HMS Russell
Message Board

Nov. 27, 2022

My Grandfather's elder brother, Francis Charles Slade Moorman, from Guernsey, Channel Islands, trained as a Boy 2nd Class on HMS Impregnable at Plymouth in1897 aged 18. With a rank of Leading Boatmen he was conscripted from coast guard duties in Scotland to join HMS Russell 31st December 1916, on board when she struck two of the 25 mines laid at Malta's harbour entry by the German U boat U-73, under the command of Cdr. Gustav Siess. A survivor with unknown injuries, he is recorded at the Royal Navy Hospital Plymouth with severe mental illness, before transfer to Great Yarmouth hospital where he died two years later, leaving his wife and three children to survive as best they could. Details and photo provided by his granddaughter.

Chris Moorman
Francis Charles Slade Moorman seen in 1915.
July 6, 2021

I have been researching the Royal Navy records of my maternal grandfather - Henry Aubrey Augustus Coombs - and came upon your website pertaining to the sinking of the Duncan Class Battleship HMS Russell on 27th April 1916 just off the coast of Malta. I have his full RN Service Record, which (correctly from our family records) lists his birth in Chatham, Kent on 17th April 1895 and that he enlisted as a Rating (Third Writer) on 22nd December 1913. His Service Number is M6927.

He was posted to HMS Russell on 24th January 1916 and survived the sinking, going on to serve 33 years in the RN, finishing as a Lieutenant-Commander at the South Atlantic Station in Simon's Town, South Africa in 1946. He received a "Letter of Approbation from Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty for gallantry in connection with sinking of HMS Russell on 27th April 1916", in an entry dated 2nd September 1916. Family legend has it that he also retrieved a White Ensign off the sinking ship before swimming ashore - and that White Ensign has been passed on down accordingly. I have this flag in my possession, in addition to his Service Records. He was promoted to Warrant Officer on 10th November 1935 and received his full Officer's Commission on 31st December 1940 (signed by King George VI), with seniority back-dated to 8th June 1940.

Is there perhaps any record of his actual action of gallantry on that day aboard HMS Russell?

Best wishes,
Michael Perrins
(Grandson, Ohio, USA)

Aug. 22, 2020

Below is a picture/drawing of an unknown sailor. The picture was found behind another picture. Seems to have HMS Russell on his hat. He could possibly be from the Burnley area of England. A mystery.

Carol Millar

Apr. 21, 2020

I've recently come across grave stone belonging J. W. Tebble, Stoker First Class who died on HMS Russell in 1916, however I've checked Roll of Honour on this web site and can find no reference to him. The location of the stone is on the grounds of what was Warley Mental Hospital (previously known as Brentwood Mental Hospital) but is now private residences. It's just a small area with about 20 stones which look much older and more difficult to read than this one which I think must have been added much later By his mother.

Kind regards,
Andrea Benge

Reply 1
Apr. 29, 2020

John William Tebble died in the U.K. from injuries received in the sinking of HMS Russell. In some sources he is only shown at Pembroke, but I have confirmed the details of his death through other sources. I have added him to the Roll of Honour. The headstone was not purchased by his mother, but is an official Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and for getting him his proper place in history.

Michael W. Pocock


Feb. 25, 2019

Will be in Malta for the first time and have recently discovered my late father's uncle was killed on HMS Russell, Albert Alfred Smith, age 22. We have all the cemetery info and will be paying our respects. I believe we will be his first visitors since he passed and will be very happy that a member of his family can finally lay some flowers and thank him for his sacrifice, and say a prayer for his memory.

Mar. 25, 2019
I have enclosed photos of Albert's grave, showing below.

Andy Smith

March 4, 2019: The grave of Officer's Steward 1st Class Albert Alfred Smith, R.N. at the Malta Naval Cemetery, Malta.

March 4, 2019: The grave of Officer's Steward 1st Class Albert Alfred Smith, R.N. at the Malta Naval Cemetery, Malta.

Nov. 18, 2016

I have been researching my family's history. A well loved cousin of my grandfather was killed in the sinking of HMS Russell.  We do not know whether his body was recovered and buried or? His name was Edgar John Wyatt born 1897, Able Seaman RNVR. He is listed as lost on the day the ship hit the mine. Any further information that you might have would be appreciated. I found all the posts on the maritime quest website relating to HMS Russell very interesting and very moving. My grandfather was a soldier in Salonika and evacuated by ship, I think via Malta, after contracting malaria along with thousands of others, he survived the War.

