Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell
For the film editor, see Malcolm Campbell (film editor)
Sir Malcolm Campbell
Born 11 March 1885(1885-03-11)
Chislehurst, Kent, England
Died 31 December 1948(1948-12-31) (aged 63)
Reigate, Surrey, England
Resting place St Nicholas Church, Chislehurst, Kent
Nationality British
Occupation Racing motorist, journalist

1) Marjorie D. Knott (Jul 1913-1915div.)
2) Dorothy Evelyn Whittall (1920-1940div) 2 children

3) Betty Nicory, (Aug 1945-his death)
Children Donald Campbell (1921–1967)
Jean Campbell (1923–)

Sir Malcolm Campbell (11 March 1885 – 31 December 1948) was an English racing motorist and motoring journalist. He gained the world speed record on land and on water at various times during the 1920s and 1930s using vehicles called Blue Bird. His son, Donald Campbell, carried on the family tradition by holding both land speed and water speed records.


Early life

Malcolm Campbell was born in Chislehurst, Kent in 1885,[1][2] the only son of William Campbell, a Hatton Garden diamond seller. He attended the independent Uppingham School. In Germany, learning the diamond trade, he gained an interest in motorbikes and races. Returning to England, he worked for two years at Lloyd's of London for no pay, then for another year at one pound a week. Between 1906–8, he won all three London to Lakes End Trials (motorbike races). In 1910 he began racing cars at Brooklands. He christened his car Blue Bird, painting it blue, after seeing the play The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck at the Haymarket Theatre. He married Marjorie D. Knott in 1913[3] but divorced two years later. He served in World War I in the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment and in the RAF. He married Dorothy Evelyn Whittall in 1920 in Westminster[4] and their son Donald was born in 1921, and they had a daughter Jean in 1923. He was knighted in 1931. They divorced in 1940. He married Betty Nicory in Aug 1945 in Chelsea.[5]

Grand Prix career

He competed in Grand Prix motor racing, winning the 1927 and 1928 Grand Prix de Boulogne in France driving a Bugatti T37A.

Land speed record

He broke the LSR for the first time in 1924 at 146.16 mph (235.22 km/h) at Pendine Sands near Carmarthen Bay in a 350HP V12 Sunbeam, now on display at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. Campbell broke nine land speed records between 1924 and 1935, with three at Pendine Sands and five at Daytona Beach. His first two records were driving a racing car built by Sunbeam.

On 4 February 1927 Campbell set the land speed record at Pendine Sands, covering the Flying Kilometre (in an average of two runs) at 174.883 mph (281.447 km/h) and the Flying Mile in 174.224 mph (280.386 km/h), in the Napier-Campbell Blue Bird.[6]

He set his final land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on 3 September 1935, and was the first person to drive an automobile over 300mph, averaging (301.337 mph (484.955 km/h)) in two passes.

Water speed records

He developed and flotation tested Bluebird on Tilgate Lake, in Tilgate Park, Crawley.[7] He set the water speed record four times, his highest speed being 141.740 mph (228.108 km/h) in the Bluebird K4. He set the record on 19 August 1939 on Coniston Water, England.


He died after a series of strokes in 1948 in Reigate, Surrey, aged 63 years.[8] He was one of the few land speed record holders of his era to die of natural causes, as so many had died in crashes. His versatile racing on different vehicles made him internationally famous.



He stood for Parliament without success at the 1935 general election in Deptford for the Conservative Party.

He had links to the British Union of Fascists. He carried a fascist flag at a fascist rally[9] and adorned his car, Blue Bird, with fascist insignia.[10]


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1885 2a 409 BROMLEY – Malcolm Campbell
  2. ^ Plaque #1427 on Open Plaques.
  3. ^ GRO Register of Marriages SEP 1913 2a 1239 BROMLEY – Malcolm Campbell = Marjorie D. Knott
  4. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1920 1a 1438 ST. MARTIN – Malcolm Campbell = Whittall
  5. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: SEP 1945 1a 1016 CHELSEA – Malcolm Campbell = Betty Nicory or Humphery
  6. ^ Motor Sport, March 1927, p.282; Motor Sport, September 1927, p.77; Thrust, by Richard Noble (Bantam Books, 1999), p.401.
  7. ^ Plaque #2138 on Open Plaques.
  8. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1949 5g 833 REIGATE – Malcolm Campbell, aged 63
  9. ^ Blackshirt, 26 April 1935, p. 1
  10. ^ Dorril, Stephen (2006). Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism. London: Viking. p. 356. 

External links

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