Russell, Thomas (No. 12167)

Russell, Thomas


No. 12167, 2nd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry

Killed in action on Wednesday 28 October 1914 (aged 18)


Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France (Grave III. A. 18)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s)

Brother of Private Andrew Russell (No. 6693)

Brother of Ex-Sergeant John Russell (No. 4/6377)


Thomas Russell was born on 9 August 1896 in Mark Street, Newtownards, and he was a son of Andrew and Eliza Russell (nee Bell) who were married on 24 June 1875 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church St Mark’s).  Andrew Russell from East Street, Newtownards was a son of Andrew Russell, a labourer.  Eliza Bell from West Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Joseph Bell, a labourer.

The Russell family lived in Robert Street and later at 18 Mark Street, Newtownards.

Andrew Russell Senior worked as a general labourer and before that he had been a soldier in the South African War.  He died of pneumonia in Newtownards Workhouse on 17 June 1906 (aged 54).

From census and other sources, it may be concluded that Andrew and Eliza Russell (nee Bell) had at least twelve children:

Joseph (Joe, born around 1872 in Co Down, from census returns – aged 39 in 1911; around 1876 from marriage records – aged 38 in 1914)

Andrew (born 4 July 1876 in Circular Street, Newtownards)

Mary (born 24 June 1878 in South Street, Newtownards)

John (born 12 noon 30 April 1880 at 42 Inverkip Street, Greenock while his father was working as a plasterer’s labourer)

Andrew (born 12.00 pm 2 November 1882 in West Street, Newtownards)

Eliza (Lizzie, born 1.00 am 3 November 1882 in West Street, Newtownards; her son William, known as Willie, was born 18 July 1903 at Shuttlefield, Newtownards; in the 1911 Census, William was listed as her mother Eliza’s son; Lizzie married Thomas Clarke 9 December 1911)

Samuel (Sam, born 16 January 1885 in Mark Street, Newtownards)

Mary (born 1 January 1887 in Mark Street, Newtownards; died of hydrocephalus 25 May 1890)

Agnes (born 4 May 1889 in Mill Street, Newtownards)

Mary (born 18 November 1891 in Mark Street, Newtownards)

Jane (born 19 November 1892 in Mark Street, Newtownards)

Thomas (born 9 August 1896 in Mark Street, Newtownards)

In 1914, it was reported in the Press that, at the outset of the Great War, five of Eliza Russell’s sons were on active service:

Joseph Russell, Royal Irish Rifles, formerly Royal Irish Fusiliers

John Russell, Royal Irish Rifles

Andrew Russell, Cameron Highlanders

Samuel Russell, No. 6800, ‘C’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Thomas Russell, Highland Light Infantry

Thomas was the second of the two Russell brothers to die during the Great War.

His brother John died after the war ended and is commemorated on Newtownards War Memorial.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Thomas Russell worked as an apprentice.  He enlisted in 1913 and shortly after the outbreak of the Great War he was wounded in the cheek.  Private Thomas Russell returned to the fighting line and it was reported in the Press that he had been killed in action at Saint Julia on 28 October 1914.

Private Thomas Russell (No. 12167) was 18 when he died and he was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.  There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:



Private Thomas Russell (No. 12167) is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).

In the 7 November 1914 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle the Editor published a letter from Thomas Russell’s brother, Rifleman Samuel Russell (No. 6800), to his mother.  At the time Samuel was in No. 2 Military Hospital, Beckett’s Park, Leeds recovering from severe gunshot wounds to his shoulder and he was not aware that Thomas had been killed.  Rifleman Samuel Russell was wounded on 25 October 1914 during fighting in the trenches at La Bassee.  Many of his comrades lost their lives or were very severely wounded.  At the same time his brother John was in hospital at Stobcross, Glasgow in Scotland and his brother Joseph was in hospital at Leicester.

Private Thomas Russell’s mother, brothers and sisters placed an In Memoriam notice in the 30 October 1915 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:

Although we are in a far-off land,

And your grave we cannot see,

As long as life and memory last

We still remember thee.

His brothers, Sam, and Joe, served and survived the War:

Sam Russell (No. 6800) enlisted as a Rifleman (No. 4505) in the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 4 April 1902. He had been a gardener.  He joined the Regular Army on 7 July 1902 and went to the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 4 October 1904. He joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 22 October1912, G Company, employed as a Cook, Sergeants’ Mess 5 April 1913. Rated 1st Class in his Musketry Certification on 13 June 1913. He went with the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 and was wounded on 27 October1914. He was transported to England and admitted to No. 2 Military Hospital, Beckett’s Park, Leeds. He wrote a letter home from hospital, and it was published in the Newtownards Chronicle, on 7 November1914:

