The Bell Collection



Offline Only


The collection comprises an arms and armour collection, consisting of 103 muskets and rifles, 128 revolvers and pistols, 91 swords and bayonets, and an extensive collection of World War II militaria including medals, badges, assorted uniforms, helmets and accoutrements.

The significance of these objects is as type specimens of firearms and as part of the private collection of a Territorian identity. Billy Bell was an Englishman who served in the British Army during the Second World War and came to Darwin near war's end. His wife, Margaret, was born in New Zealand and was working as a nurse at Myilly Hospital in Darwin. In 1954 the couple purchased two blocks of land at Nightcliff and opened a garage and service station. Following Billy's death, his business was continued by his sons until the mid 1990s when it was closed. The Bell collection is a highly personalized collection indicative of the collector's passion and personal history. As a veteran of the British Army, a passion for firearms and war memorabilia is understandable. The Bell Collection of firearms was put together over several decades and was the culmination of extensive personal knowledge and detailed research through many books on the subject. Billy Bell kept a book of desired weapons and as each one was procured it was duly marked off. The firearm collection focuses on subtle variations of firearm technology and manufacture. There are half a dozen variations of Snider action weapons, over a dozen Martini action rifles and twenty Lee Enfields. There are also around fifty pistols produced by the Webley Scott/Webley Richard companies, over a dozen revolvers produced by the Smith and Wesson Company, ten Colt automatic pistols and two dozen Colt revolvers. The sword and bayonet collection is similarly constructed and includes examples of cavalry swords, dress swords, bayonets and daggers. Included among these items is a large collection of German bayonets and daggers including an Ersatz all-metal bayonet made during World War II, a dagger bayonet made in the early 1900s for muzzle loaders, a Navy dress bayonet for a Model 98 Mauser and an army officer's dress dagger from World War II. The military badge collection is representative of British and German regiments in World War II and is typical of a military collection. Included among them are the "death's head" worn by members of the SS and campaign medals from World War II conflicts. The core of the collection represents arms used by Australian servicemen in all major conflicts, but none of the items have specific provenance or histories relating to their use in Australia, overseas, or in the Northern Territory in particular. There are however, some examples of weapons which, as generic types, are significant in Northern Territory history. These include a 1700 Tower .6000 calibre flintlock cavalry carbine and an 1841 .75 calibre Brunswick military percussion rifle with bayonet, both of which were used by the Royal Marines and 3rd Regiment troops during the Port Essington era; a Martini Henry .577 lever action carbine, which was used by both the NT Police and buffalo shooters up until the 1950s; a Martini Henry long rifle used by buffalo and crocodile shooters; and an 1871 Snider .577 calibre two band rifle used by buffalo shooters in the late 1870s and 1880s. Reference: Davis, Alan, Bill Bell: Guns and Technology, Research Essay, Northern Territory University, 2000 (Peter Spillett Library, MAGNT)


1700-1950s; Armour; Arms; Weapons

Bayonets; Firearms; Military uniforms; Swords

British Army; Colt; Lee Enfield; Margaret Bell; Martini Henry; Royal Marines; Smith and Wesson Company; Webley Richard; Webley Scott; William Bell

World wars

Coverage Spatial

Northern Territory, Germany, United Kingdom, Port Essington

Coverage Temporal



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2012-05-30 23:44

2011-07-05 12:53