Donald Perceval Lynden-Bell was born on 21 November 1895 at Rawleston Terrace, Edinburgh. In the Scottish birth register Donald’s middle name is recorded as ‘Percival’, but elsewhere he was recorded as ‘Perceval’.
His parents were Charles Perceval and Helen Geraldine Lynden-Bell (neé Rate). At the time of his birth his father was an Adjutant in the 4th Royal Scots Regiment.
Donald was the eldest son of five children: Constance May, Geraldine Frances, Donald Perceval, Lachlan Arthur, and Helen Winifred. Lachlan’s son, Donald (1935–2018) was an eminent theoretical astrophysicist known for his work on the formation of galaxies.
In the 1901 Census Donald Perceval was aged 5 years and he and his brother, aged 3 years, are described as boarders with Mrs Annie Lipscombe in Twickenham. A nursemaid is also listed at the same address. The census also records their maternal grandparents and his two elder sisters as living nearby.
Donald’s formative years were spent in various educational establishments beginning with his preparatory school, Foster’s, in Stubbington, Hampshire. Established in 1841 it was considered to be the ‘cradle of the Navy’. From here Donald went to Osborne College on the Isle of Wight in 1908. This was another naval academy. He was there less than a year before moving to Clifton College, Bristol which he attended together with his brother. The 1911 Census shows Donald, aged 15 and Lachlan, aged 13, and youngest sister Helen, aged 7, living with their mother in College Road, Bristol. From April 1911 until December 1912 he was privately tutored: first in Reading and then Switzerland.
In April 1913, aged 17 years, he commenced studies at Elizabeth College, Guernsey. His father was by now Colonel commanding the Northern Defences at Baubigny Arsenal, Guernsey. Donald commenced officer cadet training on 27 June 1913 and on 4 July 1913 made a successful application to Sandhurst Military College.
The various residences of the family are rather confusing. However, it is obvious that Donald’s parents held a strong attachment to Tadley as they resided there on and off, in either Hawley House or Fairlawn House, over a long period of time. This possibly began about 1903 when they are recorded in the Kelly’s Directory at Hawley House and when their youngest daughter, Helen, is baptised at St Peter’s Church. During World War I, Donald’s father gave a series of lectures throughout the country to promote friendly feeling towards Russia and to raise funds for the Russian Red Cross. He also lectured about the Somme, Mesopotamia and ‘How Germany Made War’. In 1920 when Donald’s father applied to receive his son’s medals; his residence was given as both the British Embassy, Berlin, and Fairlawn House, Tadley. Fairlawn House would appear to be where his parents continued to live. Charles served locally as a Justice of the Peace for many years. In 1934 Donald’s father died, aged 71 and was buried in St Peter’s churchyard, Tadley. His mother lived to be 90 and, although not residing in Tadley at the time of her death in 1953, was brought to be buried with her husband at St Peter’s Church.
Donald was unmarried.
Donald served as a lieutenant in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He joined the regiment in France on 24 December 1914.
In August 1914 the 1st Battalion was stationed at Shorncliffe Army Camp, Kent, as part of the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division. On 23 August 1914 the battalion mobilised for war, sailed to Boulogne and was engaged in various actions on the Western Front which included the 2nd Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915) where Donald died.
Donald was killed in action on Sunday 25 April 1915, aged 19.
He is buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery [V B 14], Belgium. The inscription on his headstone records ‘Fell in the attack on St Julien leading his men’.
He is remembered on the Tadley War Memorial and on a memorial plaque in St Peter’s Church, Tadley where the inscription reads: ‘Here worshipped God with those who loved him Lieut Donald Perceval Lynden-Bell 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers who fell gallantly leading his men in attack at the Second Battle of Ypres 25 April 1915 aged nineteen’.
He is also remembered on the Clifton College
Memorial Arch and Elizabeth College Roll of Honour.
Donald was awarded the Victory medal, the British War medal and the 1914 Star. These would have been sent to his family.