Armed Forces Honour Medal 2nd Class (SVN)
Arrived in Vietnam in November 1968. Attached to New Zealand's V Force HQ, his role was to photograph the daily activities of New Zealand military and civilians in (South) Vietnam.
For 12 months, he travelled South Vietnam with infantry companies (Whiskey 2, Victor 3 and Victor 4 1RNZIR), and 161 Battery RNZA on operational patrols throughout Phuoc Tuy province. He also photographed the 1st New Zealand Service Medical Team at Bon Son, the surgical team at Qui Nhon and the work of New Zealand volunteers with the Red Cross and Save the Children.
While in Vietnam, Bell also helped build a playground and schoolroom at the Binh Loi orphanage in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The project was initiated by members of V Force HQ with material and equipment sourced from various aid organisations. The work was carried out on the weekend by headquarters staff, local workers and the nuns who ran the orphanage.
In 1969 Bell was awarded with the Vietnam Armed Forces Honour Medal (2nd class) for his dedication to combat photography and work at the Binh Loi orphanage. The award was one of only three given to New Zealand personal by the Republic of (South) Vietnam. Bell continued to work for the New Zealand Army until 1983 when he retired from service.
Vietnam War Oral History Project interviewee. Interview and transcript held in the Alexander Turnbull Library Oral History and Sound collection in Wellington, New Zealand. Reference: OHInt-0959-28
Listen to a Radio New Zealand interview with Noel Bell, 9 January 2013: