Lieutenant John Bell Kelly

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Lieutenant John Bell Kelly

Birthplace: Cloonbur, County Galway, Ireland
Death: Died in Bakenlaagte, Transvaal, South Africa
Cause of death: South African Conflict (Boer War 1899-1902): Died of Wounds
Place of Burial: Germiston, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Kelly and Bridget Jane Kelly
Brother of Elizabeth Annie Mann; Thomas Henry Kelly; William Kelly; Sarah Jane Kelly; Richard S Kelly and 4 others

Occupation: constable (Victoria Police Force)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Lieutenant John Bell Kelly

John Bell Kelly was born in Cloonbur, Galway, Ireland on 28 December 1869. His father, Richard Kelly, was born in Wicklow, Ireland, in 1835 to Thomas and Elizabeth Kelly (nee Taylor). His mother was Bridget Jane Bell, daughter of Joshua Bell.

Richard Kelly, in addition to being a farmer, was head game-keeper to Lord Ardilaun in County Galway, Ireland. Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun, 2nd Baronet (1840-1915), known as Sir Arthur Guinness, Bt, between 1868 and 1880, was an Irish businessman, politician, and philanthropist.

Richard died prior to 1879. His eldest children, Elizabeth Annie and Thomas Henry Kelly appear to have immigrated to New Zealand aboard the Glenlora in 1880. Bridget and some of their other children, including John, immigrated to Australia eleven years later, aboard the Oroya, arriving in October 1891. Bridget died in Australia on 4 August 1923.

According to the Australian War Memorial Commemorative Roll, John held the rank of Lieutenant in the 2nd Scottish Horse, The Marquis of Tullibardine (Regimental Number: 31643). He served in the South African War (Boer War) (1899-1902), but was killed on 30 October 1901 at the Battle of Bakenlaagte in Transvaal, South Africa, the last major battle of the war. This battle occurred during the guerrilla phase of the war. The battle saw the Eastern Transvaal Boer commandos of Generals Grobler, Brits, Viljoen and Louis Botha attack and defeat the rear guard of Colonel Benson’s much feared No 3 Flying Column while it was in marching formation to its base camp. The troops were outnumbered four to one. John’s remains were buried in the Germiston (Primrose) Cemetery, South Africa.

The following article appeared in the Barrier Miner: SEVERAL VICTORIANS KILLED IN ACTION. LIEUTENANT WOODMAN DANGEROUSLY WOUNDED. MELBOURNE, Saturday. The Federal Defence Department has been advised that the following Victorians have been killed in South Africa:- Lieutenant J, B. Kelly, Second Scottish Horse; Lieutenant Chrisp, Fifth Victorian Contingent; Trooper Hanson, Fifth Victorian Contingent; Trooper Cangbey. Amongst the dangerously wounded is Lieutenant C. Woodman, of the Second Scottish Horse, a son of Mr. A. J. Woodman, of Broken Hill. [Lieutenant Woodman left for the war as a private, and won his commission by efficiency in the field. His letters to his father have frequently been published by the MINER.] (Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW: 1888-1954) 9 November 1901, p. 4, source: Trove)

On 11 November 1905 (p. 5) The Argus carried the following notice: THE LATE LIEUTENANT KELLY. BALLARAT, Sunday. Lieutenant Kelly, whose death in South Africa as announced on Saturday, was for some time stationed as a member of the police force at Ballarat East, and subsequently at Pitfield. In company with Constable Rankin, he resigned from the force, and went to South Africa, joint Tullibardine's Scottish Horse as a sergeant. He shortly afterwards received a commission. Deceased was a single man, and his mother lives in Melbourne (courtesy of Trevor Kelly - Australia).

The Melbourne Argus carried John’s death notice: KELLY. - On the 29th October, at Brakenlaagte, South Africa, killed in action, Lieutenant J.B. Kelly, of the Scottish Horse, third youngest son of Mrs. J. Kelly, 552 Canning street, North Carlton (Home papers please copy) (Melbourne Argus, 23 November 1901, p. 9 source:

And this article appeared the following month in The Register: THE AUSTRALIANS. A HERO OF BRAKENLAAGTE. London, December 7. The “Morning Post” correspondent at the front, in describing the terrible battle at Brakenlaagte, near Bethel, in which Col. George Elliot Benson and Lieut.-Col. Eustace Guinness were killed, states that the late Lieut. A. [J] Kelly, an Australian volunteer, of the Scottish Horse, exhibited great heroism. At a most critical juncture, when exposed to a hail of bullets, he fearlessly rallied his men to outflank the enemy. After the engagement his dead body was found riddled with bullets. Pte. A. Brown, of the 2nd New South Wales Mounted Infantry, has succumbed to enterie fever at Rustenbunr (The Register (Adelaide, SA: 1901-1929) 9 December 1901, p. 7, source: /55673146).

John's younger sister was Staff Nurse Alicia Mary Kelly who during World War I nursed hundreds of wounded from Gallipoli. While nursing at the No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (3ACCS) in Ypres she refused to leave her patients during heavy shelling. Alicia was awarded the Military Medal ‘for gallantry displayed on the occasion of hostile air raids on casualty clearing stations’. She also received the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) and in January 1918 the Royal Red Cross.

Source: Biography by Debbie McCauley, his third great niece

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Lieutenant John Bell Kelly's Timeline

December 28, 1869
Cloonbur, County Galway, Ireland
October 30, 1901
Age 31
Bakenlaagte, Transvaal, South Africa
November 1901
Age 31
Germiston, South Africa