Campbell, Donald Malcolm 1921 - 1967

English; British

(1921-1967), land and water speed record holder

Donald Malcolm Campbell was born on the 23rd March 1921 in Surrey. He was a motorboat and automobile driver who emulated his father, Sir Malcolm Campbell, in setting world’s speed records on land and on water. Donald was educated at Uppingham School, and on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he volunteered for the RAF. However, he was rejected due to ill health, leaving him to gain a job as a maintenance engineer.

After his father’s death in 1948, Donald became actively interested in seeking to attempt new speed records on both land and water. Helped by Ken and Lew Norris, he designed the Bluebird K7 – a jet-propelled 3-point hydroplane with a Metropolitan-Vickers Beryl jet engine.

Between 1955 and 1964, he set seven world speed records, increasing the world record from 202mph in 1955 to 276mph in 1964. After dominating the water speed records, he switched to land speed records. These proved more difficult and many record attempts were abandoned or failed. However, on 17 July 1964, Campbell set a record of 403 mph (648 km/h) for a four-wheeled vehicle (Class A). Later in the year, he broke the water speed record near Perth, Western Australia – setting a speed of 276mph. He became the first person to hold both water and land speed records in the same year.

On 4 January 1967, Campbell was making an attempt in his K7 on Lake Coniston. His first run was successful, but on the second run, the K7 flipped in the rough water and landed nose first at over 300mph. The boat disintegrated, and Campbell was killed instantly. Donald Campbell’s body was not recovered until 2001 – 34 years after his death.