Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell

Chislehurst, London Borough of Bromley, Greater London, England
Death 31 Dec 1948 (aged 63)
Reigate, Reigate and Banstead Borough, Surrey, England
Burial Chislehurst, London Borough of Bromley, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 7471108 · View Source
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Sportsman. Born in Chislehurst in Kent, he was educated at Uppingham School in Berkshire, then in Germany for eighteen months and France for a year. His first job was at Lloyd's Corporation of Underwriters, where he worked for two years without a salary and for a third on one pound per week, which he used to fund his hobby of motor cycles. At the age of 21, he became a Member of Lloyd's and, shortly afterwards, made a considerable fortune by offering insurance for newspapers against libel actions. He made his first flight in 1909, in an aircraft he had built himself in a disused barn. At its first attempt, it crashed; but he rebuilt it and it flew for a hundred yards, making him one of the very first Britons to fly. His first motor race at Brooklands had taken place the previous year. In 1910, he bought a Darracq car which had won the Vanderbilt Cup in America and which could reach 100 m.p.h. Because Maurice Maeterlinck's play "The Blue Bird" was on at the Haymarket Theatre at the time, he named his car "Bluebird" and painted it that colour. It won the race at Brooklands, and all his future vehicles were to be given the same name. In 1912, he suffered the first of several injuries when, at Brooklands, Bluebird lost its front and back wheels on the "off" side, almost simultaneously. Campbell had the presence of mind to wrench the car to the edge of the track and to put the hubs on the edge of the concrete. In this way, he managed to keep the car upright and to finish the course, coming fourth. When the First World War broke out, he served as a dispatch rider before being commissioned in the Royal West Kent Regiment, then transferring to the Royal Flying Corps as a ferry pilot; later, a flying instructor. After the Armistice, Malcolm Campbell resumed his motor racing career and won four hundred trophies. In 1923 at Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire, Wales, he was the first man to reach 150 m.p.h. At Daytona Beach in Florida, he raised ths to 206, then 246, m.p.h. On his return from the latter triumph, in 1931, he was knighted, having already received the M.B.E. for his service in the Great War. Finally, in 1935 at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, he became the first man to exceed 300 m.p.h. After this triumph, he abandoned motor cars for motor boats. As before, all his craft were called Bluebird; and, in 1939 at Lake Coniston, he set up a world record of 141.74 m.p.h. In the General Election of 1935, he contested Deptford, in South East London, as a Conservative, but was defeated. In 1938, his novel, "Salute to the Gods" was filmed by MGM as "Burn 'Em Up O'Connor" with Dennis O'Keefe in the title role; and, in 1979, three decades after his death, the B.B.C dramatised his life in a play called "Speed King", with Robert Hardy as Sir Malcolm. This concentrated as much on his prowess in the bed-room as on his skill on the track. In addition to numerous affairs, as mentioned in the play, he was married three times. The second marriage, to Dorothy Evelyn Whittall, produced one daughter and one son, Donald (q.v.) who followed his father's career, but who met with an untimely end. Sir Malcolm's grave is in the South West of the churchyard. If you enter through the gate on Manor Park Road, turn left and he is in the third row, five graves from the left and just behind the large tomb of Thompson Bonar (q.v.).

Bio by: Iain MacFarlaine

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Iain MacFarlaine
  • Added: 20 May 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7471108
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Malcolm Campbell (11 Mar 1885–31 Dec 1948), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7471108, citing St Nicholas Churchyard, Chislehurst, London Borough of Bromley, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .