Kenneth Campbell

Kenneth Campbell

Kenneth Campbell VC (April 21, 1917 - April 6, 1941) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


He was 24 years old, and a Flying Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, serving on No. 22 Squadron RAF, during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 6 April 1941 over Brest Harbour, France, Flying Officer Campbell attacked the German battle-cruiser "Gneisenau". He flew his Bristol Beaufort through the gauntlet of concentrated anti-aircraft fire from about 1000 weapons of all calibers and launched a torpedo at a height of convert|50|ft|m.

The attack had to be made with absolute precision: the "Gneisenau" was moored only some convert|500|yd away from a mole in Brest's inner harbour. For the attack to be effective Campbell would have to time the release to drop the torpedo close to the side of the mole. [Note:An air-launched torpedo required about convert|400|yd to settle to its set depth and for the warhead to be armed.] That Campbell managed to launch his torpedo accurately is testament to his courage and determination. The ship was severely damaged below the waterline and was obliged to return to the dock whence she had come only the day before, she was out of action for 6 months, which thus allowed allied shipping to cross the Atlantic without any threat.Barker pages 57 to 67] Robertson pages 14 & 15]

Generally, once a torpedo was dropped an escape was made by low-level jinking at full throttle. Because of rising ground surrounding the harbour Flying Officer Campbell's Beaufort was forced into a steep banking turn, revealing its full silhouette to the gunners. The aircraft met a withering wall of flak and crashed into the harbour. The Germans buried Campbell and his other three crew mates, Sgts. J P Scott (Canada) [Note: Sgt. Scott apparently tried to help fly the Beaufort when Campbell was incapacitated by the flak: he was awarded the DFM] , R W Hillman and W Mallis, with full military honours. His valour was only recognised when the French Resistance managed to leak news of his brave deeds to England. A memorial to him stands in his old school, Sedbergh, commemorating his brave deeds.

Further information

At a small ceremony in his home town of Saltcoats in Ayrshire on 6 April 2000, the 59th anniversary of his death at Brest, a memorial plaque and bench were unveiled by his sister in law, and his 90 year old brother handed over his VC to the safekeeping of the commanding officer of the present day 22 Squadron.


Kenneth Campbell was educated at Sedbergh School and Clare College, Cambridge.


* British VCs of World War 2 (John Laffin, 1997)
* Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
* The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
* Scotland's Forgotten Valour (Graham Ross, 1995)
* Kenneth Campbell VC (Peter Munday, 2003 - Sedbergh School archives) (NOT PUBLISHED)


* Barker, Ralph. "The Ship-Busters: The Story of the R.A.F. Torpedo-Bombers". London: Chatto & Windus Ltd. 1957. No ISBN.
* Robertson, Bruce. "Beaufort Special". Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1976. ISBN 0-7110-0667-9.

External links

* [ Flying Officer K. Campbell] in "The Art of War" exhibition at the UK National Archives
* [ Find-A-Grave profile for Kenneth Campbell]

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