Cyril Ernest Shaftesbury Russell
Captain, Royal Air Force
Cyril Ernest Shaftesbury Russell was born 4th April 1888 and lived at 59 Oakhurst Grove, East Dulwich and attended Alleyn’s with his brother, Joseph, until 1902. Cyril earned his pilot’s certificate at Christ Church Oxford and joined the Royal Flying Corps 149 Squadron as a 2nd Lieutenant in March 1916. He went with them overseas in the following October but was sent home due to injury that December. He was appointed flight commander at the Oxford Aerodrome in September 1917 and became a flying instructor firstly at Oxford and then at Yatesbury. Cyril served for the duration of the war and saw action in France and Flanders during his time overseas.
No. 149 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Yapton, Sussex, on 3rd March 1918, as a night-bomber unit and three months later it went to France equipped with FE2bs. Engaged in bombing enemy communications, airfields, etc., as well as on reconnaissance duties on the Second Army Front, it dropped more than 80 tons of bombs and made 161 reconnaissances.
Captain CES Russell designed a "flame reducer" which was fitted to all of the FEs. This successfully damped all exhaust flame, which was an important requirement for night-flying aircraft. All aircraft were fitted with special racks, designed by one of the squadron's mechanics which could carry either Michelin flares or bombs without modification. The FEs were thus instantly adaptable for either bombing or reconnaissance. Of the squadron's original 18 FEs which flew to France in June 1918, seven were still in service on Armistice Day. After the Armistice No. 149 was the only FE squadron chosen to accompany the Army of Occupation into Germany: it was based in Bickenbach. It returned to the United Kingdom in March 1919, and was disbanded at Tallaght, Co. Dublin, the following August.
By March 1919, Cyril had been promoted to Captain and was serving in Cologne with the Army of Occupation when he fell ill with influenza and pneumonia. He later died on March 5th 1919. His brother, Joseph also died during the war on November 23rd 1916. Cyril is buried at Cologne Southern Cemetery.
Cyril was survived by his wife and three children; one of which, Henry Michael Russell, attended Dulwich College and who was, himself, killed in action in WW2 in July 1942 while serving in the RAF.
With thanks to Cyril's grandson, and Alleyn's Old Boy, Howard Nye for much of this information and for the photograph.