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Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell VC - Burnley MP

Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell VC, DSO & (2 Bars) was Burnley's MP from 1931 - 1935.

Born January 1886 died 3 Oct 1953


He was his parents thirteenth child, educated at Dulwich College, until he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet at the age of 14 in 1900.

Awarded the Victoria Cross

In 1917, by the age of 31, he had reached the rank of Commander during First World War when the act for which he was awarded the VC took place.

On the 17th February 1917, HMS 'Q5' under the command of Commander Campbell DSO RN, 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, U-83, 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 below 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 'Q5' 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 gun crews had to remain concealed in their gun houses for nearly half an hour, while the ship slowly sank lower in the water.

Campbell also commanded HMS Dunraven during the action of 8 August 1917 when she was sunk by SM UC-71. Victoria Crosses were awarded to two crewmen who were selected by ballot from amongst the crew of Dunraven, Lieutenant Charles George Bonner and Petty Officer Ernest Herbert Pitcher.

His Victoria Cross is held at his old school, Dulwich College.

Later Life

Campbell later achieved the rank of Vice Admiral. He commanded the battlecruiser HMS Tiger 1925-27 and served as Naval Aide-de-Camp to George V 1928-29. In 1931, he was elected as National Member of Parliament for Burnley, defeating the Labour leader, Arthur Henderson. In 1935, however, standing as a National Liberal, he lost his seat.

Campbell wrote several publications, including the successful My Mystery Ships. His brother, Sir Edward Campbell, was also a Member of Parliament.

Obituary from the Burnley Express of 7 October 1953

Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell. V.C., D.S.0.,who provided one of the sensations the 1931 General Election, when he defeated the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Arthur Henderson, to become Member Parliament for Burnley.
He died on Saturday 3 October 1953 in the West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, at the age of 67.

Vice Admiral Campbell represented Burnley as an unattached supporter of the National Government for four years. In 1935, as a Liberal Nationalist, he was defeated by a majority of over 4,000 by Mr. W. A. Burke.

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1928, Admiral Campbell took no active part in political life, but he had been a keen student of politics and economics, and had even worked in commercial undertaking as a trainee in order to get in touch with every industrial point of view. When he expressed his willingness to contest the election at Burnley. Admiral Campbell was of the opinion that the call to the country at the particular time - should a national one and one above party politics. His candidature was endorsed by the Conservative and Liberal parties in Burnley. Just before the General Election in 1935 he associated himself with the Liberal National Group and for the election received the support the Conservative Party Executive. During his period of office, his health broke down on several occasions, but he proved a very attentive representative of the Borough, attending a great proportion of civic functions and keeping in touch constantly with the constituency. He was a staunch supporter of Mr. Stanley Baldwin's Government, and of the Government's policy to adhere to the League of Nations.

When retired in 1928 he was the youngest rear-admiral in the Navy. He was appointed vice-admiral in 1933. He joined the Navy, after education at Dulwich College, in 1900 as a 14 years old cadet on H.M.S. Britannia. His first adventure a midshipman was on H.M.S. Flora which ran aground off British Columbia and nearly became a total wreck. Promoted lieutenant in 1907 he served in the flagship on the China Station, 1907-1910, and afterwards H.M.S. Impregnable.
At the age of 26 was given his first command, being in charge the destroyer Ranger. At the outbreak of the First World War he commanded the destroyer Bittern. During the war Admiral Campbell commanded the first 'Q' ship - one of the mystery vessels specially detailed to the dangerous work of deceiving and dealing with submarines. His book, "My Mystery Ships" published in 1928, was regarded one of the epics of naval adventure, and it was whilst he was with the 'Q' ships that he was awarded the Victoria Cross and was many times mentioned in despatches as well receiving the direct thanks of the Admiralty and War Cabinet. His promotion in the Navy was extraordinarily rapid - from lieutenant-commander 1915, commander 1916 at the age of 30, and captain the following year. He was made an officer of the Legion d'Honneur, and awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palme.

His last sea-going command was that of the Tiger, a famous battle-cruiser. After the First World War he was with H.M.S. Cumberland and H.M.S. Impregnable in charge of the training of cadets from 1919 to 1922, and then to 1925 was superintendent of the naval dockyard. Simonstown, South Africa. Just before he retired he was naval A.D.C. to King George V.
After his retirement he wrote many newspaper and magazine articles and was one the most popular British post-war lecturers in Canada and the United States.
In 1911 he married Miss Mary Davids, of Guildford. She survived him, with a son and a daughter.

The First National Government

The1931 United Kingdom general election was held on Tuesday 27 October 1931 and saw a landslide election victory for the National Government which had been formed two months previously after the collapse of the second Labour government. Collectively, the parties forming the National Government won 67% of the votes and 554 seats out of 615. The bulk of the National Government's support came from the Conservative Party, and the Conservatives won 470 seats. The Labour Party suffered its greatest defeat, losing four out of every five seats compared with the previous election. The Liberal Party, split into three factions, continued to shrink and the Liberal National faction never reunited. A spokesman at the time is reported as saying "the result of the election was the most astonishing in the history of the British party system".