Joseph Eric Russell
2nd Lieutenant, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Joseph Eric Russell lived at 59 Oakhurst Grove, East Dulwich and attended Alleyn’s with his brother, Cyril, until 1905. After leaving Alleyn’s, he decided to continue his studies at Dulwich College and later found work with Lloyds’ Register where his father worked as a printer and stationer. He was a keen cricketer and was a member of Lloyd’s Register’s Cricket XI.
After Britain’s declaration of war in August 1914, Joseph decided to enlist in the British Expeditionary Force and was one of the first to be granted commission in 10th Service Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He arrived with them in Boulogne on 31st July 1915 but left the 10th Royal Fusiliers on 7th August 1916 to join a French Cadet School and to complete officer training. Having finished this training, he was appointed a temporary position with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) as a 2nd Lieutenant in October 1916 and was sent for service overseas on the Western Front. His brother, Cyril E. S. Russell, was also part of the British war effort at this time. Joseph joined the Queen's in the field in Albert on 20th October 1916 and served as part of 7th Battalion in France.
On November 18th, he was part of the Grandcourt attack in the Battle of Ancre, the final major operation of the British Somme Offensive, when he went Missing in Action. It was later discovered that he had been fatally injured and had been taken prisoner, dying of his wounds in a German hospital on 23rd November 1916. Joseph’s body was found buried West of Buissy and on the outskirts of Cagnicourt, in what is now Queant Road Cemetery. The ground where he lay was marked with a cross. Two other soldiers who died during 19th and 23rd of November 1916 were also found with Joseph, suggesting that it was the location of the German hospital where he was held. His brother Cyril also died as a soldier in the war on March 5th 1919.
With thanks to Cyril's grandson, and Alleyn's Old Boy, Howard Nye for much of this information and for the photograph.