Author seeks cliff survivor from 1946


AN AUTHOR is interested in tracing the descendants of a dramatic incident at Arbroath cliffs in 1946.

Mateo Cabello is writing a book on the life of poet-adventurer and war veteran William Andrew Bell.

On May 25, 1946, William, then a Sub-Lieutenant based at HMS Condor, was pivotal in the rescue of James Napier (12) who had become stranded on the cliffs at Castlesea Bay.

James’ companion, Eric Macdonald (13) of 18 Abbot Street, had previously fallen to his death and one of their erstwhile rescuers, Sub-Lieutenant Robert Simmons, HMS Condor, had also fallen to his injury.

A report in The Arbroath Herald dated May 31, 1946, stated: “In the meantime Sub-Lieutenant Bell was lowered over the cliff by a rescue party and brought the boy Napier, who was little the worse for his experience, to the top.”

William was later that year entered into the honour roll of the prestigious Carnegie Hero Fund Trust and received a certificate and a grant for his efforts.

While climbing in the Alps Mateo stumbled across the grave marker for William A. Bell and his companions and fellow veterans Ian Mckean and James Ogilvie who had died climbing the Matterhorn in 1948.

Mateo said: “I found it very moving, the idea of friendship in the plaque and the irony in the fact that, having survived a war, they died together when they had nothing but a promising future ahead of them. So when I returned home I started investigating more about them.

“William is an extremely interesting character and one of the leading poets of his generation in Oxford. He was a close friend of the poet John Heath-Stubbs and a prime mover in Philip Larkin’s career.”

“He was one of the Lost Poets of Oxford, which included some of the most brilliant young poets of the Second World War, many of whom died on active service.”

Mateo would be very interested to hear from James Napier or any of his or Eric Macdonalds’ surviving relatives in order to help him research his book, he can be contacted at