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Herbert Bell

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Major Herbert Bell (1877-1941)

1941 Obituary [1]

Major HERBERT BELL, O.B.E., T.D., was born on the 8th August, 1877, at Middlesbrough, and was a relative of the late Hugh Bell, the famous ironmaster.

He was educated at Swaffham (Norfolk) Grammar School and Bradford Technical College.

He then went to Laurence Scott's works at Norwich as a pupil, and in 1895 became a premium pupil in the Hull Corporation electricity undertaking and shortly afterwards an assistant engineer there.

About the year 1900 he was promoted to be Chief Assistant and in 1904 was appointed Chief Electrical Engineer. Prior to being made chief he was in charge of the Sculcoates Lane generating station which, on the advice of the late Robert Hammond, had been laid out for high-tension direct-current generation at 2,200 volts, with a remote-control substation containing motor-generators transforming down to 220 volts (d.c). He was keenly interested in this system in which many troubles developed and he made Sculcoates a workable proposition. When the load increased at Hull, he adopted a.c. generation and, cleverly using the remote-control system of the substation, replaced the motor-generators by motor-convertors, becoming in a way the pioneer of remote-controlled converting sub-stations. These are still used efficiently at Hull.

In 1928 he was appointed by the Glasgow Corporation as General Manager of their electricity undertaking. One of the first duties that confronted him was to put into effect certain provisions of the 1926 Act relating to standardization of frequency. The work, which was of considerable magnitude, was completed by July, 1933, and involved a total cost of approximately £1 million. To meet developments in the area, the administrative offices were reconstructed and included showrooms, lecture room and demonstration hall. The new premises were considered at the time to be the most up-to-date in the country.

During his period of managership considerable progress was made with the change-over of the older portion of the distribution system from direct current to alternating current and progressive reductions were made in the rates of charge, the number of units sold increasing by over 100 % during his 12 years of service. He resigned his appointment for reasons of health on the 31st May, 1940.

Later he was appointed by the Government on a special mission to Ceylon, but during his sea voyage there he died on the 18th November, 1940, at the age of 63.

He joined The Institution as an Associate Member in 1904 and became a Member in 1909. He served for many years between 1914 and 1929 on the Committee of the North Midland Centre, being Chairman in 1923-4. Later he took an active interest in the Scottish Centre, serving on the Committee from 1931 and being Vice-Chairman in 1934-37 and Chairman in 1937-38. He also served on the following Committees associated with the electricity supply industry: the National Consultative Committee and the Scottish District Consultative Committee of the Central Electricity Board, the Council and Scottish Area Executive Committee of the British Electrical Development Association, the National Committee on A.R.P. appointed by the Electricity Commission, the Scottish District Advisory Coal Committee of the Conjoint Conference of Public Utility Associations, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Local Advisory Committee of the National Register of Electrical Installation Contractors. He was an athlete and, in particular, a good oarsman, and he also took a keen interest in military engineering. He joined the Territorial Forces (R.E.) long before the last war and at its outbreak was in command of a Company in the Northern Division of the Royal Engineers. He took it to Mesopotamia in 1916 and remained there until March, 1919, being twice mentioned in despatches and being awarded the military O.B.E. He retired with the permanent rank of Major.

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