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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Web Page 754 25th July 2009

Web Page 754
25th July 2009
First Picture: Bluebird

Second Picture: Donald Campbell


The twentieth Century produced many men who could be called adventurers, Scott of the Antarctic and Sir Edmund Hilary two name just two. But as far as I an aware there was only one father and son pairing who were, what was called in the 1930’s, Speed Kings and that was Malcolm and Donald Campbell and it is Donald that I intend to feature here.

Donald was born in March 1921 in Reigate whilst his father, Malcolm was building a dog kennel in the garage. Donald was looked after by a nanny and occasionally could be found with Leo Villa,(his fathers and later his own mechanic) in his father’s workshop. At the age of six he was sent to Manor House in Sussex. In 1932 he moved to St. Peter’s School where he excelled at boxing and shooting and began supplementing his income by selling autographs of his famous father. In 1934, he moved to Uppington Public School, the same school his father had attended. He was placed in the same 'house' as his father and on finding his fathers initials carved into a beam, added his own. He remained in the same form for three years, showing little interest in education, but excelling in sporting pursuits. At the age of sixteen he contracted Rheumatic Fever and on leaving school his father got him a job at Lloyds Insurance Brokers, as an office boy at £1 a week. What Donald really wanted to do was to be a fighter pilot. In June 1939, whilst riding his motorbike he had an accident, fracturing his skull and hurting his back, this resulted in him being confined to bed for several weeks.

In September 1939 he enlisted in the RAF and passed the preliminary medical exam, failing to inform them that he had suffered Rheumatic Fever. In 1940, he reported to RAF Cardington, after further medical tests at the RAF Halton he was given a discharge because of his history of Rheumatic Fever.

Some weeks later he collided with a Canadian army truck and fractured his skull again this kept him out of action for many weeks. After his recovery he joined Briggs Motor Bodies Ltd as an assistant to the aircraft sales manager and later became a maintenance engineer for the company. Without his fathers knowledge he married Daphne Harvey in 1945 and their daughter, Georgina was born in 1946. The family moved to Reigate Hill in the same year and Donald pursued his business interests in Kine Engineering, which he had invested £1,200, money that he had saved during the war.

After Sir Malcolm’s death in 1948, Donald bought his Bluebird K4 and the 1935 Blue Bird car for a nominal sum. On hearing that the American Henry Kaiser was building a boat to attack the record, he approached Leo Villa and together they visited Peter du Cane, the managing-director of Vosper’s and K4 was converted back to its 1939 configuration.

Between 1949-1951, Bluebird K4 went through many modifications and in 1951 won the Oltranza Cup. In September 1951, while travelling at between 160-170 mph, K4 hit a submerged log and sank. She was recovered, stripped of all usable components and the hull burnt.

In 1952 Donald married Dorothy McKegg and approached Norris Brothers Ltd - consultant engineers to design a new propeller driven craft, this was changed to jet power after realising the speeds he wanted were impossible with a propeller drive. Bluebird K7 was built at Samlesbury Engineering Ltd and was unveiled by Lady Wavell Wakefield. On the 23rd July 1955, Donald set a speed of 202.32 mph, enough to break the record.

At Lake Mead in the USA in November 1955 he achieved a new record of 216.2 mph. After K7’s return from the US many modifications were made and between 1956 and 1959, Donald raised the water speed record 4 occasions to 260.35 mph on Coniston Water.
Donald married for the third time to Tonia Bern, a Belgium cabaret singer. In 1959, he purchased Roundwood Hall near Reigate and launched into a new project for the land speed record. The attempt was at Bonneville Salt Flats with backing from BP. After several runs the car veered off course and crashed at around 360 mph. Donald got a fractured skull (for the third time), burst eardrum and various other injuries. Whilst in hospital he announced that he wanted to have another go at the record, on hearing this, Sir Alfred Owen, owner of Motor Panels, admiring Donald's courage, rebuilt a replacement for free.

In 1963 the car was transported to Lake Eyre in South Australia, when the team arrived the weather turned nasty and rained heavily destroying the course. The attempt was postponed to 1964, where in July Donald set a new record of 403.1 mph, in appalling conditions. The reason why Donald ran the car was that he had been under extreme pressure from the media who thought he had lost his nerve. Several backers and sponsors had criticised his running of the project, which left him feeling bitter and angry, he never fully recovered from the attack.

On New Years Eve 1964, on Lake Dumbleyung in Western Australia, he set a new water speed record of 276.30 mph. He had done the double of water and land speed records in one calendar year, a feat that will probably never be seen again. This achievement however, went virtually unnoticed in Britain and cost Donald financially.
On returning to Britain, Donald planned to build a new jet powered land speed record car and started preliminary designs with the Leo Villa and the Norris brothers. With potential sponsors not showing much interest in his supersonic car idea, Donald decided to give the project more exposure and announced his intention of breaking 300 mph on water.

