News, Culture & Society

Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking boat restored

Sir Malcolm Campbell was born on March 11, 1885, in Chislehurst, Kent

He broke the land speed record in 1924, hitting 146.16 mph, before breaking another eight between then and 1935. 

Sir Malcolm went on to win the 1927 and 1928 Grand Prix de Boulogne in France driving a Bugatti T37A.

In 1935 he set his final land record, hitting 301.337 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, America.

When war broke out in 1939, he built his own vast bomb shelter at his Headley Hall home in Epsom, Surrey. 

He also installed a fortified trophy cabinet in his cellar after winning the Segrave Trophy in both 1933 and 1939. 

Sir Malcolm died aged 63 after a series of strokes in 1948 and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.

His son, Donald Campbell, followed in his footsteps to break eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s.

He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year. 

Donald died on January 4 1967 aged just 45 when his jet-powered boat, Bluebird K7, flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted a new water speed record on Coniston Water in Cumbria.

It later emerged that the speed ace was decapitated by Bluebird’s windscreen exploding at 300 mph.

He was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

In 2001 Campbell’s body – with his race suit intact – and the wreckage of Bluebird were recovered from the depths of the lake and he was buried later that year in the village of Coniston.

In 2010 an English Heritage blue plaque was installed to commemorate Sir Malcolm and his son at Canbury School, Kingston Hill, Kingston upon Thames, where Donald was born in March 1921 and the Campbells lived until late 1922.