4.2 miles from St. Elmo breakwater lighthouse
Access: Boat Dive
Depth: 115 metres
Sea Bed: Sand
Interests: Deep and Wreck Diver
Certification Required: Tec Divers only
The HMS RUSSELL was dived on for the first time in July 2003 by a British technical diving team “Starfish Enterprise”.It was found completely upside down, with the stern section missing. It is believed that most of the large guns maybe lying on the sea bed as these were only placed on the deck.
It is 140 metres in length, 25 metres in breath and 9 metres in depth with a displacement of 14000 tons. It carried 4x12" Guns, 12x6" Guns, 12x3"Guns, 6x3 Pdr Guns, 2 Maxims and 4 torpedo Tubes
The HMS RUSSELL was launched in February 1901 and was a Duncan Class Battleship, distinguishable by the equally sized funnels, lower freeboard and lack of prominent ventilation cowls. Armour had to be sacrificed in order to increase speed whilst at the same time reducing size. With a speed of 19 Knots she was one of the fastest warship afloat of her time.
She was commissioned in 1903 and joined the Home Fleet from April 1906 but was transferred in the Atlantic Fleet the next year. She returned home in August of 1912 and joined in 1913, the 2nd fleet at Nore. She become the flagship with the grand fleet in 1914 with the 6th Battle Squadron then moved to the 3rd Battle Squadron to take part in the northern patrols. HMS Russell join the Channel Fleet in November 1914 and after bombarding Belgium was sent to the Dardanelles.
She stayed at Mudros as support alongside HMS Hibernia in November 1915 and took part in the evacuation on 7th January 1916. It is said that the ship arrived in Malta on the night of the 26 of April 1916. Admiral Sydney Freemantle commanded RUSSELL at the time of the loss and her captain was Capt. W. Bowden Smith. She carried 4x12”& 12x6” guns whilst she mounted a secondary armament of 12 pounders. As the grand harbour was closed due to the boom defence, she had to wait until morning before entering. While manoeuvring outside the harbour, she struck a mine and became one of the first victim of the German mine laying submarines, one of which, the U-73 had voyaged from Kiel to Malta under the command of Cdr. Gustav Siess. On the 23rd April 1916 the U-73 laid 22/36 mines at about 50m a part in front of Grand Harbour before proceeding to Cattaro
Before sinking, the RUSSELL floated for 20 minutes before capsizing, her huge hull showing above the water before being engulfed by waves. 126 sailors died and 625 were saved including the Admiral and the Captain.