Russell was born in Westonbirt, the eldest child of the Reverend Thomas Salmon and his wife, Isabel Littleton. By 1911, the family had moved to the Rectory, Stutton, Ipswich. He had two younger brothers and a sister. His father died in 1932 at North Stoneham near Southampton where he was the Rector.

He was educated at Winchester and matriculated in 1926. He graduated with a 2nd in History in 1929.

He joined the Sudan Political Service in the early 1930s. He came home on leave in May 1935, travelling from Port Sudan. He spent the month of August 1936 in Canada.

He had a Governor’s Commission and was a Major in the Sudan Defence Force. In November 1939, he was in a party in the Karora hills recruiting local scouts and planning the establishment and provision of bases in anticipation of an Italian attack

He died from meningitis at Barentu in Eritrea whilst on secondment to the OETA on 27 September 1941.

He is buried in the Asmara War Cemetery Plot 3. E. 1.