ON THIS DAY    Witness      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1967: The Bluebird legend

Donald Campbell's ambition was to make the world water speed record so fast it would be unbreakable for many years.

It was this desire that drove him to continue even after achieving eight speed records on water and one on land.

But it was a determination which also led to his death on 4 January 1967, when his jet-powered boat Bluebird K7 disintegrated at high speed on Coniston Water in the Lake District.

Mr Campbell was just a split second away from setting a new record, but his previous top speed of 276.33 mph (444.61 km/h) attained in 1964 remained intact for another 11 years.

Here is a selection of your memories of the water speed king.

I remember as a child with my brother going with our dad (the local village bobby) to see Donald Campbell practice most usually on Lake Ullswater, a few miles from our home.

We would be up at 5am and out there by 6am, this being the best part of the day as the lake had to be calm and clear of all waves and debris.

I remember my dad saying that the boat hadn't to hit even so much as a twig or it would be a goner.

My dad would talk to Donald Campbell and his mechanics and we as kids would just play by the side of the lake, almost unmoved really by what I now recall as the total beauty of Donald Campbell skimming across that Lake at great speeds.

Wonderful memories.
Jen Walker, Cumbria, UK

My birthday is 4th Jan. In 1967 I lived in Millom in Cumbria. My father owned the cafe in Millom and the AA man was a frequent visitor and knew my father well.

The AA man was detailed to guard the entrance to where the boat was stationed. As a birthday treat my father organised a trip to see the boat.

I can't remember if it was on general view but I rather think the AA man had something do with getting access for us. Anyway on 2nd January as a lad two days short of being nine years old I was sat in the cockpit of Bluebird.

I vaguely remember talking to Leo and I got his autograph (lost in many moves since them). The great man himself was not there so I did not get to meet him.
Nigel Smith, UK

As a child in the 1960s our back garden overlooked the engineering firm where Bluebird was built.

Norris Brothers were based in Haywards Heath in Sussex and I remember the vast roar of the engines as they were tested and also being lifted up to look inside Bluebird's cockpit - an awesome array of dials and buttons.

For a six-year-old it was really exciting and impressive. For a 42-year-old it's a great memory to look back on.
Julian, UK

I was at lakeside Lake Dumbelyung [in West Australia] to witness Donald Campbell break the world water speed record on 31 December 1964.

My memory was that Donald, his wife and others were sitting on the craft by the lakeside for a number of hours waiting for the conditions to improve. Suddenly a distinctive lull came over the waterway. The wind dropped noticeably and the surface of the water turned glasslike.

Donald within a very quick time entered the craft and started the engine which sounded like about 10 tractors starting up at once. Other craft associated with the record attempt took up position and Donald took off.

Within a short period of time Donald returned to lakeside amidst great jubilation and we knew that he had done it. Amazingly the conditions that enabled Donald to speed to the world record were no more than a needle eye opening because I can distinctly remember the conditions changing again just as Donald reached the lakeside after the attempt.

A few days later I was driving along Mounts Bay Road in Perth and noticed a congregation of cars and people beside the Swan River. I saw Donald Campbell's boat at the ready to take off in an exhibition run off across Perth Water.

The run was completed and I can recall thinking that in some respects the exhibition run was more spectacular than the Dumbelyung record-breaking run. These memories are retained for many reasons as they were associated with other monumental events that happened in my life in 1964.
John, West Australia

Search ON THIS DAY by date   

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |