RUSSELL, Edward Frederick Langley  [1895 - 1981]

Edward Frederick Langley Russell was born in Liverpool on 10th April 1895, the son of Richard Russell and his actress wife Mabel Suffolk Younge. His father died whilst he was very young and, as his mother wished to return to her acting career, he was brought up by his grandfather, Edward Russell, 1st Baron Russell of Liverpool. His grandfather was a journalist and Liberal politician who was editor of the Liverpool Daily Post for over 50 years and served as Member of Parliament for Glasgow Bridgeton in the 1880’s. In his memoirs Russell recalled that he saw in his grandfather’s house “almost everyone of distinction in the world of politics, literature and the arts” which included the great actor Sir Henry Irving.

Russell was educated at Greenbank School and Liverpool College before commencing University studies in 1913. Many sources state that he went up to St John’s College, Cambridge, but in his own memoirs he records that he attended Corpus Christi, Oxford. Wherever he attended his time there was cut short by the outbreak of the First World War and he poignantly later recalled that “everybody who was on my staircase when I first went up to Corpus was killed except me and of the other members of the college at that time very few are alive”. At the outbreak of the war he joined the ranks of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, commissioned in October 1914, and was soon in the trenches. He served with great distinction throughout the conflict, being wounded three times and awarded the Military Cross with two bars. He would never fully recover from the effects of being gassed. He remained in the army after the war, serving in Ireland and India, before health forced him resign his commission in 1930.

Turning to a career in the law, he was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1931. He never established a substantial practice and later he returned to the military sphere as military assistant to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of H.M. Armed Forces, promoted to deputy JAG in 1943. At the end of the war he became responsible for all courts martial, war crime trials, and questions of military law in the British-occupied zone of Germany. His experiences led him to write an account of Nazi atrocities which was published by Cassell in 1954 entitled The Scourge of the Swastika. The book sold over 250,000 copies but was required to resign from his JAG post as it was deemed incompatible with his publication. In his retirement he was a prolific writer, publishing The Knights of Bushido [1958] an account of Japanese war atrocities. Private Eye, suggesting he profited from war atrocities, dubbed him ‘Lord Liver of Cesspool’, a witticism which cost them £5000 in damages.

Ventures in farming proved unsuccessful and, having been forced by financial concerns to move to France in 1967, he was declared bankrupt in 1974. He married four times, having a son and two daughters. He died in a Hastings nursing home on 8th April 1981 just before his 86th birthday. The present Lord Russell, his grandson, sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords.

Russell lived in his grandfather’s house at 6 Abercromby Square L7, the building now forming part of Liverpool University, and later at The Gables, 5 Croxteth Road L8.    

6 Abercromby Square L7

Russell's grandfather's house where he was born in 1895.

5 Croxteth Road L8

Russell's home in the early part of the 20th century.

Russell's controversial account of Nazi war crimes was a best-seller but led to him losing his appointment as Deputy Judge Advocate General.


Russell published a memoir in 1959 entitled That Reminds Me [Cassell] which is a wide-ranging, self-effacing account of his life and career.  The entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is quite comprehensive, the Wikipedia entry is somewhat thinner.