‘Dear Mother and Sister.  Just a few lines to let you know that I am getting all right. My shoulder is badly knocked out, but it is free from any shell or bullets now, so it is not so bad. I expect to be out of the hospital about the middle of the month. I might have to go to some private home or a convalescent home for about 14 days after I come out of here, but I hope not. I was taken prisoner by the Germans, and it was while fighting for my freedom that I got hit. I was knocked completely over the trench, where I lay for 4½ hours until relief came [from the Lincolnshire Regiment]. The Germans captured 22 of my company, but before 3 o’clock that evening we captured 17 of them and killed about 30. We lost an awful lot, including officers and men. I never saw any of my regiment from 3 o’clock on Monday until now, but there are hundreds coming after me for treatment, all as bad as I am, some ten times worse. Well, mother, I don’t want to talk about these things, but you can tell Johnny that Dan Neills [Nelis] and Hammy Scott were killed and young McDowell [10169 William] is in the hospital along with me, wounded in the arm and leg, but is getting along all right. He is Jackie McDowell’s brother. We got a great welcome at Leeds. We were taken to the hospital in private motor cars. You would have thought that the King had landed, the people couldn’t have given us a more enthusiastic reception. This hospital is only opened this week and it holds about 1,500 and there is numerous nursing staff in it – doctors, nurses, Army medical men, and all sorts. I would be awfully thankful to you if you could send me a razor and shaving brush and small glass. I haven’t got one article of my kit only what is on me. I have had no shave for this last three weeks so you can tell how I feel and imagine what I look like.’  The Evening Herald reported on 14 December 1914: ‘He was being led away by the Germans and was apparently so intent on the wounded hand that the guard was relaxed. He then made a dash for his own lines, reaching them in spite of the enemy’s fire.’ By 22 May 1915 he was a patient at King George V Hospital, Dublin and went to the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 29 May 1915. He was discharged as being no longer physically fit for war service due to rheumatism on 3 October 1916, Silver War Badge No. B229085. He later served as 278987 Private and WR/29986 Private with the Royal Engineers. Lance Corporal Sam Russell was discharged with arthritis on 3 May 1919.

Joe Russell (No. 4151) served as a Private with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers during the South African War and was taken Prisoner of War on 30 October 1899 and held at Nicholson’s Nek.  He was released at Nooitgedacht on 5 September 1900. He was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Talana, Orange Free State, and Transvaal.  He continued to serve until the termination of his engagement. In 1901 his parents and some of his siblings were living in Robert Street, Newtownards.  He was residing at Front Shuttlefield, Newtownards, when he and Ellen Jane Smyth were married on 5 April 1905 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office.  Ellen had a son, William, born out of wedlock on 16 September 1895.  After his mother got married, William changed his surname from Smyth to Russell.

Joe and Ellen Jane Russell (nee Smyth) had at least three children:

James McKnight (born 16 April 1905 in Marquis Street, Newtownards)

Norman (born 16 June 1908 in Balfour Street, Newtownards)

Hugh Hamilton (born 3 April 1911 in William Street, Newtownards)

Ellen Jane Russell (nee Smyth) died from tuberculosis at Mark Street, Newtownards on 5 August 1913 (aged 38).

Joe Russell and Annie Orr were married on 13 June 1914 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Belfast.  Annie Orr already had at least three children born out of wedlock:

Mary Ellen Orr (born 25 July 1906 in Newtownards Workhouse)

David (born 5 October 1909 in King Street, Bangor)

Stanley Robert (born 22 July 1912 in Castle Square, Bangor)

Joe and Annie Russell (nee Smyth) had at least two children:

Joseph (born 6 February 1915 at 47 King Street, Bangor)

Annie Eleanor (born 19 January 1920 in Grovehill, Bangor)

Joe Russell, a labourer, was mobilized to the 4th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 5 August 1914 (No. 4/6756).  Aged 39, he was 5 feet 11 inches tall, with grey eyes, and dark brown hair.  His address was 2 Brewery Lane, Newtownards. He went to the British Expeditionary Force on 11 November 1914 and posted to the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. He was admitted to the 13th General Hospital, Boulogne, with a slight wound and frostbite on 15 December 1914. He rejoined the 4th Battalion RIR on 29 January 1915, was posted to the 6th Battalion RIR on 16 October 1915, returned to the UK on 31 August 1916, rejoined the 4th Battalion RIR on 16 September 1916, transferred as No. 74413 to 300 Company, Royal Defence Corps, on 27 May 1918 and to 265th Protection Company on 2 June 1918, transferred as No. 662357 to Southern Command Labour Centre, Labour Corps on 27 September 1918, transferred to the 384th Home Service Labour Company on 26 October 1918. He went to Class Z Reserve on 27 February 1919 (disordered action of the heart – D.A.H. – and malaria. His address was 1 Brickfield Cottage, Donaghadee Road, Bangor, Co. Down. In 1927 he requested replacements for his QSA and 1914 Star medals.

His brother-in-law, Lizzie’s husband, Trooper Thomas Clarke (No. 794) served with the North Irish Horse, and later as No. 71106 with the Corps of Hussars.