The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

G.W. Russell


The personal details of G.W. Russell have not been found. In October 1918 he was a young rating working at the Naval Air Station at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, Cork. This air base was only commissioned in July 1918, though there were personnel present from March, and was used for anti-submarine patrols by seaplanes. On the 10th of October a small group of Americans from Whiddy island travelled on RMS Leinster, possibly going on leave. Most, though not all, survived the sinking. Russell was one of this group.

One of this naval group, Frank A Martin, spoke to the press after the sinking and described how he and several other Americans had tried to get some lifeboats launched but failed before the final torpedo hit. Martin went on to say that he found himself in the water without a life belt, “hardly any of my party had life belts, it was our own fault and risk, we did not put them on”.

Another American on board the Leinster was Captain Hutch Cone, in command of the U.S. Naval Aviation Forces who had just finished a tour of inspection of the naval air bases in Ireland, including Whiddy Island. In a lengthy report which he made while in hospital in Dublin he mentioned that, while lying on a life raft with both legs broken following the explosion, he “spied an American Bluejacket (naval rating) who proved to be a boy named Russell from Whiddy Island, floating in a white circular lifebuoy”. Cone encouraged him on to the raft which Russell did, taking the lifebuoy with him.

The Americans were eventually rescued and taken to the Sailors War Hostel in Dublin. They were mentioned by the American Consul in his telegram report to Washington of the sinking on the 10th when he named some of the Americans who were on board, including G.W. Russell.



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