• Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant Robert Dobree Russell, 7 squadron, 15th Corps Wing, Royal Flying Corps


Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Second Lieutenant Robert Dobree Russell, 7 squadron, 15th Corps Wing, Royal Flying Corps, died from wounds received in action seven days earlier while serving in France.

His parents’ youngest son, he was born in England – his family emigrated to New Zealand when he was a small child, returning to England in 1911 when he was thirteen years old. He planned to study engineering and was a pupil at Wellington College until the spring of 1915 – while there he distinguished himself as a member of the School Shooting Eight.

He enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps, making unusually rapid progress and was soon in possession of the coveted wings. On being sent to France at the beginning of August in 1916, he was appointed to No. 7 Squadron, 15th Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, close to the commune of Albert on the Somme. He made daily flights over the German lines, directing artillery fire by wireless. It had already been recognized that a brilliant career lay ahead of him.

On the 26th of August, Second Lieutenant Russell was grievously injured when a shell exploded at his feet, killing his observer. He was unconscious when the plane landed, and he was taken to a field hospital where his severely-damaged legs were operated on in efforts to save his life. His condition worsened over the next few days and he is reported to have died from shock. He is buried in the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l'Abbe, on the Somme. His older brother, Francis Gerald Russell was to be killed in action the following January while flying with 21 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.

Robert, from Torquay, was 18 years old.

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