Bedales 1905.2 - 1911.2

Bryson was born in Addlestone, Surrey, the younger son of Hugh Hale Leigh Bellot and his wife Beatrice Violette née Clarke. His paternal great grandparents were both born in the Manchester area where his grandfather William for many years practised as a Surgeon.  By the time of the 1871 census William was sixty years old, had retired from active practice and moved his home to Leamington in Warwickshire.

Bryson’s father had been born in Stockport and his mother in nearby Chorlton-cum-Hardy, but their marriage in 1888 took place in Leamington.  However, at the ceremony Hugh gave his address as Addlestone and it was there, in 1890, that their elder son Hugh Hale was born.  By that time, after education at Leamington College and Trinity College, Oxford, Hugh the elder had qualified and was practising as a barrister-at-law.  At the age of eleven Hugh arrived at Bedales after Easter in 1901 but stayed for only two terms.  Possibly he was already exhibiting the academic promise which took him to senior positions in Universities later in life and his father doubted the credentials of this experimental school, educating pupils from about aged 6 to over 18 in one school.

By 1904 Bellot senior had decided to take another chance at Bedales and Hugh arrived in Steep in September; this time he stayed the course until the summer of 1909 when he left with a Scholarship to Lincoln College, Oxford firmly in his grasp. Bryson seems to have been less academically gifted than his brother, but an active sportsman and lover of the outdoor life.  He was not quite 12 years old when he arrived for the Summer Term of 1905, but began his career in the Senior School rather than at newly established Dunhurst.

In the years before the creation of The Bedales Chronicle it is difficult to track individual students but, in The Show in the Summer of 1906, Bryson was awarded second prize for flowers in his garden.  The magazine was launched in 1907 and Bryson began to gain notice; by December he had become a member of the elite group, the Fire Brigade, and seems to have remained in it for much of the rest of his school career, ending as its Captain.   February 1908 saw him named as Captain of a team in the Football League for the Junior boys.  In the report about the Sports competitions in May that year he was taking part in the 100 yards and the Long Jump.  Cricket was never his strongest game but that summer he captained a team in the Junior Cricket League.

Moving up the school in November, he had graduated to the first XI football team, usually as a defender, and joined the Bedales Corps (partly modelled on Baden-Powell’s scouting movement).  Rival teams ranged over the school estate, sometimes practising signalling and on others trying to evade capture whilst aiming for a particular target; on 15th November 1908 Bryson was the sole successful participant. Before the end of that term, having played regularly for the first XI, he had been awarded his colours.

The covering of the Quad had been completed in 1908, making the Fives Courts safe from the weather, and the game was becoming increasingly popular.  In a match against Old Bedalians, Bryson and Dmitri Jarintzoff emerged victorious. In May 1909 he won the Steeplechase in the Second Division, the last time he was described as Bellot mi. His elder brother departed for Oxford in the summer and  Bryson was now the only Bellot in the school.

Nearing the top of the school, in November 1910 Bryson was made a House Prefect and, in the following year, as Captain of one of the teams in the annual Sports The Chronicle reported, “Bellot won by a good deal”, though also declared that a lot of the credit went to Alan Crundwell who had won 70 points by his own efforts. February 1911 gave a clue to Bryson’s future plans; a Horticultural and Agricultural Society was founded, with Bryson elected its first Secretary.  Its aim was “to carry out various experiments on the farm and in the gardens and hold meetings every Friday”; there were 30 members at the first meeting.

Leaving school in December 1911, Bryson pursued a career in farming.  I don’t know where he began but in 1913 he was at Ockham, near Bodiam in Sussex.  The following year, the letter from Cambridge OBs to The Bedales Chronicle announced, “We hear that B. Bellot is on a farm near Cambridge and hope he will be able to pay us occasional visits”; in fact he was at Harleston Hall near Stowmarket in Suffolk.  Finally he had moved to Dogdean near Salisbury and it was from there, about ten weeks after the outbreak of war, that he volunteered to serve.

