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HMS Russell (1901)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

HMS Russell LOC LC-DIG-ggbain-21816.jpg
HMS Russell
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Russell
Namesake: Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford
Builder: Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow
Cost: £1,104,051[1]
Laid down: 11 March 1899
Launched: 19 February 1901
Completed: February 1903
Commissioned: 19 February 1903
Nickname(s): The Duncan-class battleships were known informally as "The Admirals"
Fate: Sunk by mine, 27 April 1916 off Malta
General characteristics
Class and type: Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship
  • 13,270 to 13,745 tons load
  • 14,900 to 15,200 tons deep[2]
Length: 432 ft (132 m)[2]
Beam: 75 ft 6 in (23.01 m)[2]
Draught: 25 ft 9 in (7.85 m)[2]
Installed power:
  • 4-cylinder triple expansion
  • 2 shafts[2]
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km; 8,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 720
  • Belt: 7 in (180 mm)
  • Bulkheads: 11–7 in (280–180 mm)
  • Decks: 2–1 in (51–25 mm)
  • Gun houses: 10–8 in (250–200 mm)
  • Barbettes: 11–4 in (280–100 mm)
  • Casemates: 6 in (150 mm)
  • Conning tower: 12 in (300 mm)[2]

HMS Russell was a Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy commissioned in 1903. She was one of six Duncan-class battle ships ordered in 1899 in response to French and Russian ship-building programmes. Shortly after entering service she was made obsolescent by the introduction of Dreadnaught-class battleships.

Russell served in a number of stations before being placed in the reserve in 1913. When World War I broke out in 1914 she was assigned to the Grand Fleet and worked with the fleet's cruisers. In November 1915 she was sent to the Mediterranean to support the Dardanelles Campaign.

On 27 April 1916 she was sailing off Malta when she struck two mines laid by a German submarine. 125 men were lost from her crew of 700.

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Technical description

Right elevation and deck plan as depicted in Brassey's Naval Annual 1915
Right elevation and deck plan as depicted in Brassey's Naval Annual 1915

Russell was named after Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford, a former Royal Navy officer and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in the 17th century. She was laid down by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow on 11 March 1899 and launched on 19 February 1902. She arrived at Sheerness later the same month and went to Chatham Dockyard for steam and gun-mounting trials. Construction of Russell was completed in February 1903.[1]

Russell and her five sisters of the Duncan class were ordered in response to large French and Russian building programmes,[2] including an emphasis on fast battleships in the Russian programme;[6] they were designed as smaller, more lightly armoured, and faster versions of the preceding Formidable class.[2] As it turned out, the Russian ships were not as heavily armed as initially feared, and the Duncans proved to be quite superior in their balance of speed, firepower, and protection.[6]

Armour layout was similar to that of London, with reduced thickness in the barbettes and belt.[2]

The Duncans had machinery of 3,000 indicated horsepower (2,200 kW) more than the Formidables and Londons and were the first British battleships with 4-cylinder triple-expansion engines. They also had a modified hull form to improve speed. The ships had a reputation as good steamers, with a designed speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) and an operational speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph),[2] good steering at all speeds, and an easy roll. They were the fastest battleships in the Royal Navy when completed, and the fastest predreadnoughts ever built other than the Swiftsure class Swiftsure and Triumph.[7]

Russell on trials in the summer of 1902
Russell on trials in the summer of 1902

They had the same armament as and a smaller displacement than the Formidables and Londons.[2] Their 12-inch guns were the first main armement gun with the Welin breech block which allowed considerably faster loading. They were prone to problems with "steel choke" throughout their service.[4]

Like all pre-dreadnoughts, Russell was outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906, but she nonetheless continued to perform front-line duties through the early part of World War I.[8]

Operational history

Pre-World War I

HMS Russell commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 19 February 1903 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet, in which she served until April 1904. On 7 April 1904 she recommissioned for service in the Home Fleet. When the Home Fleet became the Channel Fleet in January 1905, she became a Channel Fleet unit. She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in February 1907. In 1908 Russell attended the Quebec Tercentenary in Canada.[9] On 16 July she collided with the cruiser Venus off Quebec, but suffered only minor damage.[10]

On 30 July 1909, Russell transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet. Under a fleet reorganisation of 1 May 1912, the Mediterranean Fleet became the 4th Battle Squadron, First Fleet, Home Fleet, and changed its base from Malta to Gibraltar;[10] Russell transferred to home waters in August 1912.[11] In September 1913, Russell was reduced to a nucleus crew in the commissioned reserve and assigned to the 6th Battle Squadron, Second Fleet. Beginning in December 1913, she served as Flagship, 6th Battle Squadron, and Flagship, Rear Admiral, Home Fleet, at the Nore.[10]

World War I

North Sea and the Channel

Aft 12-inch guns of HMS Russell at the Quebec Tercentenary 1908
Aft 12-inch guns of HMS Russell at the Quebec Tercentenary 1908

