Bombardier Billy Wells

William Thomas Wells, better known as Bombardier Billy Wells (31 August 1889 12 June 1967), was an English heavyweight boxer. Fighting under the name "Bombardier Billy Wells", he was British and British Empire Champion from 1911 until 1919, defending his title fourteen times. In 1911 he became the first Heavyweight to win the Lonsdale Belt, which had been introduced for British champions at all weights in 1909.

Bombardier Billy Wells
Real nameWilliam Thomas Wells
Height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Nationality United Kingdom
Born(1889-08-31)31 August 1889
Stepney, London, England
Died12 June 1967(1967-06-12) (aged 77)
Ealing, London, England
Boxing record
Total fights59
Wins by KO30
No contests0

Wells, who was 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and was between 182 and 192 lb (83 and 87 kg), fought with an orthodox style.

Early life

Wells was born at 250 Cable Street, Stepney, in the East End of London. He was the eldest of five brothers and was one of nine children. His parents were William Thomas Wells, a musician, and Emily Rhoda Farrier, a laundress. He attended Broad Street elementary school, Queensbury until about the age of twelve, then becoming a messenger boy. He began to box as an amateur during this period.

In 1906, Wells joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner. He was posted to Rawalpindi where he boxed in divisional and all-India championships, with great success. He was promoted to a bombardier, and began training full-time with the help of a civilian coach. It became apparent that Wells was good enough to make a living from boxing, so in 1910, he bought himself out of the army and returned to Britain. This was at a time when boxing was becoming very popular as a spectator sport, in Britain and elsewhere.

Professional career

Wells had his first professional fight on 8 June 1910, against Gunner Joe Mills, winning on points over six rounds. In his first eight fights he recorded seven wins and one defeat. In his next fight he fought for the British Heavyweight Title, at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London. The fight was in April 1911 against Iron (William) Hague, the holder, and Wells won by a knockout in the sixth round of twenty.

Wells was matched to fight the current world heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, in London in October 1911, but religious opponents of excessive prize money, led by Baptist minister Frederick Brotherton Meyer, and opponents of contests between the races, caused the fight to be cancelled by Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary. A 'colour bar' remained in British boxing until 1947.

In December 1911, Wells fought Fred Storbeck at Covent Garden for the British Empire Heavyweight Title, scoring a knockout in the eleventh round to gain his second title in one year.

In June 1913, Wells fought the extremely talented Frenchman Georges Carpentier for the European Heavyweight Title. The bout was held in Ghent, Belgium, and Wells lost by a knockout in the fourth round.

Wells defended his British heavyweight title three times in 1913, and then in December of the same year, he had a rematch with Carpentier for his European title. The bout was held at Covent garden, but again Carpentier won, this time by a knockout in the first round.

Wells continued to box and successfully defend his British heavyweight title, even after the start of World War I. In May 1915, Wells joined up for military service (in the Welch Regiment) and was later made a sergeant.[1] He continued to box until the end of 1916, and in 1917 was sent to France to organize physical training amongst the troops.

After the end of the war, Wells resumed his boxing career. His fourteenth defence of his British heavyweight title, and of his British Empire title was against Joe Beckett, a boxer whom he had beaten on points two months previously. The bout was held in February 1919, in Holborn, London, and Beckett won by a knockout in the fifth round to take Wells’ titles.

Wells then had five more bouts, winning them all, before having a rematch against Beckett in May 1920. The bout was held at Olympia, Kensington, but again Wells was knocked out, this time in the third round.

Wells continued to fight, having eight [?] more bouts, winning five and losing six. His last fight was in April 1925.

Private life

In 1911, he published a book, Modern Boxing: a Practical Guide to Present Day Methods.

On 7 September 1912, Wells married Ellen Kilroy, the daughter of a publican. They had five children before eventually parting.

In 1923, he published the book, Physical energy: Showing how physical and mental energy may be developed by means of the practice of boxing, Publisher: T.W. Laurie.

The Lonsdale Belt that Wells won was the original heavyweight belt and was crafted from 22 carat gold unlike later belts. The belt was kept at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, South East London, but is now at Larkhill, Salisbury following the move of the home of the Royal Artillery and is still not on display to the general public.

Wells was also famous for being the third person to fill the role of the "gongman" - the figure seen striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films.

He lived in Ealing, London and died there on 11 June 1967, aged 77. His ashes were laid to rest in the crypt of St. Mary's parish church in Hanwell, west London.