Bryson initially volunteered for Home Service.  His attestation on 14th October was for 4 years “service in the United Kingdom in the Territorial Force”.  He applied to join the Gray’s Inn O. T. C.  He had already passed a medical inspection on 8th October, described as 5 feet 8¾ inches tall, 9st 12lbs in weight and of good physical development.  His appointment as a private was back-dated to 7th October. In November 1914 The Bedales Chronicle reported he was in training at Berkhamstead in Squadron E  and on 7th December he was upgraded to Lance-Corporal (though was not to receive payment).  There, in February 1915, he passed another Medical and on 8th of the month he put in his “Application for a Commission in the Territorial Force”, requesting service in the North Somerset Yeomanry: the following day he agreed that "in the event of national emergency” he would serve in any place outside the United Kingdom.

Bryson’s wish was granted: on 22nd February he was discharged from the O. T. C. and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.  In May The Chronicle reported that he had been “gazetted to the 21st North Somerset Yeomanry on February 23rd and posted to  C Squadron, No 2 Troop”.  I haven’t discovered his whereabouts for the rest of that year: the next reference in his file at Kew (WO374/5656) dates to 7th October 1916 when he was (temporarily) transferred from the Yeomanry to the 5th Dorset Regiment and the following day embarked for France.  By 10th October he was at Rouen, his promotion to Acting Lieutenant back-dated to 1st October.  On November 23rd he was posted to No. 5 General Base Depot (I haven’t established where that was).  Finally, on 27th November he re-joined his regiment: I think that means he was back with the North Somerset Yeomanry. He had just missed the Battle of the Somme.

Again his movements in 1917 are, so far, a blank until on 28th August he succumbed to mumps!  After a few days in the 10th Stationary Hospital at St. Omer, he was diagnosed and transferred to the 14th S.H.at Wimereux.  After about ten days he was sent to Number 3 Camp at Boulogne and thence, on 13th September, back to his Regiment.  Whilst in hospital the news came through that his rank of Lieutenant had been confirmed and, for the purposes of pay, back-dated to 1st June 1916.

The New Year saw another move; on 2nd January Bryson was posted to a Cavalry Trench Mortar Battery.  Writing after his death his C.O. said he had been specially selected from the Division to command the battery as he was such a capable officer and had done extremely well with it in the line. On 16th March he was back with his Regiment.  The British army was about to face the dreadful onslaught of the German Spring Offensive but Bryson had to endure a different agony.  The C.O. reported that at first the doctor thought he was suffering from ptomaine poisoning through eating tinned food whilst in the line. “He gradually became worse but deceived us all by being so cheerful and expecting to be up the following morning.  I sat and talked with him quite a lot in the evenings and he delighted to talk of his horses and what he would do when he was better.”  However, at last he was so obviously ill that on 19th March he was admitted to 8th C. T. A. and the following day to the No 2 Stationary Hospital at Abbeville for an operation.  Clearly it had been left too long and he died on 27th March.

Of the Bedalians who died that week he is the only one who lies in a grave, in I G 28 in Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension.

Graham Carter, the Editor of The Bedales Chronicle in May 1918, combined the obituary for Bryson Bellot with that of his own brother Malcolm.  The two had arrived at Bedales on the same day after Easter 1905, remained friends and both went on to be farmers.  As you can see on this website Malcolm had died only 4 days before Bryson.  Graham concluded by writing “To us, recording the loss of old school fellows, so many of those to whom that loss is unspeakably greater than to the school, seem to have shared the life of their boys with us, that we must try to express to them our sympathy and trust them to find it in our poor words.”  Old Bedalian Jill Coombs, née Trubshawe, has told me of her own mother’s sad comments on her last two terms at Bedales in 1918, recalling “how ghastly and distressing it was to come into the Quad and see yet another death notice. So many young men, hardly more than school boys, and often they had recently visited the school when on leave.”  The eleven days 16th to 27th March had seen six deaths, several of them initially recorded as “missing in action”, so the news filtered into school in the succeeding weeks.  It seems likely that the fact that 1918 saw only three editions of The Chronicle published is more to do with the state of mind of Bedalians than the shortage of paper, which reduced the size of the local newspaper “The Hants and Sussex News” from ten pages to four.

Sources: The Bedales Archives: TNA at Kew:  genealogical sites. CWGC