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Bell served in the 16th Battalion in France and was wounded in his back and knee when he was captured by German troops during the battle of Bullecourt in April 1917. He spent months in a prison hospital in German occupied Valenciennes in France and then moved to Stettin, a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Despite all his sufferings, George managed one act of defiance. He kept a series of diary notes whilst a prisoner, hiding the papers in a tube of toothpaste. After the War, he typed up a more detailed account of his time as a POW.
During the First World War around 4,082 Australians were taken as prisoners of War. They were captured by the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East and by the Germans in Europe. At Bullecourt, the largest number of Australians were taken prisoner (1,170).This included George Bell.
George’s fellow prisoners included Australian, British and Russian men. It was a grim existence and there were high death rates. Wounds became infected due to unsanitary conditions. Food was scarce and of poor quality. They were made to eat unspeakable meats: dog and horse. Their guards and the medical orderlies were often violent. Wounds were not dressed regularly and due to a lack of linen bandages, patients’ wounds were dressed with paper bandages.