17 February 2008

Victoria Cross: K. Campbell


Flying Officer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; 22 Squadron, Coastal Command

Born: 21 April 1917, Saltcoats, Ayrshire
Died: 6 April 1941, Brest, France

Citation: This officer was the pilot of a Beaufort aircraft of Coastal Command which was detailed to attack an enemy battle cruiser in Brest Harbour at first light on the morning of 6th April, 1941. The aircraft did not return but it is now known that a torpedo attack was carried out with the utmost daring.
The battle cruiser was secured alongside the wall on the north shore of the harbour, protected by a stone mole bending round it from the west. On rising ground behind the ship stood protective batteries of guns. Other batteries were clustered thickly round the two arms of land which encircle the outer harbour. In this outer harbour near the mole were moored three heavily-armed anti-aircraft ships, guarding the battle cruiser. Even if an aircraft succeeded in penetrating these formidable defences, it would be almost impossible, after delivering a low-level attack, to avoid crashing into the rising ground beyond.
This was well known to Flying Officer Campbell who, despising the heavy odds, went cheerfully and resolutely to the task. He ran the gauntlet of the defences. Coming in almost at sea level, he passed the anti-aircraft ships at less than mast-height in the very mouths of their guns, and skimming over the mole launched a torpedo at point-blank range. The battle cruiser was severely damaged below the water-line and was obliged to return to dock whence she had come only the day before.
By pressing home his attack at close quarters in the face of a withering fire on a course fraught with extreme peril, Flying Officer Campbell displayed valour of the highest order.

(London Gazette Issue 35486 dated 13 Mar 1942, published 10 Mar 1942.)

Note: The battlecruiser Flying Officer Campbell attacked was the Gneisenau.

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