Professional boxing record

48 Wins (30 Knockouts), 11 Defeats (10 Knockouts), [2]
Result Record Opponent Type Round, Time Date Location
Loss 48-11-0 Jack Stanley KO 3 (15) 1925-04-30 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Win 48-10-0 Soldier Jones DQ 6 (20) 1925-01-30 The Dome, Brighton
Win 47-10-0 General Bennett RTD 9 (15) 1924-12-15 Olympia, Liverpool
Win 46-10-0 Charlie Penwill KO 2 (15) 1924-11-24 Pitfield Street Baths, Hoxton
Loss 45-10-0 Jack Bloomfield KO 6 (15) 1922-11-12 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Loss 45-9-0 Frank Goddard KO 6 (20) 1922-05-27 Crystal Palace, Sydenham
Win 45-8-0 Albert Kid Lloyd RTD 10 (20) 1922-04-21 National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
Win 44-8-0 Paul Journee KO 16 (20) 1920-09-07 Deauville, France
Loss 43-8-0 Joe Beckett KO 3 (20) 1920-05-10 Olympia, Kensington
Win 43-7-0 Eddie McGoorty KO 16 (20) 1920-04-08 Stadium, Holborn
Win 42-7-0 Paul Journee KO 4 (20) 1920-03-17 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Win 41-7-0 Harry Reeve KO 4 (20) 1920-01-27 Canterbury Music Hall, Lambeth
Win 40-7-0 Arthur Townley RSF 9 (20) 1919-11-20 Stadium, Holborn
Win 39-7-0 Jack Curphey KO 2 (20) 1919-11-17 Stadium, Holborn
Loss 38-7-0 Joe Beckett KO 5 (20) 1919-02-27 Stadium, Holborn
Win 38-6-0 Joe Beckett PTS 3 1918-12-12 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Win 37-6-0 Ivor Powell PTS 3 1918-12-11 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Win 36-6-0 Eddie McGoorty PTS 3 1918-12-11 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Win 35-6-0 Private Dan Voyles RSF 2 (20) 1916-12-18 National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
Win 34-6-0 Dick Smith RTD 9 (20) 1916-08-28 Woolwich, London
Win 33-6-0 Matthew Curran RTD 5 (15) 1916-03-31 Cosmopolitan Gymnasium, Plymouth
Win 32-6-0 Dick Smith KO 2 (20) 1916-02-21 Hippodrome, Golders Green
Win 31-6-0 Bandsman Dick Rice KO 1 (20) 1915-12-26 Pudsey Street Stadium, Liverpool
Win 30-6-0 Dick Smith KO 9 (20) 1915-03-31 The Ring, Blackfriars
Loss 29-6-0 Frank Moran KO 10 (20) 1915-03-29 Opera House, Covent Garden
Win 29-5-0 Bandsman Dick Rice KO 6 (20) 1915-02-24 Opera House, Belfast
Win 28-5-0 Dan McGoldrick RTD 7 (15) 1915-02-12 Cosmopolitan Gymnasium, Plymouth
Win 27-5-0 Colin Bell KO 2 (20) 1914-06-30 Olympia, Kensington
Win 26-5-0 Bandsman Dick Rice PTS 20 1914-04-30 Pudsey Street Stadium, Liverpool
Win 25-5-0 Albert Lurie KO 7 (20) 1914-04-02 Canterbury Music Hall, Lambeth
Win 24-5-0 Bandsman Jack Blake KO 4 (20) 1914-03-03 London Palladium, United Kingdom
Win 23-5-0 Gaston Pigot KO 1 (20) 1914-01-24 Cardiff, Wales
Win 22-5-0 General Gus Rawles RTD 10 (20) 1914-01-14 Threatre Royal, Belfast
Loss 21-5-0 Georges Carpentier KO 1 (20) 1913-12-08 National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
Win 21-4-0 General Moir KO 4 (20) 1913-11-10 Canterbury Music Hall
Win 20-4-0 Pat O'Keeffe KO 15 (20) 1913-08-04 The Ring, Blackfriers
Win 19-4-0 Packy Mahoney RSF 13 (20) 1913-06-30 National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
Loss 18-4-0 Georges Carpentier KO 1 (20) 1913-06-01 Ghent, Belgium
Loss 18-3-0 Gunboat Smith KO 2 1913-03-14 New York City, USA
Win 18-2-0 George Rodel KO 2 (20) 1912-12-06 King’s Hall, Southwark
Win 17-2-0 Tom Kennedy KO 8 1912-07-18 Madison Square Garden, New York City
Loss 16-2-0 Al Palzer KO 3 1912-06-28 Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 16-1-0 Fred Storbeck KO 11 (20) 1911-12-18 National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
Win 15-1-0 Iron Hague KO 6 (20) 1911-04-24 National Sporting Club, Covent Garden
Win 14-1-0 Dan Flynn PTS 20 1911-03-08 Olympia, Kensington
Loss 13-1-0 General Moir RSF 3 (20) 1911-01-11 Olympia, Kensington
Win 13-0-0 Seaman Parsons KO 1 (20) 1910-11-16 King’s Hall, Southwark
Win 12-0-0 Private Dan Voyles KO 10 (20) 1910-10-19 King’s Hall, Southwark
Win 11-0-0 Corporal Sunshine KO 6 (20) 1910-09-15 King’s Hall, Southwark
Win 10-0-0 Corporal Brown KO 3 (10) 1910-07-23 Wonderland, Whitechapel
Win 9-0-0 General McMurray KO 1 (10) 1910-06-22 Garrison Theatre, Shoebury
Win 8-0-0 General Joe Mills PTS 6 1910-05-08 Wells Club, London
Win 7-0-0 Private Clohessy RTD 3 1910-02-13 Lucknow, India
Win 6-0-0 Private Clohessy PTS ? 1909-09 Poona, India
Win 5-0-0 Sargeant Gale KO 1 1909-09 Poona, India
Win 4-0-0 Corporal Goulborn KO 1 1909-09 Poona, India
Win 3-0-0 Private Tansell KO 3 1909 Poona, India
Win 2-0-0 Private Jarvis KO 2 1909 Poona, India
Win 1-0-0 General Turner KO 3 1909 Poona, India

Selected filmography

See also


  1. ""Bombardier" Wells Enlists". Sussex Agricultural Express. 28 May 1915. Retrieved 4 October 2014 via British Newspaper Archive.
  2. Bombardier Billy Wells' Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2018-10-30.


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