Sir Malcolm Campbell

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Malcolm Campbell

Birthplace: Chislehurst, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Reigate, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of William Campbell and Ada Westerton
Husband of Betty Campbell and Marjorie D Campbell
Ex-husband of Dorothy Emily Edith Evelyn Whittall
Father of Donald Campbell
Brother of Winifred Mather

Managed by: Private User
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About Sir Malcolm Campbell

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, 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 and 1908, 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 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 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.

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 land speed record 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.

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 300 mph, 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. 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. 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.


In 1931 on his return from Daytona where he set a land speed record of 245.736 mph (395.474 km/h), he was given a civic welcome and a Mansion House banquet in London, and was knighted by King George V.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.

He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1933 and 1939.

He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.

An English Heritage blue plaque commemorates Campbell and his son at Canbury School, Kingston Hill, Kingston-upon Thames, where they lived.


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 and adorned his car, Blue Bird, with fascist insignia.

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Sir Malcolm Campbell's Timeline

March 11, 1885
Chislehurst, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
March 23, 1921
Age 36
Greater London, England, United Kingdom
December 31, 1948
Age 63
Reigate, Surrey, England, United Kingdom