Major Sedley Sweeny Bell-Irving, MC (Ret’d)

    • Major Sedley Sweeny Bell-Irving, MC (Ret’d)
    • RE Badge EIIR
    • Major (then Officer Cadet) Sedley Sweeny Bell-Irving, MC (Ret’d)

    We regret to advise of the death of Major Sedley Sweeny Bell-Irving, MC (Ret’d), Royal Engineers, on Cortes Island, BC on 19 December 2013 at the age of 96. 

    Sedley was born in England into the influential Bell-Irving family of British Columbia and followed a military career in the footsteps of his six uncles and his mother, who was as a battlefield nurse in WW I. 

    Sedley was educated at the Shawnigan Lake School near Victoria, BC and St. George’s School in Vancouver, BC before attending the Royal Military College in Kingston, ON.  He graduated in 1939 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and joined the British Army in France.  He was evacuated from Dunkirk as part of Operation DYNAMO in 1940.  He then returned to the continent in a mission to disable the port facilities in Cherbourg, escaping with only the clothes on his back.  Sedley served with the British 8th Army, 501 Field Company Royal Engineers from El Alamein in Africa, onwards through Sicily, Italy and Greece.  He was awarded an immediate Military Cross by General Alexander, the Commander-in-Chief of Mediterranean Forces, for valour at the Garigliano River crossing in Italy in January 1944.

    In 1946 after the war Sedley was posted to Canada and had a three-year attachment with the A-6 Canadian Engineer Training Centre in Chilliwack, BC in what was the precursor to the Royal Engineers Exchange Officer program at the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering which officially started in 1949.  He returned to England in 1949 and served as a Squadron Commander at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, followed by a tour with the British Army of the Rhine in Germany.

    Sedley retired in 1957, bought a farm in Wales, and for next thirty years devoted his energies to sustainable land management, self-sufficiency and the welfare of marginalized people. He managed an orphanage for Tibetan refugee children in Simla, India on behalf of Save the Children Fund.  He was president of the British Self-Sufficiency Association and author of a book entitled “The Challenge of Small Holding” (Oxford 1985 as Sedley Sweeny).  In 1987 he retired to Cortes Island on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.  He was a strong supporter of Cortes community initiatives including an emergency first aid and ambulance service; the Friends of Cortes Association; the Cortes Eco-Forestry Society (in conjunction with the Klahoose First Nation) and The Cooperation For Cortes Self-Sufficiency.

    Sedley was buried in Whaletown, Cortes, BC.  {gdOct2016kh}