Rusty Russell

 Tribute page: WW2 SAAF pilot  Rusty Russell

Hi and welcome to this site!

I have met Peter Heathcote on internet via Tonči Čizmić who lives in Croatia. Peter is the son of Lt. Russell who was sadly killed (with his navigator) in an attack on the power station at Zadvarje in 1944.

Previously Tonči's son found a piece of the crashed aircraft wreckage near the power station. Tonči made contact with me in 2015 via the SAAF Heritage web site and requested information of the paricular sortie.

Eventually contact was made with Peter. Peter and his family subsequently made a visit to Zadvarje in May 2016 as guests of the Mayor of the town and the management of the power station. During this occasion a memorial (sponsored by Tonči) was unveiled commemorating the two airmen. 

Peter was so kind to send me scans of Rusty's war memorabilia including photographs of the medals.  

Cyril Reginald "Rusty" Russell Joined the SAAF in mid 1940 and was selected for pilot training. After qualification Rusty served as a flying instructor at various air schools in South Africa.

In 1944 Rusty was transferred to 16 squadron for war service in Italy. 16 Squadron flew Bristol Beaufighters armed with rockets and 20mm canon. The squadron did most of its operations across the Adriatic in Yugoslavia. 

Rusty only flew two operations and was killed with his second operation while attacking the power station at Zadvarje on  21 August 1944.

Rusty with his navigator Lt. Stanbury are buried at the Commonwealth cemetery in Belgrade.

 Lt C.R. Russell  96470V.   Born 21st July 1922,  in Umtata , son of a sergeant in the SAP. Named Cyril Reginald but known as “Rusty” for most of his life.

 This is a living web site. Any input and/or participation will be much appreciated regarding additional information, correctness, information from relatives of members who served with Rusty, photographs, stories etc. Please e-mail me. 

If you perhaps have a family member who served as a SAAF fighter pilot during WW2 and you would want to find out more about his war service please contact me, hopefully I can be of some help.

Tinus le Roux

May 2016


 Lt. Russell's service medals.



 Rusty in 1941, probably at Lyttleton.





 Married on 3rd July 1943 at St. Margaret’s Church Witbank  to Lt. Pearl Wainwright  F262488 SA WAAF. The witnesses were Pat Barry and G. Shuttleworth.  He was serving as a Flying Instructor at No 5 Air School at the time.

   “ Lt Campbell, 2nd Lt Henderson and self. Who said I couldn’t ride ? “ 


 Presumably a bus trip to the dead sea while stationed at Jerusalem. Captioned “ We stopped the bus for the photo,  after which  it wouldn’t go, so we had to push “


Tombstones at the Belgrade Commonwealth military cemetery.



16 Squadron SAAF

Rusty joined the squadron on 21 July 1944. The squadron moved from North Africa to Italy (Biferno) In August '44. Rusty started with operations in August.

Rusty flew two operations:

1) 17 August 1944: 4 Beaufighters attacked  targets with canon and rockets at Sibinj, causing damage to rolling stock, trucks and buildings.  

2) 21 August 1944: 4 Beaufighters attacked the power station at Zadvarje with canon providing anti- flak preparations to 4 aircraft from RAF 39 squadron before they attack the power station. On this occasion Rusty's aircraft crashed onto the roof of the power station killing himself and the navigator Lt. Stanbury.


 One of the only photographs found of Lt. Russell and his navigator, Lt. Stanbury.  From the collection of  16 squadron flight commander Capt. Weddell:  

standing l to r : Bodley , Russell ,Wellington , Mc Kenzie ,Biggs , Hickey , Hewitt , Mullan , Youlden .

 sitting l to r :  Mc Clelland , Stanbury ,Kendal , de Jager , Weddell .

 A 16 squadron Beaufighter, photograph from the collection of fellow pilot Lt. Snyman.

 A 16 squadron Beaufighter displaying loaded-up 6" rockets.

Rusty's flying log book entries while at 16 squadron

Attack on Sibinj 17 August 1944  (well they thought it was Sibinj but actually it was Oriovac! )

16 Squadron War diary  report showing Rusty's participation on the 17th of August attack at Sibinj flying Beaufighter "W"


Railway station found on Google Earth...But NOT Sibinj..actually Oriovac 13 Km west from Sibinj. See the church tower peaking at the back.


Google earth image of 2013


 Oriovac 2013

Google map showing the aviators made a 13Km mistake in their navigation!  Sibinj on top end of the line nearly 13Km east of Oriovac.

Attack on Kraljevac Power Station  at Zadvarje

21 August 1944

 War diary  report showing Rusty's participation on the 21st of August attack at Zadvarjej flying Beaufighter "W"

 War diary entries

Rusty's Beaufighter crashed on top of the building.


Power station today


Estimated crash site of aircraft.


Flight path reconstruction



In Memoriam


 Belgrade War Cemetery

 Peter Heathcote: "Belgrade CWGC  Cemetery :  We made a family visit there in May 2014. I included the picture of Rusty’s  4 year old great grandson , my  grandson  Samuel Paul Russell Heathcote,  arranging flowers at the grave, because having three subsequent generations of  direct male descendant there meant a lot to me."

Tonci in Belegrade at the graves of Russell and Stanbury


Aircraft Wreckage found at the Crash site 

Tonči Čizmić's son found a composite piece of aircraft wreckage at the crash site. 

Tonči send me these photographs. 

Efforts are being made by Peter to find out exactly where this piece of wreckage is situated in the Beaufighter.



Unveiling of the memorial for Lts. Russell and Stanbury

at the crash site: Zadvarje, May 2016

1 The station from a view site at the top of the gorge, showing the depth of the valley.

2  The opposing view from below.

3  Similar view from the side of the station.

4 Examining the wreckage for part numbers, with the town Fire Brigade in attendance.  Eight numbers were found.

5  The wreckage is well preserved after lying in fresh water for 70 years.

6  Speech by Tonci Cizmic prior to the unveiling. His daughter Jelena in  the foreground.

7 The unveiling done by Peter Heathcote.

8 The Memorial, prepared by Tonci Cizmic and Zadvarje Municipality.

9 Member of the Fire Brigade, a local resident related to an eye witness of the crash , Tonci, Caroline, Andrew ,Jonathan, Peter, members of Fire Brigade.

10  Holding up the bushes at the original burial site, above and behind the memorial.

11  The power station today, showing turbines over 100 years old.

13 Celebratory lunch, after the unveiling .On the right , Igor Sodan, Regional  Director of HEP, the Croatian Power Company. Igor, his father and grandfather all worked at Kraljevac, and his grandfather was present at the time of the attack.  At the top of the table, Ivan Krzelj, Mayor of Zadvarje. Left back, Ivica Marusic, Regional Manager of HEP, with responsibility for Kraljevac.

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