Born in Shanghai, he was the father of the playwright, novelist and actress Mary Hayley Bell (b.1911), who married the actor Sir John Mills, and hence the grandfather of actress Hayley Mills.

Record of Service:

1913- 14: Lieutenant attached 10th Hussars, Aldershot.

1915-16: Captain, 9th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, Colchester. 1916:

Captain, 10th Battalion The Queen's Regiment (Royal West

Surrey). To France with Battalion 5/5/1916. 1917: Stafif College,

Camberley. Senior Officers' School, Aldershot. August 1917:

Commanding Battalion in Flanders. November 1917: to Italy.

March 1918 : Battalion returned to France. September 1918:

attached H.M.S. Neptune, 4th Battle Squadron, on visit of in-

struction to the Grand Fleet. October 19 18: General Advance,

France and Belgium. December 1918 to March 1919: Army

of the Rhine, Cologne Bridgehead, Germany.

Ranks held:

1913-14: Lieutenant. 4th February 1915 : Temporary

Captain. 24th May 1917: Temporary Major. 5th August

1917: Acting Lieutenant-Colonel. October 1918: Second-in-

Command. December 1918 to March 1919: Commanding

Battalion. June 1919: retired with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel


Countries served in, and battles, etc., fought in:

Trenches : Pluigsteert, Armentieres, Delville Wood,

Zillebeke, Hooge, Nieuwpoort, Ypres, and Montello (Italy).

1916: Battle of the Somme. 1917: Menin Road and Italy,

1918 : the Somme, the Scheldt, and General Advance. 1918-19:

Cologne Bridgehead.

Honours attained and wounds received:

March 1918: Companion, The Distinguished Service

Order, November 1918 : Mentioned in Despatches. General

Service Medal. Victory Medal with Oak Leaf.

Wounded: 15th September 1916 — Flers, the Somme.

23rd March 1918 — Vaux-Vraucourt, Bapaume.

Bell served in the Chinese Maritime Customs Service with postings to various Treaty Ports. From 1925-1928 he served as Customs Commissioner for Kowloon (within Hong Hong, although this position had no connection with the British colonial administration). The family later (1930) moved to Tianjin (then known as Tientsin).

Bell was appointed as MI5′s Defence Security Officer in Singapore in 1936 and had expert knowledge of the Far East, having previously been Commissioner of Tientsin before his arrival in Singapore. In the 1930s Hayley Bell penetrated a Japanese spy ring and learned of the Japanese plans to invade, not by sea, south of Singapore, which was defended by the famous “big guns”, and from where everyone thought an attack would come, but Hayley Bell knew and reported back to London that the Japanese planned to invade from Siam and Northern Malaya, and that it was their intention to move their troops down the Malay peninsula to attack Singapore north of the island. Despite the British Government propoganda during the 1930s of the so called strength of “Fortress” Singapore, Hayley Bell knew just how vulnerable Singapore really was but his warnings to Churchill, the British Government and to the Governor of Singapore were ignored. Churchill and the British Government were made aware of and knew about the Japanese plans to invade from Siam and also the truth about Singapore’s vulnerability and ability to withstand an attack long before Britain was involved with the war in Europe, when something could have and should have been done.

In order to demonstrate just how vulnerable Singapore was to enemy attack, Hayley Bell directed a small force posing as saboteurs to stage a mock commando raid on the island’s vital installations. Commandos simulated an attack on the recently completed Naval Base which would have disabled both the graving dock and floating dock. They aso managed to “set fire” to the RAF’s fuel dump, “sink” a fleet of flying boats moored near RAF HQ, “destroy” the switchboard at the civil telephone exchange and “bomb” the main power station, all without being detected. The operation caused outrage at both Government House and Fort Canning, the military HQ in Singapore and following complaints to the War Office in London, Hayley Bell’s services were terminated at just the time when had his warnings to the British Government been heeded and, had he been allowed to continue his job as Singapore’s Defence Security Officer, his work may have determined subsequent events in Singapore very different.

Bell was sacked in May 1939 for his "unorthodox methods...his small force of intelligence gatherers were using methods not included in any Sandhurst manual to uncover spies and agent provocateurs and,when necessary,impose summary justice."

Kill The Tiger, Peter Thompson.

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Francis Hayley-Bell