WWII vet marks 100th
Cypress community honors British soldier with special parade to commemorate his birthday and many years of service
The Union Jack was flying high side-by-side with Old Glory as dozens of cars filled with friends and supporters drove in procession Saturday morning to wish a 100-year-old World War II veteran a happy birthday.
Cyril Bell, who served as a commando in the British Army from 1939 to 1946, was surprised by his daughter and son-in-law who wanted to commemorate the event and decided on the parade.
“We wanted to do something for him, but with COVID we were really restricted,” said Cindy Bell Grant, his daughter.
No family could come from England, and her daughter was coming from Florida, but the inclement weather canceled her flight. So the parade would be from his loving community in Cypress.
Shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday, they rolled Bell in his wheelchair out to the driveway, bundled him up, and watched the biggest smile break across his face as the line of well-wishers honked horns and yelled their birthday wishes.
It took him by surprise.
“I was really surprised by all the people who came to honor me,” Bell said. They’ve only lived in the neighborhood for two years, and he had no idea so many people knew about him.
“I was flabbergasted,” he said, “and it really lifted my spirits.”
The Cypress Fairbanks Fire Department personnel presented him with a challenge coin. That was only the beginning of the celebration.
“We received a letter from the Air Vice Marshal for the British Air Force congratulating him on his birthday,” and another from the British Consulate General, his daughter said.
Another group, the Over-ThePonders, has been sending him cards, some of them from as far as New Zealand.
“He was pretty pleased with that,” she said.
But the real topper won’t make it on his actual birthday.
“He received a card from the Queen of England, but it was delivered to my sister’s home in Florida,” she said, and the card is being forwarded to him.
For Grant, it was the culmination of a beautiful life well-lived by her inspiring father.
Born in Lincolnshire, England, the young, energetic Bell grew up in Yorkshire. To earn money for himself and the family, he went to work in the coal mines as many in the area did.
“He worked in the coal mines until the war (WWII) broke out.
He started out with the West Yorkshire Regiment of the British Army before transferring,” she said.
He later joined the No. 5 battalion-sized commando unit and served in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Burma (now Myanmar), and Hong Kong.
Following his military service, he returned home to Yorkshire and rejoined his colleagues working in the coal mine, this time as a mechanic.
He did several jobs after that, including a long-distance truck driver, forestry conservator planting trees, and finished his occupational life working for the British Ministry of Defense in Cumbria as a security canine handler.
He had two brothers, one served in the British Air Force and the other in the British Navy. He outlived both of them. He still has a sister who lives in England.
He moved to the United States in 1994 with his daughter, Cindy.
“My ex-husband and I were stationed in England and while we were there, my mom (his wife) passed away. When we were ready to return to the States, he wanted to come with us. He didn’t feel like there was anything there for him and he didn’t want to live alone,” she said.
He misses England, but he loves the United States.
“I want to thank everyone that came and took time out of their day,” he said.
Bell and his daughter attribute his good health to hard work.
“Even as he grew older, he had a garden, and he would turn it over with the spade and fork. He’d be out there working away, trimming trees too. He never really retired,” she said. “He really is a tough old bird.”