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Thread: F/Lt William Weir CAMPBELL DFC 37875 RAF

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    Default F/Lt William Weir CAMPBELL DFC 37875 RAF

    This officer was the captain of 230 Squadron Sunderland L5804 on the 28th and 29th June 1940 in the Mediterranean when he successfully attacked and sank two Italian submarines. He was awarded the DFC for these actions.

    I cannot locate any Gazette entry for this award. Please could anyone assist with the date of any Gazette entry and a citation.

    Thanks in advance

    Chris

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    Chris,

    Whilst I can't help with regard to the citation, here is the announcement of your man's DFC:

    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/...4945/page/5487

    Rgds

    Jonny
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    In addition, the following appeared in the Londonderry Sentinel of Tuesday 08 October 1940 (presumably based on an Air Ministry Press Release).

    "Dead-Eye Dick” Gets D.F.C.

    Sank Two Italian Submarines.

    Acting-Flight-Lieutenant William Weir Campbell, of the Middle East Command, has been awarded the D.F.C. for skill, initiative, and devotion to duty. Flight-Lieutenant Campbell was responsible for the destruction of two Italian submarines announced recently.
    In the attack on the first submarine two anti-submarine bombs burst above the conning tower. The nose of the submarine rose sharply to the surface and then plunged to the bottom.
    The next day Flight-Lieutenant Campbell sighted another Italian submarine on the surface. He dived to the attack and secured direct hits beside the conning tower. Although in the open sea, and in the face of an approaching storm, Flight-Lieutenant Campbell came down and taxied about the wreckage and recovered four survivors.
    On the way home he sighted a third submarine, which he machine-gunned, as he had no bombs left. After a second attack the submarine crash-dived.
    Flight-Lieutenant Campbell is known among his companions as "Dead-Eye Dick” because of his special skill in dealing with submarines."
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    CAMPBELL, F/L William Weir (37835) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.230 Squadron - awarded as per London Gazette dated 13 September 1940. Born in Revelstoke, 28 February 1912; DHist file 181.005 D.270 listed him as Canadian in the RAF; next-of-kin (mother) living in Victoria; joined RAF 29 June 1936. Awarded Distinguished Pass at No.5 Flying Training School, Sealand (reported in Aeroplane of 14 April 1937); promoted Flight Lieutenant with effect from 3 September 1940; S/L 1 December 1941; W/C 1 July 1941. In No.230 Squadron from outbreak of war to March 1941. Specifically listed in AFRO 1292/41 dated 7 November 1941 as a Canadian in the RAF who had been decorated as of that date. RAF Ferry Command crew cards (Directorate of History and Heritage, Document 84/44-3) confirm his Canadian birth and show him involved in three PBY ferry flights, July to October 1943. No published citation; Public Records Office Air 2/6102 (Non-Immediate Awards, 1940) has the following recommendation in a block of awards submitted in July 1940: the original recommendation (dated 29 June 1940) is in Public Record Office Air 2/6099 and differs in no significant detail from what follows.

    "While commanding a flying boat in the Eastern Mediterranean, Acting Flight Lieutenant Campbell showed skill and initiative in surprising and attacking enemy submarines, sinking two with bombs and machine-gunning personnel in the conning tower of a third submarine. The bomb explosions on one of these submarines resulted in wreckage and a number of the crew coming to the surface. Although in the open sea and in the face of an approaching storm, Acting Flight Lieutenant Campbell alighted and taxied the flying boat about the wreckage from which he recovered four survivors. Owing to shock and injuries, the state of the sea and lack of a suitable boat, the manoeuvring of the flying boar and the recovering of the survivors demanded the greatest skill and patience. After the survivors were safely on board Acting Flight Lieutenant Campbell made a further search and then resumed patrol, handing over his prisoners at the end of the day."

    NOTE: Although no citation was published in the London Gazette, the Air Ministry Bulletin 1693 was accompanied by a message sent "en clair" from Headquarters, Middle East to Air Ministry on 7 October 1940, apparently in conjunction with a press release and photograph being issued that day. This read in part:

    "Acting Flight Lieutenant William Weir Campbell, pilot of a flying boat, Middle East Command, [has] been awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for skill, initiative and devotion to duty. Behind announcement lies story, destruction two Italian submarines with bombs and attack on another with machine gun fire.

    "Flying boat which Flight Lieutenant Campbell in charge early weeks war. Attacks took place two successive days. One case Flight Lieutenant Campbell returned scene, rescued four survivors, then calmly resumed his patrol before handing over Italians, three Lieutenants and one Petty Officer, end of day. First of submarines destroyed

    "Dive bombing attack. Periscope sighted, Flight Lieutenant Campbell at once dived and released special anti-submarine bombs. Two burst abaft conning tower and immediately nose of submarine rose sharply towards surface afterwards appearing slide vertically to bottom. Air bubbles and oil at once began appear surface, two hours later large patch 300 by 500 yards. Tail gunner reported seeing debris floating in area for some time after bombs burst. Next day same flying boat again sighted Italian submarine on surface and again the Flight Lieutenant dived to attack scoring direct hits beside conning tower. Although in open sea and in face of approaching storm, Flight Lieutenant Campbell alighted, taxied flying boat about wreckage from which he recovered four survivors owing [showing ?] shock and injuries, state of sea, lack of suitable boat, manoeuvring of boat and recovering survivors commanded greatest skill and patience. After survivors safely aboard Flight Lieutenant Campbell made further search, then resumed patrol handing over prisoners end of day. On return journey to base, pilot sighted yet another submarine on surface. This he machine gunned as he ad no bombs left. After second attack submarine crash dived. His special aptitude dealing with submarines has earned for him sobriquet "Dead Eye Dick" among fellow pilots."

