On This Day - 3rd September

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Bluebird

Major Sir Malcolm Campbell MBE (11 March 1885 — 31 December 1948)

was a British 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, including a 1921 Grand Prix Sunbeam. His son, Donald Campbell, carried on the family tradition by holding both land speed and water speed records.

Early life and family

Campbell was born in Chislehurst, Kent. on 11 March 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 Britain, he worked for two years at Lloyd's of London for no pay, then for another year at £1 a week.

Between 1906 and 1908, he won all three London to Lands End Trials motorcycle 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. Campbell married Marjorie Dagmar Knott in 1913 but divorced two years later.

Campbell then married Dorothy Evelyn Whittall in 1920 and their son Donald was born in 1921, and their daughter, Jean, in 1923. They divorced in 1940. Campbell married Betty Nicory in 1945 in Chelsea.

Grand Prix career

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

Land speed record

Campbell 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. He 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

Campbell developed and flotation-tested Blue Bird 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 Blue Bird K4. He set the record on 19 August 1939 on Coniston Water, Cumbria, England.