Kenneth Campbell bigraphy, stories - Recipient of the Victoria Cross

Kenneth Campbell : biography

21 April 1917 - 6 April 1941

Kenneth Campbell VC (21 April 1917 – 6 April 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.


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.

The RAF named their original Vickers VC10 aircraft after Victoria Cross holders. XR808 is named after Kenneth Campbell.

Victoria Cross Citation

The announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration was published in supplement to the London Gazette on 13 March 1942, reading


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


Kenneth Campbell was from Ayrshire and educated at Sedbergh School. He gained a chemistry degree at Cambridge, where he was a member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron. In September 1939 he was mobilised for RAF service, Flying Officer Campbell joining No.22 squadron in September 1940, with the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber. Campbell torpedoed a merchant vessel near Borkum in March 1941 and days later he made an escape from a pair of Bf-110 fighters despite extensive damage to his aircraft. Two days later on a ‘Rover’ patrol he torpedoed another vessel, off IJmuiden.

On 6 April 1941 over Brest Harbour, France, Flying Officer Campbell attacked the German battleship 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 .

The attack had to be made with absolute precision: the Gneisenau was moored only some 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 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 67Robertson 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 DFM RCAF (navigator),Note: Sgt. Scott apparently tried to help fly the Beaufort when Campbell was incapacitated by the flak. R W Hillman (wireless operator) and W C Mulliss (air gunner), 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.

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