On the 27th April 1916, the Duncan-class battleship HMS Russell was sunk by a mine off the coast of Malta.
Completed in 1903, Russell and her sister ships were built in response to French and Russian building programmes. They were designed to be smaller, lightly armoured and faster. Upon completion, the Duncan classes were the fastest battleships in the Royal Navy.
When war broke out in 1914, HMS Russell was originally designated to serve in the Channel Fleet, where the 6th Battle Squadron would patrol the waters of the English Channel and cover the BEF’s movements to France. Later transferred to the Mediterranean, Russell was one of the two reinforcement ships at Mudros (a small Greek port on the island of Lemnos) and participated in covering the evacuation of British forces from the Gallipoli Peninsula in January 1916.
Whilst waiting for clearance to enter the Grand Harbour, Malta, HMS Russell came into contact with a mine which had been laid by a U-Boat the previous evening. The ship remained afloat for a short while before inverting. The sinking of the battleship resulted in the loss of over 120 lives. Those who survived and were rescued were taken to the Bighi Royal Naval Hospital, amongst them John Cunningham, who went on to serve as First Sea Lord in the late 1940s.
The wreck is now used by scuba divers for exploration dives. A memorial to the officers and men who lost their lives on the 27th April 1916 was erected in Chatham, where the battleship trialed in the early half of the twentieth century.