    Notes compiled by W/C F.H. Hitchins (cards held by Directorate of History and Heritage, NDHQ) state that he was with No.230 Squadron, Seletar at the outbreak of war. By June 1940 he was at Alexandria and on 27 June 1940 flew a Sunderland from Alexandria to Malta. On 28 June 1940, flying L5804, he sank the Italian submarine Argonauta. On 29 June 1940, on reconnaissance in L5804, he was in approaches to Gulf of Taranto when he sank the Italian submarine Rubino, picked up four survivors and machine-gunned another submarine. On 26 August 1940, on patrol, he force-landed in Greek neutral territory (St.Nikolas Bay, Kithera) following engine trouble and was interned, from which he was released on 1 November 1940 when Italy attacked Greece

    CAMPBELL, W/C William Weir (37835) - Officer, Order of the British Empire - No.302 Ferry Training Unit - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1945. Public Record Office Air 2/8872 has recommended citation.

    "This officer has been in command of No.302 Ferry Training Unit since March 1943. During his tenure of command, 200 aircraft have been despatched overseas. In March 1944, No.302 Ferry Training Unit absorbed another Ferry Training Unit equipped with Sunderland aircraft with the result that training had to be adjusted in include Sunderlands as well as Catalinas. The numbers of crews to be trained and aircraft to be despatched rose sharply. Owing to various difficulties the Ferry Training Unit found itself seriously behind schedule in its commitments for aircraft by the spring of 1944. A conference was held to clear up the situation and Wing Commander Campbell, acting vigorously on its recommendations, cleared the arrears by June 1944. A steady flow of aircraft is now maintained and the Unit has since kept ahead of schedule. The success of this achievement has been due principally to the energy, soundness and remarkable hard working qualities of Wing Commander Campbell, who has truly devoted himself to his responsible duties."

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    Hugh and Jonny,

    Thank you very much, I don't know why my searches on the Gazette failed to find the announcement, and I didn't know he was Canadian either. I assumed with that name he'd be Scottish!

    Thanks both again

    Chris

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    We Scots do get around.

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    Returning after a long absence, partly for tech reasons resolved today (thanks Jagan), and partly personal. Perhaps from time to time I'll be able to add something useful.

    Further to Hugh & Jonny's great contributions, the exploits of F/Lt WW (Willie, "Dead Eye Dick") Campbell DFC of 230 Sqn RAF are also covered in a page or so of Tommy Wisdom's Wings Over Olympus, along with a pair of great photos of him, at the Nav desk and in "the office" (with Wisdom in the co-pilot seat) of a 230 Squadron Sunderland. See pages 51, 52, and accompanying plates. Wisdom was a war correspondent in the Middle East in 1940, 1941 and after. The plates are likely by F/O H Hensser aka "Photo Joe", who as Air Ministry photographer worked closely with Wisdom.

    After several attempts at image load/display, the best I can offer are these links, temporarily. I'd like to take them down in a week or so, please.
    Source:
    TH Wisdom Wings Over Olympus (George Allen and Unwin 1942)

    See also:
    H Hensser Camera At War (Jarrolds c1944)

    Don Clark
    www.211squadron.org
    Last edited by Jagan; 5th February 2020 at 12:46. Reason: add signature

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    Couple of observations on the cockpit photo.

    Campbell's face is visible in a mirror in the middle of the panel.

    And is that some form of sight set into the left-side window panel? Wouldn't be for depth charges but perhaps for turning around a target to bring machine gun positions to bear? Can anyone confirm?

    Robert

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    Can't help thinking, comparing the two photos, that between the face in the mirror and the flying jacket/cap, that in fact Campbell is in the right hand seat and Wisdom the left.

    Thanks for making the images visible Jagan, had several struggles with this.

    Don
    Last edited by Jagan; 7th February 2020 at 12:20.
    Toujours propos

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    As noted in my post #7, the images were loaded to my own website space. As I have now taken them down, the links will no longer work. I'd delete the links but for the period for post editing having expired.

    I'd add that the book includes several pictures of Tommy Wisdom, as to be expected: hence my remark above about the face in the mirror.

    The book itself, written and published very soon after the event, is not only a good story but - for the time - a pretty accurate account of the action in Greece.

    My late father's copy is pretty fragile now, but includes his annotations adding some 211 Sqn detail to the text plus a number of paste-ins of photos and rolls. In contrast, for other books about the RAF in Greece his notes on errors were trenchant and numerous - here, his comments simply illustrative.

    For anyone interested in the RAF in Greece, the book is still fairly readily found at prices ranging from fair to patently ludicrous, as listed at eg www.bookfinder.com. Copies are also held in major collections like the British Library, the Australian War Memorial library, and the National Library of Australia. There may be a copy in the Imperial War Museum but not readily found by the current search pages.

    TH Wisdom Wings Over Olympus (George Allen and Unwin 1942)

    My father was a Sgt Observer in 211 Squadron RAF from Sep 1940 to January 1942
    http://www.211squadron.org/cfr_clark.html

    Don Clark
    www.211squadron.org
    Last edited by Don Clark; 10th February 2020 at 23:38.

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