzac Day dawns in Clifton, Joffre Bell will be ready to join the march as he has for decades, to remember those who didn't make it home.

He turns 99 a couple of days later.

"Anzac Day is very important to me because I was heavily involved in the war and lost a lot of my mates, so I go along to pay respect to them," Joffre said.

Joffre (pronounce it Joff, he tells me, "but I've had all the translations") was a navigator and bomb-aimer in Bomber Command during World War II, out of England.

They suffered huge casualties, with more than 55,000 of the 125,000 aircrew killed in operations - about 3500 of those were Australian.

Joffre also pauses to remember his father, who fought at Gallipoli.

Overton Benjamin Bell was one of the first four men in the district to join up in 1914 as part of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade raised at Enoggera.

Because of the steepness of the Gallipoli landscape, they were deployed without their horses, and Joffre's father became a sniper. Joffre's name comes from France's Commander in Chief on the Western Front at the time, Marshall Joseph Joffre.

Many don't realise there were almost as many French soldiers at Gallipoli as Aussies, but their efforts became overshadowed through history by the battles they were fighting in their homeland.

Joffre's not sure exactly why the Frenchman's name was bestowed on him because, like so many soldiers, his dad "never said a lot about the war, even though as kids we used to try and grill him".

Joffre's grandfather came to town in 1900 from North Toowoomba, where they had been milk vendors, to run the Club Hotel, which they did until 1923.

Joffre said he hadn't missed an Anzac Day since returning home, although for the past five years he has ridden in style rather than marching.

"It's great to see the crowd growing every year, and it's heartening to see the young people involved," he said.

He has played some role in that, attending schools over the years to share with students the importance of recognising the sacrifice of ex-servicemen and those killed in war, "and to look after veterans and be patriotic to our country".

About 200 people are expected to attend this year's Dawn Service at Clifton from 5.30am on Thursday, April 25, with the march scheduled for 10.30am.

For details contact Clifton RSL secretary Anne Glasheen on 0408 718720.

Details of services throughout the region, including Toowoomba, Millmerran, Greenmount, Clifton and Cecil Plains are available by searching Anzac Day on Toowoomba Regional Council's website tr.qld.gov.au or contact your local RSL branch or sub-branch.


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