Russell, Robert Vane


Russell was the son of Commander Charles Robert Tilden Russell of the Royal Navy. Whilst at Winchester he won the prize of Modern Languages. He then went up to Trinity College, Cambridge and joined the Indian Civil Service in 1893. He served in the Central Provinces as an Assistant Commissioner and became Superintendent of Ethnography in 1902. He compiled “The Castes and Tribes of the Central Provinces”, published in 1916. As Superintendent of Census Operations he also oversaw the 1901 Census of India.

He died on 30th December 1915 when the ship on which he was travelling back to India, the SS Persia, was torpedoed without warning by U-38, a German u-boat commanded by First World War ace, Max Valentiner, off the coast of Crete.      SS Persia sank within 10 minutes of being hit, killing 343 of the 519 on board.  The sinking was highly controversial, breaking as it did, international naval laws that shipping carrying passengers should be given the opportunity for passengers to disembark before combat commenced.   A warning shot across the bows should have been given first.   Among the passengers was John Douglas-Scott-Montague, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (who survived) and his secretary, Eleanor Thornton, who was the model for the Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy”. She drowned in the incident.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Russell
  • Forenames or initials: Robert Vane
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1886-1891
  • Rank: NA
  • Regiment: Indian Civil Service
  • Date of Birth: 8th August 1873
  • Date of Death: 30th December 1915
  • How Died: Drowned
  • Location in War Cloister: Not listed
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Died at sea