Saturday, May 11, 2013

P. Russell Mallinson

For years, P. Russell Mallinson has been a mystery that's had me mystified (there's one for long-time readers!). Although I had managed to glean a certain amount of information about him over the years, the most basic information – his year of birth and year of death – eluded me.

The name first came to my notice in Lofts & Adley's The Men Behind Boys Fiction where "R. Russell Mallinson" was described as a pen-name of Russell Stannard. Mystery solved, one would think. Unfortunately, no.

Herbert Russell Stannard (1888-1962) wrote an autobiography and it is possible to prove beyond all doubt that Stannard and Mallinson are different people. Although both Stannard and Mallinson were pilots in the days of stick and string, Stannard was rejected from serving in World War I because he was blind in one eye and spent the war reporting on naval movements from an office in Harwich. Mallinson, as we shall see, served with the R.F.C. and R.A.F. There were other parallels: both wrote boys' stories in the 1920s and both lived for a while in Norwich, Norfolk, but they were not the same author.

P. Russell Mallinson was born Percy Wilfred Mallinson in Wandsworth on 3 March 1891, the son of John Mallinson, a solicitor's clerk. John Mallinson had been born in Masbrough, a suburb of Rotherham, Yorkshire, in 1860, but was living in Wandsworth, London, by 1886 when he married Mary Ann Coombe. The Mallinsons had two children: Ethel Maud, born in 1887, and Percy Wilfred, born in 1891. Percy was baptised at St. Michael's, Battersea , on 19 April.

Mallinson grew up in Wandsworth and at the time of the 1911 census – still living with his parents at 13 The Grove, Wandsworth – was working as a journalist. He served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 10th Bedfordshire Regiment before earning his Aviators' Certificate on 17 July 1916 at the Military School, Catterick Bridge, and subsequently transferred to the R.F.C. as a Temp. 2nd Lieutenant on 4 August 1916. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1917 and, following the end of the conflict, was transferred to the 'unemployed list' on 18 July 1919.

His military service was performed under the name Percy Russell Mallinson, but it is possible to link Percy Russell and Percy Wifred through his home address (P. Russell gives 13 The Grove as his home address in 1916) and the 1918 absent voters list which notes that Percy Wilfred is a Lieut. in the R.F.C. Percy Wilfred returns to The Grove in 1918-22 and then disappears from the London Electoral Roll.

In 1922, Percy Russell Mallinson married Constance Mercy Bird (b. 25 Jan 1891). By then he was working for Odhams Press where he was almost certainly the editor of Film Fiction, a magazine that ran to a single issue in August 1921 and contained at least three stories by Mallinson, including the first episode of a serial, 'Pirate Gold'. He was then editor of Boys' Pictorial which ran for 24 issues in 1921-22 before evolving into Sports Pictorial, which lasted a further 10 issues.  It seems possible that he turned freelance in 1922 as, soon after, he could be found writing for papers published by C. Arthur Pearson, Edward Hulton and the Amalgamated Press. For at least the period 1923-26, he and his wife were living at 55 Rutland Park Mansions, Willesdon. In the mid-1930s it would appear they moved to 23 Earlham Road, Norwich, Norfolk [fl. 1935-36] before moving back to London, living at 21 Hamilton Terrace, N.W.8 in 1937-43.

In 1941, Mallinson was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and promoted from Flight Officer to Flight Lieutenant in 1945. In 1954 it was announced that, whilst relinquishing his commission, he had been granted permission to retain his rank as a Fl. Lieut.

It is known that Mallinson wrote prolifically under pen-names and the majority of his work remains untraced. Only one novel appeared under his own name, War on Wings from cheap paperback outfit Mellifont Press – a reprint of a story serialised in Boys' Magazine in 1927 which was also published as Wings o' War in the Boy's Friend Library (#2/179, Feb 1929).

In the 1930s, Mallinson was writing a number of flying stories for Flyers (an American pulp) and was a regular author in Air Stories between 1936 and 1939.

Immediately after the war there appeared a string of short (usually 48-page) pocket library novelettes written for Popular Fiction. According to Barrington Gray, whose father was the manager of Popular Fiction, Mallinson was a regular writer for his father's earlier publishing companies (Gramol) and may have written novels under many other bylines. His known pen-names include Michael Burke, Sinclair Russell, Dawn Tempest, Cynthia Russell and, possibly, Richard Russell.

According to Gray, Mallinson lived in Ireland, which may explain why no record of his death has been found.

Update: 18 December 2016.
Thanks to Tony Philpot, I now have a year of death. P. Russell Mallinson lived in Ballyreagh, in Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland,  and later in Enniskerry, a village on the coast of Co. Wicklow, in Ireland where he died in 1979. He was buried in St. Patrick's, Enniskerry.


  1. There is a magazine called The Broadcaster, october 1922 with a couple of good pics

  2. Inevitably that leads to...

    Has anyone got access to copies of The Broadcaster from 1922? Please let me know via the e-mail address below the photo.

  3. Can't help on a date of death, but in 1957 he made a contribution to an internal history of 10 Squadron. He had served with the unit for the last year or so of WWI, almost certainly as Adjutant, as his flying career had been terminated as a result of head injuries incurred in an aircraft accident in November 1916.

  4. Thanks for the additional information, Ian. Very interesting. That moves his last known sighting from 1954 to 1957. I can access some records for Ireland but not late enough to. I'm guessing he must have died in the 1960s.

  5. I think I have his signature in an RAF Visitors Book, which he signed on 12 May 1948, giving Coastal Command HQ as his address. Let me know if you'd like me to email a scan of the page he signed.

  6. Hi Trevor,

    Yes, please. My e-mail address can be found below the photo top left.



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