b. 22/06/1826 Sothern Hill, Berkshire. d. 13/04/1883 Reading, Berkshire.
Sir Charles Russell (1826-1883) was the second surviving son of Sir Henry Russell, Baronet and his wife Marie Clotilde, the daughter of Baron Benoit Mottet de la Fontaine. He was born on 22nd June 1826 at Sothern Hill, near Reading, Berkshire. He was educated at Eton before joining the 35th Regiment of Foot in 1846.
He began his Army career with the Regiment in Ireland, before being posted to Mauritius. In 1848, the Duke of Wellington, who was a personal friend of Charles’ father, gave Charles his commission in the Grenadier Guards. He became Lieutenant and Captain in 1853, accompanying his Regiment to the Crimea.
He took part in the Battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman, and the Siege and Capture of Sebastopol, serving as Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General to the 1st Division. On the 7th November 1854 at the Battle of Inkerman, Brevet Major Russell offered to dislodge a party of Russians from the Sandbag Battery if anyone would follow him. Sergeant Norman, and Privates Anthony Palmer and Bailey (who was killed) volunteered the first. The attack duly succeeded. During the incident, Russell began by firing his revolver at a Russian who barred the way. The pistol snapped, but pulling again, Charles killed the man. At that moment a Grenadier tapped him on the shoulder and said “You was near done for.” “Oh no, he was some way from me” was Charles’ reply. The Grenadier then rejoined “His bayonet was all but into you when I clouted him on the head”. Looking around, Charles saw that the Guardsman was telling the truth and had saved him from the attack. “Well,” said Charles, “if I live through this you shall not be forgotten. What is your name?” “Anthony Palmer” was the reply. Palmer would not be forgotten either earning a promotion and like Russell, the Victoria Cross.
Russell’s VC was gazetted in the London Gazette on 24th February 1857, and was one of the 62 men who gathered in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857 to receive the decoration from Queen Victoria. Russell had inherited his baronetcy in 1852 and the family estate at Swallowfield Park, Berkshire.
For his services in the Crimea, he also received the Crimean Medal with four clasps, the Turkish Medal, the Legion of Honour and the Medjidie. In 1855, he was promoted to Major, and in 1858 to Lieutenant Colonel. He retired from the Army in 1868, having been in 1865 elected MP for Berkshire for the Conservatives. He would be an MP until 1868. Incidentally, whilst he was one of the three MPs for Berkshire, one of the other two was also a VC recipient, Robert Loyd-Lindsay.
In 1874, he returned to Parliament as MP for Westminster, and in 1877 he was appointed Colonel of the 4th Middlesex Volunteers. Russell died unmarried on 14th April 1883 at his estate at Swallowfield and was succeeded to the baronetcy by his brother, Sir George Russell. Charles was buried in the family vault at All Saints Church, Swallowfield. His medals are held by the Grenadier Guards RHQ, Wellington Barracks, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GRENADIER GUARDS RHQ, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ALL SAINTS CHURCH VAULT, SWALLOWFIELD, BERKSHIRE.
Kevin Brazier – Image of the Russell VC Vault at All Saints Church, Swallowfield, Berkshire.