Kind regards,
Angela Crofts

July 11, 2016

My great uncle, Frank William Phillips, was killed in the HMS Russell sinking we believe, but we do not know of his final resting place. He is honoured on the war memorial on the Lines in Chatham Kent, and also in a church in Chatham dockyard. If anyone has any further information I would be grateful.

Tony Bennett

Reply 1
July 11, 2016

The info I have is that he was a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, died in HMS Russell. His body was not recovered.

Michael W. Pocock

May 31, 2016

For the 100 years since the loss of the HMS Russell, I prepared a brochure entitled COMMEMORATING THE CENTENARY TRAGEDY OF H.M.S. RUSSELL, H.M.S. NASTURTIUM & H.M.Y. AEGUSA 1916-2016. The company I work with U-Boat Malta Ltd., are filming a documentary on the HMS Russell and would appreciate all those who would like to tell us more about your relatives who were or worked on the Russell to contact me.

Best regards,
Joseph-Stephen Bonanno

Feb. 24, 2016

My grandfather, Frederick George Stevens, was a Sick Berth Attendant on H.M.S. Russell when it hit a mine and sank in 1916. He luckily managed to swim the 4.2 miles to shore and the Maltese ladies gave him their shawls as he had kicked off his clothes whilst swimming and was naked. He was very fond of his battleship and my mother was even given the middle name Russell after it! My mother was one year old when the Russell went down so my grandfather had a lot to swim for. Unfortunately it left his nerves in tatters and I have the certificate given to him by King George which says he Served with Honour and was disabled in the Great War. He was honourably discharged in 1919.

I am going to Malta in April to commemorate the sinking of H.M.S. Russell and would be pleased to know if anyone else who had a relative/lost a relative from H.M.S. Russell is doing the same and indeed if anything is being done in Malta to commemorate the occasion?

Thank you, 
Sylvia Bell

Feb. 8, 2016

I was thrilled to discover your Message Board concerning HMS Russell. My Great Grandfather, James Edward Harman, was aboard when it sank, but fortunately was saved from the water.

After a lively naval career including tours to Japan and China during the Boxer Rebellion, James had been retired into the Coast Guard upon his marriage in 1902, and was stationed at Kessingland, Suffolk. He was recalled into active service at the outbreak of war in 1914 when he was already over 40. After the catastrophic events of 1916 he was deemed unfit to return to sea, and returned to the Coast Guard, this time stationed at Muchalls in Aberdeenshire until his full retirement in 1920.

Below is the telegram the family received from him upon his rescue and his follow up letter describing what had happened. There are also photos of the bosun's whistle he mentions in the letter, his 'Russell' signet ring and a photo of James Harman himself.

I hope this information is of some interest to the message board community. I notice that Diane Freeman was previously enquiring after someone with the surname Tanner, perhaps the same person James mentions in his letter though he calls him Bob Tanner - as only one Tanner was listed killed?

Kind regards,
Helen Raymant

"Malta 2nd May 1916. My Dear Alice,

Hope you have PC also cable alright.  Since being here have got all your letters. Am pleased to say am going on lovely. Am sorry to have to say Bob Tanner is gone, they think he must have been just where the explosion took place. It will be a sad blow for his wife and also Mrs Moore.  Sid I am pleased to say is safe and well.  I happened to be on watch when it happened so had my whistle and chain on, also the watch the kids gave me.  Of course it got a drop of salt water in it but  think I shall be able to get it done up.
At present we are in a rest camp and I can assure you it is a rest.  Have a nice bed, plenty of blankets and a nice big tent.  We only get about two hours duty out of forty eight, remainder of the time we do as we like.
I had about twenty minutes in the water. Fortunately got my life saving waistcoat on so was quite alright.  When I was picked up they brought us in and luckily was sent aboard the Theseus. Got in the same mess as Kim Martin, and he done all he could for me, underclothing and an old suit, so I think I struck oil properly.  
All the coastguards were saved. We have buried about twenty one, and I think all the others that are in hospital are going on alright now. We don't know what they are going to do, but think we may be on the way home shortly.

Of course we all lost everything we had bar what we had on at the time.  I am thinking what a good thing it is that you have my best jumper at home.  I had a fine bag of clothes and a lot of things I had been collecting but still I don't care a fig about them as long as I'm here.
Now I think I must close as one can't say much in a letter, and I hope to be with you all before very long when I shall be able to tell you all news.  I don't think it will be any good you writing as we don't know how long we will stop here, so hoping this will find you all absolutely well.

Believe me I am you loving husband JIm.

P.S.  Still got the old pencil have written with all the time. Had it in my pocket."