When World War I began in August 1914, plans originally called for Russell and battleships Agamemnon, Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, Exmouth, and Vengeance to combine in the 6th Battle Squadron and serve in the Channel Fleet, where the squadron was to patrol the English Channel and cover the movement of the British Expeditionary Force to France. However, plans also existed for the 6th Battle Squadron to be assigned to the Grand Fleet. When the war began, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, requested that Russell and her four surviving sister ships of the Duncan class (Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, and Exmouth; Montagu had been wrecked when she grounded on Lundy Island in May 1906) be assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet for patrol duties to make up for the Grand Fleet's shortage of cruisers. Accordingly, the 6th Battle Squadron was abolished temporarily, and Russell joined the 3rd Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow on 8 August 1914. She worked with Grand Fleet cruisers on the Northern Patrol.[12]

Russell and her four Duncan-class sisters, as well as the battleships of the King Edward VII class, were temporarily transferred to the Channel Fleet on 2 November 1914 as reinforcements in the face of German Navy activity in the Channel Fleet's area. On 13 November 1914 the King Edward VII-class ships returned to the Grand Fleet, but Albemarle and the other Duncans stayed in the Channel Fleet, where they reconstituted the 6th Battle Squadron on 14 November 1914, with Russell serving as the squadron's flagship. The squadron was based at Portland, although it transferred immediately, 14 November, to Dover. However, due a lack of antisubmarine defences at Dover, it returned to Portland on 19 November 1914. 6th Battle Squadron was given a mission of bombarding German submarine bases on the coast of Belgium, and Russell participated in the bombardment of German submarine facilities at Zeebrugge on 23 November 1914.[13]

The 6th Battle Squadron returned to Dover in December 1914, then transferred to Sheerness on 30 December to relieve the 5th Battle Squadron there in guarding against a German invasion of the United Kingdom.[14] Between January and May 1915, the 6th Battle Squadron was dispersed. Russell left the squadron in April 1915 and rejoined the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet at Rosyth. She underwent a refit at Belfast in October–November 1915.[15]


On 6 November 1915, a division of the 3rd Battle Squadron consisting of battleships Hibernia (the flagship), Zealandia, Albemarle, and Russell was detached from the Grand Fleet to reinforce the British Dardanelles Squadron in the Dardanelles Campaign at the Gallipoli Peninsula. Albemarle had to turn back almost immediately due to heavy weather damage, but the other ships continued to the Mediterranean, where Russell took up her duties at the Dardanelles in December 1915,[16] based at Mudros with Hibernia and held back in support. Her only action in the campaign[11] was her participation in the evacuation of Cape Helles from 7 January 1916 to 9 January 1916, and she was the last battleship of the British Dardanelles Squadron to leave the area. She relieved Hibernia as Divisional Flagship, Rear Admiral, in January 1916.[12]

After the conclusion of the Dardanelles campaign, Russell stayed on in the eastern Mediterranean.[16]


Russell was steaming off Malta early on the morning of 27 April 1916 when she struck two naval mines that had been laid by the German submarine U-73. A fire broke out in the after part of the ship and the order to abandon ship was passed; after an explosion near the after 12-inch (305 mm) turret, she took on a dangerous list. However, she sank slowly, allowing most of her crew to escape. A total of 27 officers and 98 ratings were lost.[16][Note 1] John H. D. Cunningham served aboard her at the time as a lieutenant commander and survived her sinking; he would one day become First Sea Lord.[17]

In 1998 HMS Herald (H138) located her wreck off Malta.[18]


  1. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9, puts the loss of life at 126 rather than 125


  1. ^ a b Burt, p. 198
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 37
  3. ^ "Palmer's Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow-on-Tyne" (PDF). The Engineer: 195. 22 February 1901. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 February 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2017.(Registration required.)
  4. ^ a b DiGiulian, Tony. "British 12"/40 (30.5 cm) Mark IX". Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  5. ^ DiGiulian, Tony. "British 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VII". Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  6. ^ a b Gibbons, p. 159
  7. ^ Burt, p. 202
  8. ^ Sturton, p. 11
  9. ^ The Quebec Tercentenary commemorative history
  10. ^ a b c Burt, p. 209
  11. ^ a b Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9
  12. ^ a b Burt, pp. 209, 211–212
  13. ^ Burt, pp. 209, 212
  14. ^ Burt, pp. 170, 212
  15. ^ Burt, p. 212
  16. ^ a b c Burt, p. 211
  17. ^ "Cunningham, Sir John Henry Dacres". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  18. ^ Colledge, J. J. "HERALD HMS (A 138) hydrographic survey vessel". Retrieved 3 September 2018.


  • Burt, R. A. British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87021-061-0.
  • Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. New York: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.
  • Dittmar, F. J. & Colledge, J. J. British Warships 1914–1919. London: Ian Allan, 1972. ISBN 0-7110-0380-7.
  • Gibbons, Tony. The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.
  • Gray, Randal, ed. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
  • Sturton, Ian, ed. Conway's Battleships: The Definitive Visual Reference to the World's All-Big-Gun Ships (2nd revised and expanded ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59114-132-7.

External links

This page was last edited on 11 November 2018, at 19:42
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