Leamington family that lost four sons to war

Albion Row
Albion Row

Among the 600 names on the Leamington War Memorial for the 1914-18 war are four sons of the Russell family of Albion Row.

The four brothers were George, William, Thomas and Frederick who had all attended Clapham Terrace School and who all died while fighting at the front. The tragic story of the Russell family during the war was told in the columns of the Courier at the time.

Just as the war was coming to an end the paper reported the anguish of Mrs Sarah Russell: “It has been the sad lot of Mrs Russell of 2 Albion Row, Leamington, to have to drain the cup of sorrow to the very dregs. She has just been officially informed that her youngest son, Pte Ernest Russell, Hants Regt, was killed in action in France on September 12, so that she has now lost all her four sons in the war.”

The Courier reported that her husband William died during the war and her daughter Jane Russell died in 1916 from the shock of hearing that her fiance had been killed in action.

It added: “The sorrows of such mothers as Mrs Russell should make all English men and women resolve before God that the brave lads who have given their lives shall not have died in vain.”

At the start of the war there was good news for the Russell family. Her son Frederick was married at St John’s church to Miss Hannah Nicholls of Charles Street. He had been a choirboy at the church for seven years.

But on the same day Mrs Russell saw Frederick and two of her other sons off at Leamington station as they departed with the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

The first son to die was George in November 1914. He was killed at St Yves when a German shell burst at close quarters. At the same time his brother William was wounded in the chest and it was left to Frederick to send the sad news home. George is buried at Strand Military Cemetery in Belgium.

William, the eldest son, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1914 (see archive item below -100 years ago). He died in 1915 and is commemorated on the Ploegstreet Memorial in Belgium. He left a widow and four children.

In July 1915 the Courier reported that a third son of Mr and Mrs Russell had laid down his life for King and country. Frederick died on May 29 of wounds received five days earlier. He was 24 and was buried at Hazebrouk Communal Cemetery in France.

After Ernest’s death in 1918 he was buried at Lowrie Cemetery, Havrincourt, France.

Leamington History Group is drawing up a complete list of all the local men killed in action with a biography of each of them and photographs of as many as possible. This will be available on their website. They would like to find out more about the Russell family and any other local men who died in the first WorldWar.

If you can help contact Alan Griffin on 01926 314711.

Next week: Leamington History Group’s ‘Streets of Sorrow’ project.