Campbell, Kenneth.

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Campbell, Kenneth.

Campbell, Kenneth, born 21-04-1917 in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of James Campbell and Jane Campbell-Highet. Kenneth Campbell was from Ayrshire and educated at Sedbergh School. Kenneth gained a chemistry degree at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron.In September 1939, Campbell was mobilised for service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) following the outbreak of World War II. He served as a Flying Officer in the 22nd Squadron , Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. On 01 -04-1941, Flying Officer Campbell was a pilot of a Beaufort aircraft which was detailed to attack the German battle cruiser Gneisenau at Brest Harbor, France. The battle cruiser was secured alongside the wall on the north shore of the harbor protected by a stone mole, batteries of guns and three heavily armed anti-aircraft ships. Knowing the heavy odds, he ran the gauntlet of the defenses, coming in at almost sea level, passed the anti-aircraft ships under extreme fire and launched a torpedo at point-blank range as the battle cruiser was trying to leave dock. The battle cruiser was severely damaged below the water-line and had to return to the dock out of action. Because of rising ground surrounding the harbor Flying Officer Campbell was forced into a steep banking turn, was met by heavy enemy anti-aircraft flak and crashed into the harbor, killing him and his other three crew mates consisting of Campbell, Sergeant James Philip “Jimmy” Scott (R/63912 RCAF),   Sergeant Ralph Walter Hillman (643257 RAF) and Sergeant William Cecil Mullis (746872 RAFVR). For valor of the highest order, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on 13-03-1942.

The following details are given in “The London Gazette,” of 13-3-1942: Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell was the pilot of a Beaufort aircraft detailed to attack an enemy battle cruiser in Brest Harbour at first light on the morning of the 06-04-1941, age 23. The ship was in a position protected by a stone mole bending round it, and rising ground behind on which stood batteries of guns. Other batteries clustered thickly round the two arms of land which encircled the outer harbour, while three heavily armed anti-aircraft ships moored nearby guarded the cruiser. Even if an aircraft penetrated these formidable defences it would be almost impossible, after attacking at low level, to avoid crashing into the rising ground beyond. Knowing all this, Flying Officer Campbell ran the gauntlet of the defences and launched a torpedo at point-blank range, severely damaging the battle cruiser below water-line, so that she was obliged to return to the dock whence she had come only the day before. By pressing home the attack at close quarters in the face of withering fire, on a course fraught with extreme peril, this officer displayed valour of the highest order.

Death and burial ground of Campbell, Kenneth.

At a small ceremony in his home town of Saltcoats in Ayrshire on 06-04-2000, the 59th anniversary of Campbell’s 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 No. 22 Squadron.

The RAF named their original Vickers VC10 aircraft after Victoria Cross holders. XR808 is named after Kenneth Campbell. A memorial to him stands in his old school, Sedbergh, commemorating his brave deeds.

Campbell is buried on Brest (Kerfautras) Cemetery Saint-Martin-des-Champs, Departement du Finistère, Bretagne, France.

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