Russell, or Russ as he was known to his friends, was born on the 18th March 1917 in Ballarat, Victoria. Before the War, he trained as a mining engineer at the Ballarat School of Mines and was working at Mt Isa when he enlisted in the RAAF in 1941. He trained as a pilot in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme and was posted to 453 Squadron RAAF when it was re-formed at Drem, Scotland in 1942.
Russ enlisted in the RAAF on the 2nd February 1941 and very quickly rose through the ranks to Squadron Leader. He was discharged on the 8th August 1945.
The photo is of Russ on the left and Patrick V. McDade on the right, sharing a laugh somewhere in England. The other one is of Russ with some other 453 Squadron pilots at Drem in Scotland in June 1942. From left to right: Pilot Officer T.A. Swift, Pilot Officer F.T. Thornley (KIA 15th August 1943), Pilot Officer R.J. Darcey, Pilot Officer R.HS. Ewins and Sergeant L.J. Hansell. Then there is one of Russ and his motorbike.
Operating out of Perranporth in Cornwall, 453 Squadron CO, Squadron Leader D.G. Andrews was leading seven spitfires on an offensive sweep near Brest in France when the Squadron achieved its greatest single victory. They had almost reached their turning point at 08:30 hrs when eight Me-110s were seen in formation low on the water. As the Spitfires dived to intercept, the enemy scattered but were easily brought to combat and five were shot down, two by Flying Officer P.V. McDade, two by Pilot Officer C.R. Leith and one by Russ. Soon afterward, engine trouble forced Russ to bale out over the sea. On the water he inflated his dinghy and climbed in as eight Me-110s flew low over him. They disappeared then about an hour later two Spitfires flew round about five miles to the south. Eight Me-110s pounced on them and Russ watched the battle. He saw an Me-110 shot down by a Spitfire and saw a German bale out from it while the machine belly landed on the water half a mile away. Soon after that, Russ was picked up by a destroyer and taken to England. The photos are of Russ in his dinghy and then on board the Royal navy destroyer.
Russell’s Half Yearly Return of Flying Hours show an interesting collection of aircraft.
Thanks to Russell’s nephew, Peter Holm
The Spitfire Association