Other Interesting Medals
William Russell was born on Newport, Isle of
Wight on 6 Sep 1835, or at least this was the
date of birth he gave when he entered the
RN on 7 Nov ’54, making him 19 yrs of age.
He was literate & able to sign his name. He
entered on board HMS Hawke (3rd rate of
1820, 74 guns) as an Ordinary Seaman 2nd
class. On 24 May ’55 he was rated Ordinary
Seaman, presumably as he had completed his
initial training in seamanship & in sail handling.
Whilst on Hawke he was to see active service
in the 1855 Baltic campaign, thus earning him
the Baltic medal. However his conduct whilst
on Hawke was only assessed as ‘Fair’ when
paid off from her on 19 May ’56.

He entered HMS Nile(2nd rate of 1839) on 20
May ’56, this time giving his date of birth at 6
Mar ’37. When he was discharged from Nile
on 20 Apl ’57 his conduct was assessed as
‘Passable.’  He was not off to a great start in
his naval career!

His next ship was HMS Princess Charlotte
(1st rate, but assigned as Receiving ship at
Hong Kong), being promoted to AB on her
on 1 Aug. When he left her on 21 Jan ’58
his conduct was assessed as “Very Good”.
He was likely held on her books as he was
on passage to the China station to join HMS

He joined Volcano (Paddle sloop of ’36) on
22 Jan ’58 when she was on the Canton
River.  She was commanded by Master &
Commander John Hockley.  She went back &
forth from Hong Kong to the Canton River
during ’58 mainly carrying supplies & stores
for the China campaign on the Canton River.

Service on HMS Volcano entitled Russell to
the China campaign medal of 1857-1860. As
Volcano did not see any specific action during
the campaign her crew was awarded the
medal without clasp.

She left Hong Kong for UK on 3 Jan ’59,
& paid off her crew at Portsmouth on 25 May.
Russell’s conduct was assessed as “Very
Good”.  His next draft is to HMS St Vincent
until 11 July when he is drafted to HMS
Imperieuse (screw Frigate of 1852) again for
service on the China station.

Service on Imperieuse seems to have agreed
with Russell as he is promoted to 2nd
Captain of the Foretop (PO2) on 1 Apl ’60,
and then to Captain of the Foretop(PO1)
on 6 July ’62. Imperieuse spent most of her
time cruising the North China coast, she
was in Japan twice in ’61, Shanghai, &
Cheefoo in ‘61 & ’62.  

Imperieuse sailed back to UK in Nov ’62, but
Russell was turned over to Princess Charlotte
in Hong Kong on 18 Nov where he was rated
Quarter Master. He was to remain on her until
13 Oct ’64. During his time in China he his
conduct had been consistently rated as ‘Very

He arrived back in UK to Duke of Wellington
(Depot ship Portsmouth) 14 Oct ’64 & was
paid off to shore on 7 Nov - “completed C.S.”
He had completed 10 yrs, 4 days of service.
However 6 days of shore life was not to
Russell’s liking as he signed on again for ten
years CS on 13 Nov ’66, on board HMS
Urgent (Troopship of ‘55).  This time he gave
his date of birth as 6 March ’36. Again, he
was able to sign his name quite legibly.  He
was entered in his former rate of Quarter
Master (PO1). Urgent would have been taking
drafts of sailors & soldiers out to the China

On arrival, 4 Jun ’67 he is drafted to HMS
Dove(Screw gunboat of ’55) & again Russell
is stationed on the China station. Dove was
employed in surveying & patrol duties on the
coast of China working out of Hong Kong.
Now for some reason Russell is re rated
Acting Ship’s Cook, effective 21 July ‘69, a
position he holds until leaving Dove on
22 Feb ’70.  His conduct has again been
assessed as “Very Good”.  

He returns to Portsmouth, being drafted to
HMS Donegal (1st rate of ’58) on 23 Feb,
returning to his rate of Quarter Master.
Donegal was a tender to Dk of Well’n &
operated as a training ship for sail &
seamanship training.  Russell is drafted to
HMS Asia(2nd rate of 1824, Port Guardship
& Flagship of Admiral Superintendent,
Portsmouth) 1 Oct ’70 where he remained
as Qr Mr until being drafted to his next ship
HMS Endymion(Frigate of ’65) on 16 Dec ’71.  
Endymion at the time was at Portsmouth in
reserve, then part of the Channel Fleet.

His next draft on 22 Sep ‘74 is to HMS
Malabar (Troopship of ’66). Malabar was
shipping troops out to India & returning time
expired soldiers & Regiments home after
completing their service in India.

Whilst on her Russell was promoted to
Acting Chief Petty Officer(Chief Qr Mr) on
7 Oct ‘74.  He remained on her until being
drafted to Dk of Well’n on 18 Apl ’75, & then
to HMS Serapis(Troopship) on 5 Aug.  His
conduct had been assessed as “Very Good”

This was to be a good draft for CPO Russell
as Serapis was to be refitted & converted in
order to take the Prince of Wales (the future
King Edward VII) & his extensive suite on a
tour of India.   Serapis carried two Chief
Quartermasters for the voyage. They would
have been the most senior Seaman ratings
on board. In Sept Serapis sailed first to
Brindisi Italy, where on 16 Oct the Prince of
Wales and his suite came on board for the
trip thru the Suez Canal to India.  Whilst on
Serapis Russell was confirmed in the rank of
CPO (Ch Qr Mr) on 1 Jan ’76.*
HMS Serapis:

