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Photographed while a lieutenant in the 2nd West India Regiment, the vast majority of Robert Freebairn Bell-Clothier's military career would be spent half a world away in India. In fact
he may never have actually joined the 2/West India in West Africa where it was deployed at the time of his commissioning but remained detached in London until accepting a posting to
the for the Indian Staff Corps in September 1879. In any event Clothier (he adopted the additional surname of Bell by Royal License in 1910) was one of those officers who left behind
only a scant record of his military career.
Robert Freebairn Clothier was born in Chesire about 1853 the only son of artist/photographer Robert Clothier and his wife Elizabeth. Armorial Families: A directory of gentlemen of
coat-armour (Volume 1) alludes to the younger Clothier as possibly being a member of the 20th Middlesex (Artist Rifles) Rifle Volunteers prior to being commissioned in the 2/West
Using the Army List and London Gazette an outline of Clothier's promotions can be reconstructed.
Sub-Lieutenant 2/West India Regiment - 12 August 1874
Lieutenant - 12 August 1875
Probationer for the Indian Staff Corps - 29 September 1879
Captain - 12 August 1886
Major - 12 August 1895
Lieutenant Colonel - 12 August 1901
Colonel - 12 August 1904
Unemployed Supernumerary List - 26 February 1910
Armorial Families: A directory of gentlemen of coat-armour (Volume 1) provides information regarding the units of the Indian Army in which Clothier served. These include Adjutant of
the 37th Grenadiers and 27th Regiment Madras Infantry. Commandant of the 5th and 27th Madras Infantry and the 73rd Carnatic Infantry.
Acording to the same source Clothier served during the Burma campaigns of 1885 - 1889 while second in command of the 27th Madras Infantry during which he was Staff and Transport
Officer and Provost Marshal. At the close of the final campaign he received the thanks of the Government of India for his services. He was also entitled to the 1854 India General
Service Medal with the clasps "Burma 1885-7" and "Burma 1887-9".
In 1911 while semi retired and on the Unemployed Supernumerary List Bell-Clothier (having adopted his wife's family name the previous year) took part in the Delhi Durbar and was
entitled to the civil version of the associated 1911 Delhi Durbar Medal.
Robert Freebairn Clothier married twice. First to Florence Frances Deshon in 1882 and after her death to Margaret May Bell. Her father Alexander Bond Bell apparently had no male
heirs and as part of the inheritance required her husband adopt the Bell family name. Royal Licence to this effect was granted on 3 November 1910 and Robert Freebairn became Bell-
Clothier. The second marriage produced at least one child Robert Frank Clothier who would go on to a career in the Indian Army during World War One.
Robert Freebairn Bell-Clothier seems to have fallen in love with India and after his initial arrival spent the rest of his life there. He passed away at his home on Ulsoor Road,
Bangalore, Madras on 12 October 1918 leaving a modest estate of £333 14s, 11d.