*** RESERVED *** The illustrious 617 Squadron Special Duties Tallboy-aimer's V2 Rocket site-busting D.F.C. and M.B.E group, whose raids featured in Army Bureau War Correspondent's 1944 publications and served after the war with U.S.A.F. Reconnaissance Forces in Korea and on Cold War Rocket Intelligence in the 1960s, later frequently representing the famous 'Dambusters Squadron' as an eminent member of Bomber Command; M.B.E. Military Division; Distinguished Flying Cross with reverse dated 1944; 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star with France & Germany Star; WWII Defence Medal; WWII War Medal; Korea Medal to Flt. Lt. J.R. Bell, R.A.F.; U.N. Korea Medal; General Service Medal with Malaya clasp to Flt. Lt. J.R. Bell, R.A.F. Accompanied by Observer's and Air Gunner's Flying Log Book covering the recipient's entire service from 4 July 1942 to 3 May 1945, original framed M.B.E. Warrant with addressed tube, original Commission Certificate dated 1 Oct 1954, original letters from the Ministry of Defence, original photographs, including portrait of John Bell in 1943 which featured in "Britain At War" magazine with associated career story, complete leather-bound R.A.F. album of Bell's complete service annotated photographs from the beginning of his service in Sep 1941 at No.13 INitial Training Wing, Torquay, all the way to May 1986, when Bell was made Deputy Mayor of Huntingdon, taking in his training at No.45 Air School, South Africa and crew shots of Bell and Bob Knight's crew of 619 Squadron, aerial photographs including initial target marking by Leonard Cheshire, V.C., action shots of the raid at Limoges, images of the aftermath of the Wizernes Rocket Installation raid, pinpointing exactly where Bell's Tallboy impacted, 617 Squadron Postagram of congratulations and Buckingham Palace letter of congratulations, group shots of 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Korea, Korea & U.N. Korea Medal Transmission Slips and Joint School of Photographic Interpretation 1940-1975 Vivenda.

D.F.C. Gazetted 17 Oct 1944: "No. 617 Squadron: Pilot Officer Bell has now completed a total of 44 operational sorties as an Air Bomber. He has taken part in attacks against the majority of the most heavily defended targets in Germany, including eight attacks against Berlin, three against Hamburg, and also attacks against Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. When he had completed twenty-two sorties with a Main Force Squadron Pilot Officer, Bell volunteered to join a Special Duties Squadron, thereby considerably lengthening his period of operations. Since joining this Squadron he has taken part in low level attacks against such targets as the Antheor Viaduct, Clermont Ferrand and St. Etienne. He has now been operating continuously since July 1943 and throughout his long and distinguished career has proved himself equal to any task which he has been called upon to undertake. As an Air Bomber he has displayed exceptional skill and has consistently returned with aiming-point photographs. Pilot Officer Bell has, in the face of the most intense opposition, shown outstanding qualities of determination, courage and devotion to duty worthy of the highest praise."

Military M.B.E. Gazetted 1 Jan 1970: "Squadron Leader Bell qualified as a Photographic Interpreter in 1951. He served in many parts of the world as a Photographic Interpreter, including the Far East and Germany, before being posted to the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (UK) in July 1961. During this particular tour he worked first as a member and later as the leader of a specialist team of Photographic Interpreters on a far-ranging study analysing the offensive capability and the threat to the Western World posed by Soviet surface-to-surface Rocket Forces. It was due largely to his dedication to duty, his wide knowledge and inspired leadership, that the foundations were then laid for the successful completion of this study. Its subsequent publication has received wide recognition and acclaim as a unique and authoritative treatise on this subject. Largely in recognition for the leading part he played in this project, Squadron Leader Bell was posted to the United States as the only British Liaison Officer in an important United States Centre for Photographic Interpretation in Washington DC. Here again, he displayed outstanding personal qualities, rapidly acquiring the advanced specialist knowledge which was to make a significant contribution to the Research and Development work of that Centre. Additionally by his own unaided personal efforts, he was instrumental in forming and cementing many of the ties and special relationships now binding the United States and United Kingdom Intelligence Communities. On his repatriation to the United Kingdom, Squadron Leader Bell returned to the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (UK) as the Operations Control Officer on the staff of Exploitation Wing - an appointment of vital importance to the Defence Intelligence Staff as the Ministry of Defence for the successful exploitation of the highly classified materials and photography in the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (UK). Squadron Leader Bell has now completed his tour at the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (UK). Throughout this period he has, by his personal example, absolute dedication to duty and inspired guidance and leadership, ensured that the highest possible standards of Photographic Interpretation reporting have been set and sustained throughout the Unit. His contribution reflects the greatest credit upon himself and upon the United Kingdom Intelligence Community at large. It is considered that Squadron Leader Bell's magnificent sustained effort over the years has been in the finest traditions of the Royal Air Force and fully merits the recognition as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire."

John Richard Bell was born on 25 Mar 1923 in London and joined the RAF in June 1941, completing an Observer's course in South Africa in Dec 1942. He completed two tours of Operations as Bomb Aimer on Lancasters with 619 and 617 Squadrons, and with the former, his raid to Frankfurt was famously recorded by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. After being interviewed by Leonard Cheshire V.C., Bell joined 'Dambusters' Special Duties 617 Squadron. Flying without support, 617 bombed specific targets at low level, with Leonard Cheshire himself providing bespoke Pathfinding targeting. Bell participated in Operation "Window" and Operation "Taxable" on D-Day, also being sent to attack the submarine pens at Brest and Le Havre, aiming the 12,000lb Light case Bomb "Blockbuster", before being equipped with the Barnes Wallis invention "Tallboy" bomb. he first used the weapon against the Saumur railway tunnel on 8 June 1944 and on 14 June carried out the first of several attacks on the V-2 Rocket launch site at Watten and Wizernes. Bell himself recalls: "When Watten was put out of action, the Germans moved down the road to a chalk quarry at Wizernes and constructed an enormous dome over the top, La Coupole. Tallboy couldn't penetrate the huge concrete structure, but would damage the foundations if we landed them alongside. La Coupole is now a museum with displays concerning its wartime history and the role of V-2 Rocket technology in the space race. I had a very interesting visit there in 1998 to examine our bomb damage. After the war, Bell underwent Photographic Interpretation Training in 1951 and served with JARIC (UK) until 1955, during which period he was attached to the USAF Reconnaissance Forces in Korea. From here, he served on the staff of Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) in the department of AI5 from 1955 to 1958, with JARIC (FE) Singapore from 1958 to 1961 and JARIC (UK) from 1961 to 1964. After promotion to Squadron Leader and a tour as Liaison Officer, NPIC, Washington DC, he returned to JARIC and took over the post of Operations Control Officer, Exploitation Wing until 1970. Appointed MBE in Jan 1970, Bell went on to command the Joint School of Photographic Interpretation, RAF Wyton from 1970 to 1972 and promoted to the rank of Wing Commander, commanding RSDC, JARIC (UK) and appointed Officer-in-Command of Exploitation Wing in Feb 1973. Served on the staff of Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) as head of department DI7 from 1975 to 1977, retiring at his own request in 1977.

Read the eyewitness account of one of John Bell's raids to Frankfurt.


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