Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell VC, DSO (1886-1953)

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    School No. 5367. At Dulwich College 1898-1900

    One of seven OAs to receive the Victoria Cross, Vice-Admiral Campbell was the successful commander of armed decoy vessels known as 'Q' ships during the First World War. In 1916 he was awarded the DSO for sinking a U-boat and a year later received a VC for successfully destroying another German submarine despite his own ship being hit and sinking. In the citation this act was described as 'the supreme test of naval discipline'.

    After the war, Campbell was promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1928 and Vice-Admiral in 1932. From 1931 to 1935 he was was MP for Burnley.

    Gordon Campbell .... Jan. 6 1886 - Jul. 3 1953

    World War I Victoria Cross Recipient.

    A native of Croydon, Surrey, he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1900. Campbell was instrumental in the development of Q-ships, specially-outfitted and armed merchant ships designed to present easy targets to U-boats. When a U-boat surfaced, the Q-ship dropped the camouflage hiding its armament and opened fire. Campbell was in command of HMS Farnborough, alias the Q5, on February 17, 1917, off the southwest coast of Ireland, when he performed the deeds for which he was awarded the V.C. About 0945 the lookout spotted a torpedo coming at the ship, and though it could easily have been avoided by an experienced pilot, Campbell maneuvered to make it appear as if his ship were manned by less-than-competent sailors, making sure the torpedo would hit. The tactic worked. When the torpedo struck just aft of the engine room, well-rehearsed pandemonium followed. Two lifeboats and a dinghy were lowered, and it shortly appeared the Q5 had been abandoned. When the sub surfaced to finish her off, the hidden gun crews let loose with a broadside. The ensuing gun battle lasted only a few minutes, the sub being riddled with shells at point-blank range and sinking with the loss of all but one of her crew. Meanwhile the Q5 was taking on water and settling by the stern. Campbell sent a famous distress signal: “Q5 slowly sinking respectfully wishes you good-bye.” Within an hour two British destroyers arrived and took the Q5 in tow. As there was still some power available on the Q5 from an auxiliary engine, Campbell remained on board with a volunteer skeleton crew to assist with the tow. Nearly eighteen hours after the ship had been torpedoed, the Q5 was beached at Mill Cove, Ireland. Campbell’s V.C. citation was deliberately vague: “In recognition of his conspicuous gallantry, consummate coolness, and skill in command of one of HM ships in action.” The vagueness backfired, as the press started referring to him as “The Mystery VC.” It was even reported that German agents had a price on his head. In June 1917 Campbell was commanding the HMS Pargust when she sank the U-29, for which Lt. R.N. Stuart and Seaman William Williams were awarded V.C.s, and in August 1917 he was captain of HMS Dunraven in her encounter with the UC-71, for which Lt. C.G. Bonner and P.O. G.H. Pitcher earned the award. Campbell might have been given a second V.C. for either action but he declined. After the war Campbell rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral but was involuntarily retired in 1928 at the age of 42. He wrote several books on naval subjects, including the worldwide bestseller “My Mystery Ships” (1928). He was elected to Parliament in 1931 but defeated for re-election in 1935. When World War II broke out Winston Churchill asked him to oversee a new fleet of Q-ships, but the program had to be abandoned. His health broke down in 1943, and he passed away at the West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, at the age of 67. His medals, including the V.C. and DSO and Two Bars, as well as the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and Legion of Honor, are on display at Dulwich College, East London

    My Mystery Ships ....

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