Military Wiki
HMS Russell (1901)
HMS Russell LOC LC-DIG-ggbain-21816.jpg
HMS Russell
Career (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: The Duncan-class battleships were known informally as "The Admirals"
Fate: Sunk by mine 27 April 1916 off Malta
General characteristics
Class & type: Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 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: 18,000 ihp
Propulsion: 24 Belleville water tube boilers
4-cylinder triple expansion
2 shafts[2]
Speed: 19 kt (35.2 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (12,964 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)
Complement: 720

4 × BL 12-inch (304.8 mm) Mk IX guns[3]
12 × BL 6-inch (152-mm) 45-caliber Mk VII guns[4]
10 × 12-pounder guns
6 x 3-pounder guns
2 x machine guns

4 × 18-inch (457-mm) submerged torpedo tubes[2]
Armour: Belt: 7 in (178 mm)
Bulkheads: 11 in-7 in (279 mm-178 mm)
Decks: 2 in- 1 in (51 mm-25.4mm)
Gun houses: 10 in-8 in (254 mm-203 mm)
Barbettes: 11 in-4 in (279 mm-102 mm)
Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
Conning tower: 12 in (356 mm)[2]

HMS Russell was a Duncan-class predreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy.

Technical Description

HMS Russell was laid down by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow on 11 March 1899 and launched on 19 February 1902. She 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;[5] 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.[5]

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

HMS Russell on trials in the summer of 1902

The Duncans had machinery of 3,000 more indicated horsepower 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) and an operational speed of 18 knots (33 km/h),[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 HMS Swiftsure and HMS Triumph.[6]

They had the same armament as and a smaller displacement than the Formidables and Londons.[2]

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

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. On 16 July 1908, she collided with cruiser HMS Venus off Quebec, but suffered only minor damage.[7]

On 30 July 1909, Russell transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet. Under a fleet reorganization of 1 May 1912, the Mediterranean Fleet became the 4th Battle Squadron, First Fleet, Home Fleet, and changed its base from Malta to Gibraltar;[8] Russell transferred to home waters in August 1912.[9] 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.[7]

World War I

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, and, 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) 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.[10]

Russell and her four Duncan-class sisters, as well as the battleships of the King Edward VII class, temporarily were transferred to the Channel Fleet on 2 November 1914 to reinforce that fleet 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. This squadron was given a mission of bombarding German submarine bases on the coast of Belgium, and was based at Portland, although it transferred to Dover immediately on 14 November 1914. However, due a lack of antisubmarine defences at Dover, the squadron returned to Portland on 19 November 1914. Russell participated in the bombardment of German submarine facilities at Zeebrugge on 23 November 1914.[11]

The 6th Battle Squadron returned to Dover in December 1914, then transferred to Sheerness on 30 December 1914 to relieve the 5th Battle Squadron there in guarding against a German invasion of the United Kingdom.[12]

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.[13]

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,[14] based at Mudros with Hibernia and held back in support. Her only action in the campaign[9] 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.[15]

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


Russell was steaming off Malta early on the morning of 27 April 1916 when she struck two 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] John H. D. Cunningham served aboard her at the time and survived her sinking; he would one day become First Sea Lord.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Burt, p. 198
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 37
  3. Tony DiGiulian, British 12"/40 (30.5 cm) Mark IX
  4. Tony DiGiulian, British 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VII
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gibbons, p. 159
  6. Burt, p. 202
  7. 7.0 7.1 Burt, p. 209
  8. Burt, p.209
  9. 9.0 9.1 Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9
  10. Burt, pp. 209, 211–212
  11. Burt, pp. 209, 212
  12. Burt, pp. 170, 212
  13. Burt, p. 212
  14. Burt, p. 211
  15. Burt, p. 209, 211–212
  16. Burt, p. 211, although Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9, puts the loss of life at 126 rather than 125


  • 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 Allen, 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.

Coordinates: 35°54′N 14°36′E / 35.9°N 14.6°E / 35.9; 14.6

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