Sir Gawain Westray Bell
(January 21, 1909 - July 26, 1995) was a British
colonial administrator who became the Governor of Northern Nigeria
Bell was born in Cape Town
, South Africa
to an executive of the New Zealand Shipping Company
. At 10, his family moved back to Cumberland
where he attended Winchester
colleges in Oxford
Sudan, Palestine, and World War II
In 1931, Bell entered the Sudan Political Service
, where he learned Arabic
. His postings included Eastern Sudan
, the Nuba Mountains
, and Kurdufan
In 1938, Bell was seconded to the Government of Palestine whee he worked with the police in Gaza. He eventually became commander of the Beersheba Camel Gendarmerie.
Bell volunteered for service in the Second World War. Bell rode horseback with an irregular force of Druze cavalry, and participated in the capture of Suweida from the Vichy French. He became a regiment leader of the Arab Legion and was appointed MBE (military) in 1942. In 1945, he married Silvia Cornwell-Clyne.
Following the war, Bell returned to Khartoum, Sudan where he became Deputy Civil Secretary and later Permanent Under Secretary to the Ministry of the Interior. He left Sudan in 1955 to become the British Political Agent in Kuwait during the Suez crisis.
In 1957 the Colonial Office recruited Bell to become the Governor of Northern Nigeria, where he worked closely with Sir Ahmadu Bello
, the Sardauna of Sokoto
. Bello was regarded by the British as difficult to work with; Bell came to his new job with an open mind and won over Bello to the point that he was asked to remain in his post as governor after Nigeria gained its independence from England. He stepped down as governor in 1962.
Bell worked on several political projects in the Middle East following his time in Nigeria. He worked with Sir Ralph Hone
on a constitution for the Federation of South Arabia
, and additional projects in the Trucial States
. From 1966 until 1970 he was the last European Secretary-General of the South Pacific Commission
(now called the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
After retiring in 1970, he concentrated on voluntary and charity work. He served as vice president and later chairman of LEPRA, and served on the governing board of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
He published two volumes of memoirs. The first, "Shadows on the Sand", was published in 1984 and covers his life through his time in the Sudan. The second, "An Imperial Twilight", details his five years in Nigeria, as well as his time in Arabia.