Frederick “Fred” Arthur Russell was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on the 1st July 1883, the son of Frederick and Nellie (otherwise spelt as Nelly) Russell. On completing his education, he trained for a time as an architect. In 1915, he lived with his widowed mother at Laurel Cottage, Redhouse Lane, West Kirby, Cheshire. At that time, ‘Laurel Cottage’ was also the home of a James Carroll, who may have been Fred’s uncle.
He was a professional sailor in the British Mercantile Marine and engaged as a first class waiter in the Stewards Department, on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915, at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.). He then reported for duty on the morning of 17th April, in time for the liner’s last ever sail down the River Mersey. It was his third voyage on the ship.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York without mishap, Frederick Russell was still serving on board in the same capacity on the early afternoon of 1st May, as the
Lusitania left New York on the start of her return voyage to Liverpool. Then, six days into the voyage, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland. At that time, she was only about fourteen hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port. Waiter Russell managed to survive this action and having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown, he eventually made it back to Merseyside.
There, on 11th May 1915, he described his survival to a reporter of The Birkenhead News and Advertiser, and his experiences, which were published in the newspaper the following day, stated: -
He says that he never actually came into contact with the water at all, having jumped into one of the collapsible boats which had been launched. He was still exhausted but was thankful to say that with the exception of an occasional bruise, he was little the worse for his horrifying experiences.
First Class Waiter Russell was eventually officially discharged from the Lusitania’s last voyage and paid the balance of wages owed to him. These, from 17th April until the 8th May, 24 hours after the liner went down, amounted to £4-9s-6d., (£4.42½p.).
Fred Russell had three brothers who served in the armed forces during the Great War. One of them, 3792 Rifleman John Russell of the 1st/6th Battalion of The King's Liverpool Regiment was killed in action on the Somme, on 7th August 1916, aged 26 years.
Fred Russell died at Hoylake Cottage Hospital, Hoylake, Cheshire, on the 31st January 1953, aged 69 years. His address at this time was at 85. South Parade, West Kirby, Cheshire. On 6th May 1953, probate of his estate was granted to his brother, Raymond Russell, his effects amounting to £757-16s-0d, (£757.80p).
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Birkenhead News, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, Soldiers Died, Probate Records, PRO BT 350.