Russell Constantine Charles Phipps was born on the 11 March 1883, at the Hollow Beaudesert Upper Logan to Lord Henry Phipps and Lady Henry Phipps (nee Norma Leith Hay). Little record exists of his early life besides mention at family meets or other social events recorded of the Phipps family living at Te Whanga Beaudesert. In his early childhood Russell also accompanied his parent’s, elder sister’s and younger brother on the family’s close to three year journey to Europe between December 1884 to July 1887. What is certain is that like his younger brother Vivian he attended The Down’s School or otherwise known as Baxendale’s School, named after the school’s headmaster Mr J A Baxendell, a former Under Master at Toowomba Grammar. The School reportedly flourished for a short time and the Queenslander Paper in its social gossip and tidings on Sat 5 Oct 1901 reports Russell and his younger brother returning from The Down’s College to their home with their mother. For 1902 Russell also attended Brisbane Grammar during the year with his younger brother Vivian who stayed at the Grammar until April 1904. Russell is recorded as an active sportsman with references to swimming, water polo listed. No doubt he was a keen rugby player and a reference to a 3rd place in cross country further highlighting his sporting skills. During his 20’s in the early 1900’s Russell was a grazier and station manager at properties. He was also a keen rugby player well throughout his 20’s since photo’s from this time show him with his teammates as a member of the Beaudesert Football Club. (Russell is on the third row at back and the first on the right side, with the collared shirt and moustache.
What most likely greatly affected Russell’s youth was the tragic death of his father Henry. On him not returning home to Te Whanga at Gleneagle after a visit to Brisbane, family tradition relates the Phipps brothers being sent out to look for their father by their mother and having to go no further than the train station at Gleneagle for the tragic news to be heard. Russell reportedly at only 22 was the person required to identify his father at the morgue and this and the consequences for the family would no doubt have shaped his early adulthood. At the outset of World War I, The Phipps brothers also enlisted to join the war and Russell’s enlistment took place on the 14/2/1916 at the age of 32. His regimental number was 26278. He joined the 3 FAB (Field Artillery Brigade) and embarked to Europe on the 14 September 1916 on board HMAT A47 Mashobra, with his mother listed as next of kin. Nothing is known of his voyage to Europe. However, what is known and on record is that on arriving to England Russell soon became unwell and his passing came soon after. This is relayed in his military records where the cause is listed as influenza and cerebrospinal fever at Lucknow Isolation Hospital, Tidworth UK, at the age of 33 on 6 December 1916, and only 2 and a half months after leaving Australia. His last will at the hospital left his possessions to his mother, including his father’s ring.
He is buried at St Oswald’s Church Lythe near Whitby Yorkshire in the above ANZAC grave marked by the AIF rising son. (See at top) A 1993 Truth newspaper- Sunday edition 24th Dec, which was a precursor tabloid paper to the Sun in Brisbane gives a first hand account from the Whitby Gazette Dec 15th 1916 of what happened after Russell’s untimely death at Tidworth.
The body was brought from Tidworth Camp to Whitby and conveyed to Mulgrave Castle, the seat of the Marquess and Marchioness of Normanby, to await internment. The detachment comprised a firing party of 12, a non-commisioned officer, a bearer party of six and two buglers. On arrival at the castle, the coffin, which was of fumed an waxed elm with heavy brass mountings, was placed upon a catafalque in the gallery, and covered with a Union Jack, and down either side of it, adding to the solemnity of the atmosphere, were lighted candles and plants, whilst at the head was a crucifix. Surrounding the catafalque was a number of beautiful flower tokens. The breastplate on the coffin had the following engraved inscription; – No. 26278, Gunner Russell Constantine Charles Phipps, 3rd Brigade Australia Artillery. Died Dec 6th, 1916. Aged 33 years, Eldest son of Lord Henry Phipps, grandson of the 2nd Marquess of Normanby.
During the journey from Mulgrave Castle through the little village of Lythe, to St Oswald’s Church, many were there to pay a last tribute to the soldier scion of a noble house, including soldier, tenant farmers on the Mulgrave Estate and maimed and wounded from Lorn Normanby’s private hospital. The chief mourners were; The Rev. The Marquess and Marchioness of Normanby, and Katherine Countess of Ellesmere. The body was taken into the church, and Lord Normanby took the service, which was most impressive. The dead March from ‘Saul’ was played, and the body was taken to the churchyard and lowered into a moss and flower lined grave. The comittal sentences were pronounced, the rifles of the firing party rang out three times, and the service was concluded with the Last Post.
Flower tokens were sent by Lady Phipps (mother) and Vivian Phipps (brother) and many other friends and relatives, and from the indoor and outdoor servants of Mulgrave castle, the latter bearing the inscription, “In loving memory of the best of mates.”
© Leith Hay.org