No. 18/529, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 22)
Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, France (Grave VI. F. 14)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for
Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards
John Russell was born on 21 March 1894 in Newtownards and he was a son of John and Maggie Russell (nee Bowers) who were married on 27 January 1894 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office. John Russell (aged 18), a weaver from Greenwell Street, Newtownards was a son of William John Russell, a weaver. Maggie Bowers (aged 20) from Ballystockart, Comber was a daughter of William Bowers, a labourer.
The Russell family lived in Frederick Street, Newtownards.
John Russell Senior and Maggie Russell (nee Bowers) had at least seven children, some of whom were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards:
John (born 21 March 1894 in the Workhouse, Newtownards)
Jane (born 3 October 1895 in Ballyalton)
Maggie (born 10 February 1897 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)
Annie (born 5 September 1899 in Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards)
James (born 12 May 1903 in Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards)
William (born 7 May 1905 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Robert Bowers (born 13 February 1907 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War both John Russell Senior and John Russell Junior worked as agricultural labourers and during the war both served in the Army.
John Russell Junior and Mary Russell (nee Russell) were married on 27 December 1915 in First Donaghadee Presbyterian Church. Mary Russell from Newtownards was a daughter of Thomas Russell, a labourer.
Their son John was born on 3 September 1916, two months after his father was killed in action. Baby John Russell was baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.
John Russell enlisted in Newtownards in September 1915 and he joined the 18th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. He was posted overseas to the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. Initially he was posted as missing in action after the first day of the Battle of the Somme and then, in July 1917, it was officially confirmed that he must be presumed to have been killed on that date or since.
Two For King and Country notices were placed in the 14 July 1917 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle, one by his wife Mary and his son John who lived at 13 Circular Row Newtownards and one by his sister-in-law Susan Russell and his cousin Annie Wilson. The notice placed by his widow and son contained the verse:
Only in form we both are parted,
But my heart will true remain;
But some day we’ll be united,
Never more to part again.
The notice placed by his sister-in-law and cousin contained the verse:
His pleasant face and kindly smile
Are pleasant to recall;
He had a kindly word for each,
And died beloved by all.
Rifleman John Russell’s widow Mary and son John placed an In Memoriam notice in the 6 July 1918 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
May the heavenly winds blow softly
O’er that sweet and hallowed spot.
Though the sea divides us from your grave,
You will never be forgot.
Rifleman John Russell’s body was recovered from the battlefield and buried in June 1927. He is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial (as John Russell Frederick Street) and in the PCI Roll of Honour for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.