1 December 1896|
|Died||4 February 1978
British Indian Army
|Years of service||1915–1954|
|Commands held||6th Royal Battalion (Scinde), 13th Frontier Force Rifles (1938–1940)
Indian 5th Infantry Brigade (September 1941 – January 1943)
Indian 8th Infantry Division (1943–1945)
Indian 5th Infantry Division (1946–1947)
Delhi and East Punjab Command (1947–1948)
Chief British Advisor to the Indian Army (1948–1954)
|Battles/wars||East African Campaign
Western Desert Campaign
CB (5 July 1945)
CBE (31 August 1944)
OBE (30 December 1941)
DSO (9 July 1942)
MC (8 March 1919)
MID (24 June 1943)
MID (19 July 1945)
LM (Commander) (31 July 1945)
Russell received a temporary commission in 1914 and in 1915 joined the 7th battalion of the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) with whom he served during World War I. In October 1917 he transferred to the British Indian Army and in November was commissioned as a lieutenant into the 97th Deccan Infantry serving in Egypt. In March 1919, as an acting captain he was awarded the MC, the citation for which read
In the attack on the Tabsor system of trenches on the 19th September, 1918, he displayed conspicuous gallantry and leadership. His personal example of coolness, the marked skill with which he led his company under very heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, and his initiative in locating the objective, enabled the two attacking companies to capture the position with promptness and very few casualties
Russell's promotion to substantive captain did not come until 1923 but was antedated to June 1919.
In the 1922 reorganisation of the Indian Army his regiment became the 3rd battalion 19th Hyderabad Regiment. During the period between the World Wars he attended the Staff College at Quetta. In 1935 he transferred to the 6th Royal (Scinde) battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles. In 1936 he qualified as a higher standard interpreter in Pashto which resulted in his widely used nickname of The Pasha.[nb 1] He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in April 1938 and commanded the 6th battalion from 1938 to 1940.
World War II
In August 1940 his battalion joined Indian 9th Infantry Brigade, part of the newly formed Indian 5th Infantry Division and was shipped to the Sudan. Here he was appointed the division's GSO1 (senior headquarters staff officer) replacing Frank Messervy who took command of Gazelle Force which was being formed as a mobile strike force to operate against the Italians along the border with Eritrea.
From October 1940 to August 1941 during the East African Campaign Colonel Russell continued in this role performing a key function in the campaign fought by 4th and 5th Indian Infantry Division in Eritrea. He negotiated the surrender of the Italian forces commanded by Amadeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta at Amba Alagi. For his services in East Africa Russell was awarded the OBE.
5th Indian Division moved to Cairo in June 1941 and then Iraq in August, returning to Egypt in October more or less coincidental with Russell's promotion to brigadier and assuming command of Indian 4th Infantry Division's Indian 5th Infantry Brigade, part of XIII Corps in the newly created Eighth Army.
On 18 November 1941 Eighth Army launched Operation Crusader. Initially Russell's brigade, short of transport, was delegated to protect lines of communication. By 26 November it was moving to the front. By mid December the brigade was involved in intense fighting against the armour of Rommel's Afrika Korps at Alem Hamsa where the 1st Buffs were destroyed as a fighting unit and were temporarily replaced by 1st battalion 6th Rajputana Rifles.
In March 1942 4th Indian Division was dispersed and the brigade was sent to Palestine but hastilly summoned back to the western desert after Rommel's breakthrough at the Battle of Gazala. Initially attached to 5th Indian Division, the brigade was transferred to Indian 10th Infantry Division as it withdrew from Libya to the defensive position at Mersa Matruh in Egypt. On 28 June the brigade found its line of withdrawal from Metrsa Matruh cut and was forced to break out southwards into the desert in small parties before turning east and reforming behind the defensive position at El Alamein. For his leadership of the brigade in the period from November 1941 to April 1942 Russell was awarded in September 1942 the DSO.
Having reorganised, the brigade was once more attached to 5th Indian Division and during mid July fought in the Battles of Ruweisat Ridge, part of series of engagements now called the First Battle of El Alamein. The brigade continued to hold positions on or near the Ruweisat Ridge up to November and the Second Battle of El Alamein. By this time 5th Indian Division had been relieved and the brigade was once more part of 4th Indian Division. For his services between May and October Russell was mentioned in despatches.
4th Indian Division's initial role in the second Alamein battle was to make diversionary displays from Ruweisat Ridge while the main offensive went into the north. In early November 2nd New Zealand Division had made a salient into the Axis lines and 5th Indian Brigade were attached to the exhausted 51st (Highland) Infantry Division to complete the breakthrough. By dawn on 4 November the brigade had secured its objectives opening the way for the British armour.
Iraq and Syria
In January 1943 Russell was appointed acting major-general to command 8th Indian Infantry Division in Iraq. When the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad removed the threat to Iraq and Persia from the Caucasus the division was moved to Syria for training. In June 1943 the division was ordered to seize the island of Rhodes but the Armistice with Italy forestalled the operation.
