Edward was an only child, born in Crayford sometime between October and December 1895. His mother, Sarah, (born in East Greenwich) was around 40 years old when she gave birth to him. At the time of the 1901 Census, he and his parents were living at 12 Grove Cottage, Crayford Hill, Kent. His father, also called Edward (born in East Molesley, Surrey), was employed as a Domestic Gardener and Edward attended the Bexley Heath National School.
By the time of the 1911 Census the family had moved to 44 High Street, Welling. His father was by then listed as 49 years old (although the 1901 records indicate he was around 10 years older) and he was self-employed as a Garden Contractor. Edward worked with his father as his Assistant. It was a well known business in the Bexleyheath and Welling area and was registered in the 1915 Kelly’s Directory.
On the 1st December 1913, Edward married Violet Elizabeth Mary Knight. At that time Edward’s address was given as 3 East Street, Bexleyheath and Violet’s as 6 Manchester Row, Crayford. Violet was 22 years old, but interestingly Edward’s age was given as 22 whereas his real age would appear to be no more than 18. This may have been because their first child, Emily, was born in the same month that they married. In June 1915 they had a son, and named him Edward (J). The young family moved at some time to 3 Danson Lane, Welling, Kent, which was Edward’s home at the time of his death.
Edward enlisted as part of the Derby Scheme that was introduced when volunteer numbers for the armed services were falling and prior to the introduction of full scale conscription. His occupation was not deemed as an essential service. It is probable that Edward was in Group 26 of the scheme and therefore would not have been called to serve until April 1916, possibly not seeing active service until late 1916/early 1917.
Edward joined the 1/7th County of London Battalion, The London Regiment, Service number 354441. This was a Territorial Regiment that mobilised between August 1914 and March 1915 when it was sent to France as part of the 140th Brigade, 47th (2/1st) London Division. The Regiment’s nickname was ”The Shiny Seventh” as they were the only one of the original Rifle Regiments that initially still wore the regulation red coats with shiny brass buttons, whereas all other Regiments wore green coats and black buttons.
The battalion saw action throughout late 1915 at Festubert and Loos and during 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, Flers and the Transloy Ridge. These actions would be prior to Edward joining the Battalion.
Edward was initially given the role of a Dispatch Rider but was then sent to the front as a Bomber, sometimes known as being a member of the ”suicide squad” because of the danger in this role.
Edward was killed in action, aged 22, on the 7th June 1917 in the Ypres – Comines Canal section on the first day of the Battle of Messines Ridge, a precursor to the 3rd Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele, although that was only the final two stages of 3rd Ypres in late 1917. His passing was mentioned in the Bexleyheath Observer dated 10th August 1917, although his age was stated as 24.
Edward is buried at Voormezelle Cemetery Enclosure Number 3, Grave Ref.XVI.A.1. This is approximately 4km south west of Ypres on the Ypres to Kemmel Road.
This story has been researched by volunteers. We have taken every effort to ensure its accuracy. If you are related to this soldier, or if you have any further information, please do get in touch.
Commemorated at Home
Welling War Memorial
The East Wickham and Welling War Memorial Trust will be adding Edward Russell to our War Memorial during the centenary period.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission: cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/456988/RUSSELL,%20E