||Donald Malcolm Campbell
23 March 1921
Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, England
||4 January 1967 (aged 45)
Coniston Water, Cumbria, England
|Cause of death
||High speed crash during WSR attempt
||Parish Cemetery, Hawkshead Old Road, Coniston
||Speed record breaker
||Most prolific WSR breaker of all time
||Daphne Harvey (1945-51)
Dorothy McKegg (1952-57)
Tonia Bern (1958-)
||Georgina (Gina) (1946-)
Dorothy Evelyn Whittall
||Segrave Trophy (1955)
Donald Malcolm Campbell CBE (23 March 1921 – 4 January 1967) was a British speed record breaker who broke eight absolute world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s. He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year (1964).
Family and personal life
Donald Campbell was born at Canbury House, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, the son of Malcolm, later Sir Malcolm Campbell, holder of 13 world speed records in the 1920s and 30s in the Bluebird cars and boats, and his second wife, Dorothy Evelyn née Whittall.
Campbell attended St Peter's School, Seaford and Uppingham School. At the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered for the Royal Air Force, but was unable to serve because of a case of childhood rheumatic fever. He joined Briggs Motor Bodies Ltd in West Thurrock, where he became a maintenance engineer. Subsequently, he was a shareholder in a small engineering company called Kine engineering, producing machine tools. Following his father's death on New Year's Eve, 31 December 1948 and aided by Malcolm's chief engineer, Leo Villa, the younger Campbell strove to set speed records first on water and then land.
He married three times: to Daphne Harvey in 1945, producing daughter Georgina (Gina) Campbell, born on 19 September 1949; to Dorothy McKegg in 1952; and to Tonia Bern in December 1958, which lasted until his death in 1967. Campbell was intensely superstitious, hating the colour green, the number thirteen and believing nothing good ever happened on a Friday. He also had some interest in the paranormal, which he nurtured as a member of the Ghost Club.
Campbell was a restless man and seemed driven to emulate, if not surpass, his father's achievements. He was generally light-hearted and was generally, at least until his 1960 crash at the Bonneville Salt Flats, optimistic in his outlook.
Behind the public façade of speed king, he was a complex character – proud and vulnerable, increasingly anxious about his place in the world. Campbell was a great patriot and saw his achievements as being for the greater good of Britain.
Land speed record attempt
It was after the Lake Mead WSR success in 1955 that the seeds of Campbell's ambition to hold the Land Speed Record as well were planted. The following year, the serious planning was under way - to build a car to break the land speed record, which then stood at 394 mph (634 km/h) set by John Cobb in 1947. The Norris brothers designed Bluebird-Proteus CN7 with 500 mph (800 km/h) in mind.
The brothers were even more enthusiastic about the car than the boat and like all of his projects, Campbell wanted Bluebird CN7, to be the best of its type, a showcase of British engineering skills. The British motor industry in the guise of Dunlop, BP, Smiths Industries and Lucas Automotive, as well as many others, became heavily involved in the project to build the most advanced car the world had yet seen. CN7 was powered by a specially modified Bristol-Siddeley Proteus free-turbine engine of 4,450 shp (3,320 kW) driving all four wheels. Bluebird CN7 was designed to achieve 475–500 mph and was completed by the spring of 1960.
Following low-speed tests conducted at the Goodwood motor racing circuit in Sussex, in July, the CN7 was taken to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, scene of his father's last LSR triumph, some 25 years earlier in September 1935. The trials initially went well, and various adjustments were made to the car. On the sixth run in CN7, Campbell lost control at over 360 mph and crashed. It was the car's tremendous structural integrity that saved his life. He was hospitalised with a fractured skull and a burst eardrum, as well as minor cuts and bruises but CN7 was a write off. Almost immediately, Campbell announced he was determined to have another go. Sir Alfred Owen, whose Rubery Owen industrial group had built CN7, offered to rebuild it for him. That single decision was to have a profound influence on the rest of Campbell's life. His original plan had been to break the LSR at over 400 mph in 1960, return to Bonneville the following year to really bump up the speed to something near to 500 mph, get his seventh WSR with K7 and then retire, as undisputed champion of speed and perhaps just as important, secure in the knowledge that he was worthy of his father's legacy.