He returned to Coniston Water in 1966 with only one sponsor, the Daily Sketch and after problems with the engine, weather and mechanical issues, it looked like he might finally be able to break the water speed record on the 4th January 1967.
While playing cards the previous night, Donald had turned over the ace and queen of spades, being a superstitious man, he remembered that Mary Queen of Scots had drawn these same cards the night before she was beheaded. Wednesday 4th January 1967 dawned with a flat calm lake and dead still air, these were perfect conditions for a record attempt. Donald took to the water in K7 at 8.30 am. At 8.42 am he ran his first timed pass for the day. He was clocked at 297 mph on a glass smooth lake. At the turnaround Donald circled the refuelling barge but did not stop to refuel. He waited just under four minutes for his wash to subside and being unable to check with Leo Villa, who was watching the conditions in the centre of the lake due to a radio communication problem, announced he was commencing his return run. This was to be a fatal mistake, as the new water brake fitted to K7 had churned up the lake surface and there was still some rippling on the surface. He turned K7 and headed back down the course. Just before the end of the measured kilometre, with her planning points out of the water and travelling at a reported speed of 328 mph, Bluebird rose gracefully, bows first from the water, did a backward somersault and plunged back into the water nose first, killing Donald instantly. The hull continued down the lake, cart wheeling for several hundred feet, shedding bits and pieces everywhere. Within 30 seconds of the crash K7 was gone, having sunk to the bottom of Coniston in 150 feet of water. Donald disappeared into the lake with K7 and an extensive search was undertaken, but he was never found.

On January 28th, 1967 Donald was awarded the OBE, for ‘his courage and determination in attacking the world water speed record’. Donald had received the Segrave Trophy on four occasions, 1955, 1958, 1964 and 1966 for his skills on water and land, the final trophy posthumously. In 1955 he was awarded the CBE. His father, Sir Malcolm was once heard to say to Donald, 'you will never be like me, we're built different'. Donald proved him wrong.

In March 2001 Bluebird was recovered from Coniston Water where she had lain since 1967. A body found in Coniston in May 2001 wand as confirmed as Donald Campbell after DNA tests. Divers found the remains 34 years after his attempt ended in his death. His St Christopher medal was still round his neck, his race suit was ripped but almost in intact. In his pocket were old half crowns and four penny pieces. The remains were placed in a blue box and draped in a Union Jack flag before being brought to the shore. Some of Campbell's clothes, including his helmet, shoes, lifejacket and teddy bear mascot Mr Woppit, were recovered earlier. He was laid to rest in Coniston cemetery on September 12, 2001, after a funeral service in the village.

Take Care


You Write:

Mary Writes:
Mrs Butler (Molly) came to Cowplain Girls School. What a shock I had when I first spotted her. She lived in a road quite near the school at Cowplain. I had been happy at that school after we left Farlington. Anyway she soon advanced towards me saying "Its Mary is it not? To say I was petrified is an understatement. Perhaps it helped that by this time I had grown to 5ft 8in. She was surprisingly nice.

News and Views:

Gordon Waller, one-half of Peter and Gordon, suffered a massive fatal heart attack on July 16th at his Connecticut home and died aged of 64. Born Gordon Trueman Riviere Waller in Braemar, Gordon met Peter at Westminister School where the two would climb over the school wall to play at local clubs. After leaving school the two continued their musical careers, helped by Peter's sister's boyfriend-- Paul McCartney-- who wrote three of their hits-- 1964's "A World Without Love", "I Don't Want To See You Again" (1964) and "Woman" (1966). In fact, six of their first eight American hits were top 20 records, including "Nobody I Know" (1964), "I Go To Pieces" (1965) and the Buddy Holly composition "True Love Ways" (1965). All told, they scored 14 American chart records. The duo broke up in 1968 as touring became difficult. Peter became a talent scout for Apple Records and later produced Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Gordon's attempt at a solo career did not work but he did appear as Pharaoh in "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in the West End and he scored the James Dean biographical film, "Race With Destiny." The two reunited in 2005 and played, among other dates, the Buddy Holly memorial at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa last February.

On this day 25th July 1960-1965

On 25/07/1960 the number one single was Good Timin' - Jimmy Jones and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 25/07/1961 the number one single was Temptation - Everly Brothers and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 25/07/1962 the number one single was I Can't Stop Loving You - Ray Charles and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 25/07/1963 the number one single was Confessin' - Frank Ifield and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 25/07/1964 the number one single was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Conservative Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 25/07/1965 the number one single was Mr Tambourine Man - Byrds and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

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