Clan Campbell gathers in London with a feast of Bluebirds

| 13 Jun 2012

A unique gathering took place in London on 12 June celebrating 100 years of the intrepid Campbell family's record-breaking feats.

Gina Campbell QSO (Donald's daughter and record-breaker in her own right), Donald's nephew Don Wales plus Don's son Joe were joined at the Theatre Royal Haymarket by a host of machinery associated with four generations of Campbell and Wales feats.

The timing of the event was to mark 100 years since Sir Malcolm Campbell saw the play Blue Bird that inspired the names of his iconic machines. Since that day the family has achieved more than 30 Land and Water Speed Records.

Sensations on display included Bluebird K3, the first of Sir Malcolm Campbell's legendary boats, designed by Fred Cooper and Reid Railton and powered by the same Rolls-Royce engine as the 1935 Blue Bird car that set a new Land Speed Record at 301mph.

It was alongside the Agfa Bluebird II in which Gina Campbell broke the Woman's World Water Speed Record, at 122.8mph, in 1984.

On the four-wheeled front, the oldest car was the oldest survivor to have worn the Blue Bird tag, the 1912 Lorraine-Dietrich 75hp GP that, after winning the 1912 Dieppe GP with Hemery was found in Paris by Sir Malcolm Campbell, imported to England and raced at Brooklands.

There was also the famous 350hp Sunbeam, Sir Malcolm Campbell's first Land Speed record car, that blasted to nearly 125mph at Pendine Sands in 1925.

Don Wales' record attempts were represented by Bluebird Electric, which after a series of UK records, was shared by Don and his son Joe in a failed bid to up the record to 150mph.

Newest vehicle was the Bluebird GTL Formula-E concept racing car, built for a proposed eight-round series scheduled for 2014, though before that Gina is set to run the restored Bluebird K7 - the boat in which her father lost his life - on Coniston Water next year.

A press release issued after the event tells the tale rather nicely, so here it is in full and at the bottom is an illustration of all the records set by the family:

I00 years ago Sir Malcolm Campbell MBE watched the Maurice Maeterlinck play ‘The Blue Bird’, which is a fairy story about  children searching for happiness, which always seems to be just out of reach but eventually they find that happiness exists in them.

Malcolm was so taken with the play that on the way home he woke up the local ironmonger, bought every tin of blue paint and painted his race car blue.

The next day he drove the car with the paint still wet to Brooklands, christened the car ‘Blue Bird’ and won his first race!

Little did Sir Malcolm Campbell realise what an iconic  name he had coined that day. The name is now synonymous with record breaking, British endeavor, courage and the Campbell family.

Sir Malcolm Campbell MBE born March 11th 1885. The son of William and Ada Campbell.  William was a successful diamond merchant and left a substantial inheritance from which Malcolm was able to ‘invest’ in his hobby of racing cars.

Married three times, with two children Jean and Donald. Donald is the father of Gina Campbell and Jean is the mother of Malcolm Hulme, Peter Hulme and Don Wales.

Malcolm was awarded the MBE for services to flying after the First World War. He was knighted in 1931 for his Land Speed Records and his promotion of Great Britain.

He broke the Land Speed Record a total of 9 times and the Water Speed Record 4 times. His first record was on Pendine Sands in the Sunbeam 350 Hp on 25 September 1924 with a  speed of 146.16 mph. His ambition and greatest achievement  was to push the World Land Speed Record beyond 300mph, which he did on the Bonneville Salt Flats on September 3rd 1935

Sir Malcolm passed away on New Years Eve 1948.

His son, Donald took over the ‘family’ business of record breaking! Eventually breaking his first World Water speed record in July 1955, nearly 7 years after his first attempts with his father’s old Bluebird boat K4. Donald was determined to first keep the record British and then to push through the ‘Water Barrier’, which was 200mph. No boat had beaten 200mph without breaking up because of the severe forces imposed on the structure.

Donald assembled a team around his friend and father’s trusted mechanic, Leo Villa . He instructed two young brilliant designers, Ken and Lew Norris, to design a new jet engine Bluebird.

On July 23rd 1955 Bluebird K7 broke the record at 202.32 mph on Ullswater in the Lake District. He was awarded the CBE January 1st 1957.

Donald broke the World Water Speed Record a total of 7 times and the World Land Speed Record Once. He is the only person to have broken both World Land and Water Speed Records in the same year. In 1964 in Australia in broke the World Land Speed Record at 403.10 mph on July 17 and on New Year’s eve he broke the World’s Water Speed Record at 276.30 mph. His greatest achievement did not receive the full recognition that it deserved.

Donald Campbell was killed on Coniston Water attempting to beat his own World Water speed Record of 276.30 and trying to achieve a new record of 300mph. His outward run average was 297mph, he did not stop to refuel and on his return run he hit his own wash and Bluebird K7 took off at over 320mph, somersaulted and almost instantly sank to the bottom on Coniston, killing Donald instantly.

In 2001, Bill Smith located and raised both The boat and later Donald’s remains. Donald is now buried in the Coniston cemetery. The boat is being restored back to full working order by Bill Smith and his keen band of volunteers. Bluebird K7 will go back on display in Ruskin Museum in the new Campbell wing, Coniston once the restoration is finished.