After the action at Port Natal, Bell’s ‘peaceable old Conch’ was on her way back to Algoa Bay by mid-July 1842, bearing a letter from Colonel Cloete (commanding the 25th Regiment) giving details of what had occurred in the previous weeks. The beleaguered garrison at
had been relieved and the trekker forces had withdrawn on Pietermaritzburg.
The British flag run up so hastily (and initially, in error, upside down) at Port Natal on 26 June 1842 was there to stay and within three years Natal would be annexed formally as a British Crown Colony.
It’s doubtful whether Captain Bell realized the full import of what had happened or even of his part in the conflict. He had simply been in the right place at the right time and, taking a characteristically spontaneous decision, volunteered to do what he perceived to be his duty.
News of events at Port Natal spread like wildfire through the Cape Colony and Britain, the Governor, Sir George Napier, writing to the Secretary of State, Lord Stanley, to call His Lordship’s attention ‘to the spirited conduct of Mr. Bell the master of the schooner Conch of which Colonel Cloete speaks in much praise’. Virtually overnight,
had sprung from obscure mariner to local hero: he was, in today’s parlance, a
|H.M.S. Southampton off the Entrance, Port Natal|
covering landing of troops by Conch at the Point,
June 1842; engraving Thomas Bowler