29 March 2009

Victoria Cross: G. Campbell


Commander, Royal Navy; commanding HMS Q5 (aka HMS Farnborough)

Born: 6 January 1886, Croydon, Surrey
Died: 3 July 1953, Isleworth, Middlesex

Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross to
Commander Gordon Campbell, D.S.O., R.N.
In recognition of his conspicuous gallantry, consummate coolness, and skill in command of one of H.M. ships in action.

(London Gazette Issue 30029 dated 21 Apr 1917, published 20 Apr 1917.)

On the 17th February, 1917, H.M.S. "Q5," under the command of Commander Campbell, D.S.O., R.N., was struck by a torpedo abreast of No. 3 hold. Action stations were sounded and the "panic party" abandoned ship. The engineer officer reported that the engine-room was flooding, and was ordered to remain at his post as long as possible, which he and his staff, several of whom were severely wounded, most gallantly did. The submarine was observed on the starboard quarter 200 yards distant, watching the proceedings through his periscope. He ran past the ship on the starboard side so closely that the whole hull was visible beneath the surface, finally emerging about 300 yards on the port bow. The enemy came down the port side of the ship, and fire was withheld until all guns could bear at point blank range. The first shot beheaded the captain of the submarine as he was climbing out of the conning tower, and the submarine finally sank with conning tower open and crew pouring out. One officer and one man were rescued on the surface and taken prisoner, after which the boats were recalled and all hands proceeded to do their utmost to keep the ship afloat. A wireless signal for assistance had been sent out when (but not until) the fate of the submarine was assured, and a destroyer and sloop arrived a couple of hours later and took "Q.5" in tow. She was finally beached in safety the following evening.
The action may be regarded as the supreme test of naval discipline. The chief engineer and engine-room watch remained at their posts to keep the dynamo working until driven out by the water, then remaining concealed on top of the cylinders. The guns' crews had to remain concealed in their gun houses for nearly half an hour, while the ship slowly sank lower in the water.
(The award of the Victoria Cross to Commander Gordon Campbell, D.S.O., R.N., was announced in London Gazette No. 30029, dated the 21st April, 1917.)

(London Gazette Issue 32021 dated 19 Nov 1918, published 19 Nov 1918.)

Note: The submarine was U 83, commanded by Kptlt Bruno Hoppe.

Cmdr Campbell was commanding officer of HMS Pargust, another Q-ship, when she was attacked by UC 29 on 7 Jun 1917; Lieut R N Stuart DSO, RNR, and Seaman W Williams, RNR, were elected by the ship's officers and crew to be awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions in that battle. Campbell was also commanding officer of HMS Dunraven, yet another Q-ship, when she was attacked by UC 71 on 8 Aug 1917; Lieut C G Bonner DSC, RNR, and PO E H Pitcher DSM, RN, were awarded the Victoria Cross for that battle.

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