Apr. 21, 2015

My great grandfather, William Henry Leonard, was listed as the officers saved in London Times Article Apr 29th followed by a listing under died of wounds in the May 1 London Times Article. I have a letter penned to my grt grandmother from the officer Frank Mason Robinson CAE on the HMS Harrier that picked up the survivors. Frank spent the last 24 hours with William, looking after him in his cabin until they could get them to shore and the Malta Hospital. He reported other than suffering from shock, but otherwise seemed OK. Attended to by doctor for slight bruising. He was devastated when he learned that William died later in hospital. I can not find any record of how William died. Any ideas where to get that info? He felt that he should share what he knew with my grt grandmother and this has always been a cherished letter in my family. Wondering if anyone knows Frank?

Laura Faherty
New Zealand

Reply 1
Sept. 10, 2017

I was interested to read Laura Faherty's comments on her great grandfather Henry William Leonard. We have a shared interest in that my father Leonard Henry Vincent was a nephew and named after him. I would very much like to contact Laura to find out if she can provide further information on her great grandfather and indeed about her side of the family.

Kind regards,
Maureen Kerrigan

The grave of William H. Leonard at Malta.
© Laura Faherty

Aug. 1, 2014

I have just read with interest the posting of Dennis Reed (Message #7) concerning the sinking of HMS Russell. My father, George W. Howse was also Chief Stoker on HMS Russell at the sinking so they must have been 'oppos' He also received the Italian award and medal. He always mentioned the large number of 'boy seamen' on HMS Russell at the sinking. My father also retired about 1921.

Bob Howse

Dec. 30, 2013

My Grandfather, William Reed, was a survivor of the HMS Russell following it's sinking. His rank was Chief Stoker. One thing that has puzzled me over the years has been an Award / Medal he received from the Italian Ministro Della Marina for his act of bravery when on board the sinking HMS Russell. I have attached a copy / translation of the award should it prove of interest. Also attached is a photo of my Grandfather in uniform which I think was taken shortly after the loss of the HMS Russell. My Grandfather retired from the Royal Navy in 1921 following 30 years service and died in 1949.

Dennis R. Reed

William Reed c. 1916.


Dec. 8, 2012

I am researching my family and my grand father Corporal John Percy Tanner died on HMS Russell on 27th April 1916.  I would like to post a message on your board to ask if any one has any other details about him.  Would this be possible please. Your site was very informative and it was good to see the Roll of Honour.

Diane Freeman

Oct. 18, 2012

Thank you so much for such detailed information on the sinking of HMS Russell.  My Grandfather, RN F. H. Undrell (Stoker), survived this disaster. I am gathering information for my family archives and found your input invaluable.

Best regards,
Nina M. Allen

Apr. 9, 2012

Could you confirm that A.B. Charles Frederick (Fred), aged 17, was one of those saved from the HMS Russell when she sank in 1916. His daughter, Millie,  our friend, now living at Barton on Sea, now aged 92, has a muddled idea of the facts. Thank you in anticipation.

Peter Wells.
(OD/AB National Service CJ 950743, known as "I've had more bloody oggin in me sea boots than you've sailed over!").

Jan. 7, 2012

I am currently documenting gravestones in Houghton Regis and found these inscriptions: HMS Russell . At Houghton Regis, Garden of Remembrance, Cemetery Road:


Alan D. Winter,
Bedfordshire Highways Representative,
Houghton Regis Town Council,
Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, UK

The gravestone at Houghton Regis, Garden of Remembrance.

Close-up of the inscription at the bottom of the stone.

Jan. 26, 2009

My Grandfather, John Kinloch, was a survivor of the sinking of the Russell off Malta. I have copies of two telegrams from the Admiralty to his wife; the first advising that "List of survivors not yet received", the second "Kinloch saved". They were economical with their words!

He was a torpedoman and went on to serve on the light cruiser Centaur. After WW1 he worked at Chatham Dockyard until after WW2. I have a copy of the report of the sinking from the Times of April 29 and May 1, 1916, but of course there wasn't much room to mention the sinking of a mere battleship, with page after page of reports of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin.

David Kinloch

The first telegram.


The second telegram.


April 29, 1916 London Times page 6 article.


April 29, 1916 London Times page 8 article.


May 1, 1916 London Times article.


Nov. 9, 2008

My great uncle Arthur Gardner, age 25 was killed on HMS Russell 27th April 1916, hit a mine in Malta lost 100 lives that day. But he was awarded a medal for bravery as he threw a unexploded bomb over the side of the
ship and saved many lives. Always remember the brave-dean.

Dean Cocks

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Page published Feb. 1, 2007