A Euphrates class troopship commissioned
for the transport of troops to and from India.  
She was built  during 1866, was Barque rigged & steam
powered. Troopships were not fighting ships, her
armament consisted  three 4 pounder guns. She was
capable of carrying approx 350 troops plus their
equipment. Both Serapis and HMS Euphrates
were sold out of service in Nov 1884.
During April & May ’76  Serapis returned to UK, again via the
Suez Canal & Russell was paid off her on 24th May & returned
to Dk of Well’n.  He goes for a month to HMS Asia & then
returns to Serapis when she recommissioned at Portsmouth on
4 Oct & remains on her until going to pension on 23 Jan ’77.**
Whilst serving on his second commission on board HMS Serapis,
& prior to going to pension, Russell was recommended for the
Naval Long Service medal on 9 Dec ’76. He had 20 yrs, 34 days
adult service.

His medal and gratuity was approved on 11 Jan ’77. Russell’s
narrow suspension LS medal is named with his rate of:  CHF
QR MR (Chief Quarter Master), HMS SERAPIS, 20 YRS”.
Normally, had the wide suspender LS medal not been replaced
by the narrow suspension medal in Feb 1875, Russell would
have rec’d it, & since he had the 20 plus years required for the
former medal his narrow LS medal was engraved with the total
number of years  service. ***

William Russell’s family:
William Russell married Emily Hayles circa 1872.
In the 1881 census Russell is living at 60 Lynton St, High Park,
Isle of Wight; age 44, a naval pensioner, married to Emily, age
36,  with son Frederick(9), daughters Alice(7), Minnie(4) &
Gertrude(3). His mother in law Maria Hayles (74) is also living
with them.

In the 1891 census the family is still living at  60 Lynton St.  
Frederick has left home,  Alice (now 17) is employed as a school
monitor, Minnie (15) & Gertrude(13) are still at home, & another
daughter Charlotte (9) has been added, as well as a son Albert
(4). Charlotte & Albert are both shown as scholars(being in
In the 1901 census the family is now living at 1 Victoria Terrace
in  Ryde, Isle of Wight. Wm Russell is now age 65 & employed
as a Signalman at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. Emily is now
57. Gertrude(23) is shown with Emily as employed in “House
work”. Charlotte, now 19, is employed as a ‘Home music teacher’.
Son Albert is now age 14.  Minnie & Gertrude have left home &
are working &/or married.
In 1911 only William(75) & Emily(67) are still living at 1 Victoria
Terrace & shown as being married for 30 yrs(which is incorrect,
it should be 40 yrs). Altho getting on in years, William is still
employed as a Signaller at the RVYC.

3rd rate Line of Battleship of 1820. 74 guns.  Fully rigged, 3 masts. She
was converted to screw propulsion in the early 1850’s & reduced to 60
guns in time for participation in the Baltic expedition of 1855. From 14
Feb 1855 she was commanded by Captain Erasmus Ommanney, in the
Baltic Sea as Senior Officer in the Gulf of Riga during the Russian War.
She returned to Falmouth 19 May 1856 & paid off.

BELOW: HMS Volcano:

A wooden paddle sloop launched in 1836. Sail and steam powered,
2 deck guns. She became a floating factory in 1862 and was broken
up in 1894. {The ship in the painting is actually HMS Gorgon, paddle
wheeler of 1837. She is a similar class to Volcano, & as unable to
locate a photo of Volcano have substituted a fairly close look alike}
William would have had a fairly good pension (he was a naval pensioner for 38 yrs) for the time & with his steady income as a
Signaller at the RYC he would easily have been able to support a large family.

He died on the Isle of Wight in May 1915 in his 80th year. It is unknown when Emily passed away.  I expect they are both
buried  in Ryde. One can only reflect on the changes in the Royal Navy that William Russell must have seen during his lifetime.
He joined near the end of the Age of Sail, & died during the Age of the Dreadnought.


*On the completion of the cruise of HMS Serapis all of the members of her ship’s company were awarded, by the Prince of
Wales,a small silver medal suspended from a thin red/blue ribbon, inscribed: H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales,
INDIA 1875-6. The medals were unnamed, & are rarely seen today, as not many have survived over 140 years.  
Russell’s medal is what would have been awarded to seaman, the officers might have had a larger medal awarded to them
& possibly  Prince Edward’s suite, might have had them awarded in gold.  As I have never seen another of these medals,
I am only speculating.
**William Russell was a Seaman for his entire career. He never took any Gunnery qualification courses, which, for the time, was
unusual.  Virtually all of his service would have been on sailing ships. He had no service on the new Ironclads  that were just
coming on the scene in the 1860-70’s period.  He would have been very familiar with sails & sail handling, ropework, cordage,
spars, all types of small boatwork, & boat sailing, & in steering the ship. Being a Chief Quartermaster he likely would have had
some navigation training as well.

***A note on CPO Russell’s medals:  
Baltic medal is engraved but due to heavy toning is somewhat difficult to make out:   WILLIAM RUSSELL, ORD. S. H.M.S.HAWK
China medal is un named. Long service medal is named as in the write up & in the photos.
The medals appear to have never been worn & the ribbons are quite old, perhaps not the originals, as the original Baltic ribbon
was corded. They have been on the medals for a long long time & I have left them exactly as I received them 31 yrs ago.