In September 1943 the division landed in Taranto in southern Italy to become engaged for the rest of the war in the Italian Campaign. For the next three months the division fought up the eastern side of Italy as part of Eighth Army's V Corps, making crossings of the rivers Biferno, Trigno and in late November the Sangro. By mid December they had crossed the Moro but Eighth Army called off offensive operations as deteriorating winter weather and conditions underfoot made further attacks impractical and 8th Indian Division were tasked to hold the front between Orsogna and the Apennine mountains.
At the beginning of May 1944 8th Indian Division had been attached to XIII Corps and switched in secrecy across the Apennines to the mouth of the Liri valley beneath Monte Cassino for the fourth Battle of Cassino, Operation Diadem. 8th Indian and British 4th Divisions were given the job to get across the fast flowing Rapido river and establish bridgeheads. The attack went in on the night of 11 May and by 09.00 the next morning Russell's divisional engineers had erected a Bailey bridge to allow supporting armour into the bridgehead to repel German armoured counterattacks. By 13 May the Germans fell back and 1st Canadian Infantry Division passed through the bridgehead to lead the advance. 8th Indian Division now came under X Corps for a 150 mile advance before being rested at the end of June. In August 1944 Russell was awarded the CBE.
After three week's rest the division re-joined XIII Corps, which by this time formed the right wing of the U.S. Fifth Army, to liberate Florence before moving into the central Apennines and advance north east to confront the Gothic Line. Monte Citerna on the Gothic line was taken on 9 September but this only heralded another two and a half months fighting, making slow progress in poor conditions and wild terrain.
In late 1944, as Eighth Army ground its way forward across the division's front from the right, the Germans withdrew from 8th Indian Division's sector to shorten their front line and lines of communication. In late December Russell was ordered to take two brigades to the far western wing of the Fifth Army where the inexperienced U.S. 92nd Infantry Division was thought by army commander Lucian Truscott to be very vulnerable. On 26 December the Germans broke through towards Russell's rearguard positions but the attack was not carried through and 8th Indian Division recovered the lost ground. The division was then withdrawn to rest at Pisa.
In 8 February Indian Division was moved to the Adriatic front once more to join Eighth Army's V Corps once again and take up positions on the river Senio. The main attack on the Senio started on 9 April 1945. By the evening 8th Indian Division with the New Zealanders on their left, had in furious fighting against desperate defence created a bridgehead one and a half miles deep. On 11 April they made a strongly opposed crossing of the river Santerno before allowing 78th Infantry Division to pass through into the Argenta Gap. After a brief pause for rest, during which time 78th Division and 56th Division had forced the Argenta Gap defences, 8th Indian Division were put back in the front line to take Ferrara and be the first Eighth Army formation to reach the river Po. After crossing the Po the division crossed the river Adige on 28 April and was ordered to halt.
Following the formal cessation of hostilities on 2 May 8 Indian Division was repatriated to India during June. Russell's temporary rank of major-general was made substantive in November and he was appointed Companion of the Bath (CB). He was also mentioned in despatches and received the United States Legion of Merit, Degree of Commander.
The 8th Indian Division was disbanded in April 1946 and Russell was appointed to command 5th Indian Division. In 1947 Russell became C-in-C Delhi and East Punjab Command in the acting rank of lieutenant-general before in 1948 becoming Chief Advisor to the Indian Army. He was knighted KBE in the 1950 New Year's honours list at the request of the Indian government and retired in July 1954 retaining the honorary rank of lieutenant-general.
Married Elizabeth Birket in 1929
Honours and decorations
- Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire 2 January 1950 (CBE 31 August 1944, OBE, 30 December 1941
- Companion of the Order of the Bath 5 June 1945
- Distinguished Service Order 9 September 1942
- Military Cross 8 March 1919
- Mention in Despatches 24 June 1943, 23 June 1945
- Commander, Legion of Merit (United States) 2 August 1945
- Ammentorp, Steen. "Generals of World War II". Retrieved 30 July 2007.
- Anon (1946). One More River: The Story of The Eighth Indian Division. Bombay: H.W. Smith, Times of India Press.
- Anon (1946). The Tiger Triumphs: The Story of Three Great Divisions in Italy. HMSO.
- Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "World War II unit histories and officers". Retrieved 25 July 2007.
- Mackenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic. London: Chatto & Windus. OCLC 1412578.
- Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. pp. 544 pages. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
- Historian Richard Mead suggests the nickname was because of his moustache.
- The London Gazette: . 30 December 1949. Retrieved 26 September 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 3 July 1945. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 29 August 1944. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 26 December 1941. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 8 September 1942. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 7 March 1919. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 22 June 1943. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 17 July 1945. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 31 July 1945. Retrieved 26 September 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 23 November 1917. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 21 June 1918. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 3 October 1919. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 7 September 1923. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- Richard Mead, p.402
- The London Gazette: . 2 September 1938. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- Richard Mead, p.403
- The London Gazette: . 9 March 1943. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- Richard Mead, p.404
- Richard Mead, p.405
- The London Gazette: . 8 February 1946. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 30 July 1954. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 30 July 1954. Retrieved 5 August 2008.