Sunday, 1 July 2012

J W B Russell

John William Binfield Russell
Born 1896 in Bridport, Dorset.  Killed in Action 7 July 1916
Second Lieutenant 9th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment

John Russell was the eldest son of William Russell and Lucy Binfield Newman.  William, the son of a manufacturer, was a London-born school master, whilst Lucy was a dentist's daughter from Liverpool.  The couple married in London on 25 April 1895.  William must have secured a position in Dorset, because that is where John was born the following year and where the family were living in 1901.  John's brother, Frederick Stratten Russell was born in 1897.  A sister, Mary Veronica, was born in 1899 but died the following year.

William Russell set up a school in Newquay sometime between 1901 and 1911 in a house called St Andrew's on Pentire Avenue.  In the 1911 Census he has several boys listed at the school, including John Vivian Godden Teague who is also listed on the Newquay war memorial.  John Russell was not educated by his father.  In 1911 he and Frederick are listed on the Census at Oundle School in Northamptonshire.  John was clearly an intelligent young man; he gained a Senior Open Classical Scholarship to Oxford in 1914. 

I can't find John's date of enlistment, but he was made a temporary Second Lieutenant on 5 January 1915, as listed in the London Gazette.  His regiment went to France later that year, landing in Boulogne on 15 July 1915.  The regiment were under the command of 52nd Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division.  John would have been deployed to the southern part of the Ypres salient, where the 17th Division held the front lines.  Later, they would take part in the Battle of the Somme.

The 12th Manchesters were with 9th Duke of Wellingtons and their war diary for the period leading up to 7 July 1916 sheds some light on John's last movements.  The Brigade marched to Morlancourt on 2 July, leaving the following day to relieve 21st Division north of Fricourt.  The Manchesters (and presumably the Duke of Wellingtons) were in Lozenge Wood for a few days until 3.30am on 6 July when they received orders to relieve the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers in Quadrangle Trench.  The diary entry for 7 July says that 9th West Ridings/Duke of Wellingtons had already tried and failed to gain the objective.  It is possible that John was lost in this failed attack.  The diary entry goes on to mention the failure of the Manchesters, under barrage and enfilade machine gun fire, to gain the objective.  They list the lost of many of their own officers.  

John's body was not recovered and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial.  His CWGC listing is here.  His probate record shows that he left £163 to his father. 

William and Lucy Russell remained in Newquay.  William died in 1946 and Lucy lived until 1957 (she was 90 when she died.)   

Frederick Stratten Russell went on to have a highly distinguished career.  He served in both World War 1 and World War 2.  In WW1 he took aerial photographs and was decorated for his bravery.  He joined RAF Intelligence in WW2.  In civilian life, Russell was a marine biologist and it was he who pioneered the measurement of fish stocks.  He was knighted in 1965.  


  1. I just found your blog. I've been doing some research on my grandfather's service in WWI and so was interested to find your site. Good job!

  2. Glad to hear that you found the site interesting. I started off looking for both my grandfathers' service records (I was lucky with one!), branched out into my great-uncles' records and moved onto my local war memorial. It does get addictive!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment - I appreciate it.

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