Donald Campbell's daughter leads tributes to speed legend on 100th anniversary of his birth

With a steely resolve to go faster than any human had ever gone before, Donald Campbell was known across the globe for his succession of record-breaking achievements which began almost 70 years ago.

Donald Campbell, who died when his Bluebird K7 hydroplane overturned on Coniston Water January 4, 1967, while trying to beat the water speed record. (Photo: PA News Agency).

But it was on January 4, 1967, that he was immortalised in history as tragedy struck on Coniston Water in the Lake District when he was killed after his hydroplane, Bluebird K7, flipped into the air and disintegrated.

And yesterday, to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, Mr Campbell’s daughter, Gina, was joined by a group of dignitaries to pay tribute to her father.

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A flypast of two RAF Hawk jets took place as Ms Campbell stood at the side of the lake that claimed her father’s life.

Gina Campbell and her partner, Brian Eastham, are pictured at Coniston Water in the Lake District after an RAF flypast to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of her father, Donald Campbell. On January 4, 1967, Mr Campbell crashed his jet-powered boat, Bluebird K7, on Coniston Water while attempting to break his own world water speed record. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A reception was also staged at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston, where salvaged fragments of Bluebird K7 are on display.

Ms Campbell, who lived in Thorner, near Leeds, before moving to Stockport three years ago, told The Yorkshire Post of her pride at the commemorations to her father’s life.

The 71-year-old, whose partner, Brian Eastham, was at her side yesterday, said: “It has been emotional, but I much prefer to remember my father for his life rather than his death.

“It has been magnificent to be here and the people of Coniston have made such an effort on what is a special day for me to remember my father, I am very humbled.”

Ms Campbell, whose parents divorced when she was just one, was aged 17 and working in a hotel in Switzerland when she learnt of the tragic events at Coniston Water.

She said: “He brought me up on his own, and he was strict with me, but I had a wonderful childhood and so much respect for him. He had such dogged determination and wouldn’t ever give up, which is a trait I have inherited myself.

“It is obviously tragic the way he lost his life, but I know that is how he would have wanted to go, trying to achieve something no-one else had ever achieved.”

In 2001, Mr Campbell’s body, with his distinctive blue race suit still intact, and the wreckage of Bluebird were recovered from the depths of the lake and he was buried that year in Coniston.

Yesterday’s flypast saw the RAF Hawk jets dip their wings in salute as they repeated a tribute carried out by a Vulcan bomber the day after his death.

During a private ceremony at her father’s graveside, Ms Campbell laid a blue and yellow floral tribute, the colours themed around his famous jumpsuit and crash helmet which he wore during his record-breaking endeavours.

A wreath was also laid on the lake from the residents of Dumbleyung in Australia, which was the location of Mr Campbell’s water speed record of 276.33mph on December 31, 1964.

Earlier that year, he broke the land speed record on July 17, by achieving 403.10mph in Bluebird CN7 at Lake Eyre in Australia. He remains the only person to have broken both the land and water speed records in the same year.

Bluebird K7’s wreckage was recovered from Coniston Water in 2001 by North Shields-based engineer Bill Smith, who has worked on restoring it with a team of volunteers.

In August 2018, Bluebird hit speeds of 150mph on Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. The Bluebird Project is set to return to Bute for a second training exercise ahead of a future homecoming at Coniston Water.

Born on March 23, 1921, in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey, Donald Campbell would go on to break eight world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s.

The son of Sir Malcolm Campbell, who himself held 13 land and water speed records, he was driven to emulate, if not surpass, his father’s achievements.

Mr Campbell’s first water speed record was achieved on July 23, 1955, when he reached 202.32mph in Bluebird K7 at Ullswater in the Lake District.

In the record attempt on January 4, 1967, which was to claim his life at the age of 45, Mr Campbell had set himself a target of reaching 300mph, once again in Bluebird K7, on Coniston Water.