Daughter of Donald Campbell and water speed racer



Georgina (Gina) Campbell lost her father at the age of just 17, when he was killed on Lake Coniston as he tried to set yet another world speed record.  In her prop-driven catamaran, also called Bluebird, (Agfa Bluebird) Gina raised the Ladies' Water Speed Record to 166 mph on Lake Taupo in New Zealand on 1st April 1990. Gina has strong links with New Zealand - a country almost synonymous with water sports and also the home of Dorothy, Donald Campbell's second wife. 


Gina Campbell


Gina Campbell 2001



When in New Zealand in 1986, she was navigating for Glenn Urquhart when their powerboat touched the top of a wave, flipped over and then went onto its side, continuing underwater at full power.  Later in 1987 Gina was involved in a campaign run by the New Zealand Water Safety Council to promote public awareness of the dangers inherent in water sport and leisure


Gina's father, Donald Campbell CBE was the obsessive holder of world land and water speed records and died in Coniston lake on January 4 1967 while trying to break his own record.  Possibly striking a log the jet powered Bluebird had disintegrated at around 300 miles an hour.  He is said to have yearned to emulate his father Sir Malcolm Campbell, in setting speed records on land and on water.


Gina too was bitten by the racing bug and competed in offshore powerboat racing, before setting a world water speed record of her own in 1984.  It is not so well known that Gina had a serious accident, flipping her boat at close to 160 mph.  Se survived to tell the tale and one can only marvel at her resolve, knowing how her father had lost his life.

Donald had broken the world water speed record seven times in 10 years when the accident happened. Having hit 202.32mph on Ullswater in July 1955, he bettered it on December 31, 1964, at Dumbleyung Lake, Australia when he reached 276.33mph.  His penchant for record breaking brought him back to Coniston for a final time.  His last reported words heard over the intercom were: “She’s going, she’s going.”

In December 2000 divers testing underwater cameras came on the wreckage. Underwater surveyor, Bill Smith found the wreck at 150 feet half buried in silt. Donald Campbell’s body was never found at the time of the tragedy. In March 2001 Bluebird was recovered from the lake bed . Campbell's widow Tonia Bern Campbell, 64 watched it emerge from the lake. The tail was undamaged but the front cockpit area was completely crushed.



Bluebird K7 jet powered water speed boat


The K7 first run 4 January 1967 


The Coniston Institute and Ruskin Museum Charitable Trust now want to provide a permanent home for the remains of Bluebird and are seeking permission for a 10m by 10m extension to the Museum to house it. The application is supported by a letter from the Curator of the museum stating that Bluebird is part of Coniston’s heritage and the people of Coniston "believe most strongly" that the craft belongs in the town as a "permanent memorial to a great British hero". 

In August 2001 the Barrow in Furness coroner decided that based on DNA evidence the remains found near the wreck of Bluebird were those of the late Donald Campbell. His daughter, Gina Campbell, 51, from Leeds, can at last officially hold an official service following the loss of her father, who died when she was just 17.
  DNA tests taken from her and compared with the remains found in the water were confirmed as matching.


The funeral service at Coniston Parish Churchyard took place in September 2001. Donald Campbell has finally been given a permanent headstone on the edge of Coniston Water 35 years after his death. Family, friends and those involved in the salvage of the record-breaking Bluebird, were present at the moving service in St Andrew's Church, Coniston.

The headstone features a carved bluebird and replaces the temporary stone, which has been moved to the Bluebird Cafe. The salvage team is to bring back a fully working and faithfully restored Bluebird and house it in Cumbria but lacks the funding. The restoration project could take up to three years.


“Bluebird” has been in storage in the northeast since she was raised from the bed of Coniston Water in March 2001 by a team of divers led by Bill Smith of Newcastle. Now Lake District planners have approved plans to extend the village’s Ruskin Museum to house the boat in a permanent exhibition celebrating the record-breaking achievements of Donald Campbell and his father, Malcolm. Applicants the Coniston Institute and Ruskin Museum Charitable Trust have been granted permission to build a 33ft by 33ft extension to the museum



The fatal run - Lake Coniston, Bluebird K7 and Donald Campbell take off


Bluebird K7 taking off



One of the most controversial acts to have taken place at Coniston in recent years was the raising of Bluebird from the lake bed during the spring of 2001. It is probably fair to say that the majority of those born and bred in the village were against any form of salvage. The general opinion was that the wreck should be left where it had been lying for the previous 34 years.

Nevertheless, the project continued despite local misgivings. The position of Bluebird had been accurately located the previous August. This had created quite a significant risk which was that souvenir hunters would systematically start to strip the wreck. There was also a feeling within the Campbell family that the wreck should be raised, restored and put on permanent display in the village. As a result, the salvage operation commenced in February 2001, unfortunately without any consultation with the community of Coniston for their opinion or approval.

Despite this initial unsympathetic approach it has to be said that the project to locate the boat and the subsequent salvage, which was carried out by Bill Smith of Newcastle, was a triumph of skill, stamina and technology. To the lay person a project to raise a wreck, which was only 150 feet below the surface, might seem easy. In reality the difficulties were immense. It is impossible for us to understand the extremely hostile conditions existing below the familiar surface of our lake.


Salvage operations started with the assembly of two large barges on the car park of the Bluebird Café at the lake shore. Once completed the barges became a floating platform which could hold the lifting crane and the mass of underwater equipment needed for the salvage operation to proceed. The platform was launched on March 2nd, towed out to a point above the wreck and secured with ropes to concrete blocks which had been placed on the lake bed.


Next day, with the assistance of a remote operating vessel, divers started to secure lifting lines to the wreck. Once complete the delicate operation was started to lift the craft clear of the thick glutinous mud on the lake bed, without causing any further damage. This took several days and was completed on March 7th with the help of hydraulic lifting bags. By the close of play that day Bluebird had been raised from the lake bed and was hanging from the floating platform, just below the lake surface, by its lifting lines.



Agfa Bluebird offshore power boat


Agfa Bluebird offshore power boat


The following day the salvage was completed. The team arrived at the Bluebird Café at 4:30 am, to be met by TV crews who were already in position. Once out on the platform Bluebird was checked and found not to have suffered any harm after a night suspended from the lifting lines. When all was ready the securing lines holding the platform to the blocks on the lake bed were released and the platform, with Bluebird hanging underneath, slowly moved up the lake towards the Bluebird Café.

A large crowd had assembled by this time to watch the operation. When close to the shore the lifting bags were deflated and Bluebird was allowed to settle back onto the bed of the lake while the recovery trailer was brought into position. The team knew that lifting Bluebird onto the trailer was never going to be an easy job, but eventually all was secure and the recovery trailer was slowly winched towards the shore.

First the tail fin and then the bulk of Bluebird herself cleared the surface of the lake. At this point a degree of apprehension ran through the watching crowd. It was an especially poignant moment for those who had been involved in the record attempt thirty-four years earlier and for the few present who had actually witnessed the disaster. Understandably many Coniston people had decided to stay away.  Two days later Bluebird was load ed onto a lorry, covered with a tarpaulin and by 4 pm the same day was safely delivered to a factory building on Tyneside where stabilisation and some degree of restoration was to be carried out.

Since the salvage operation, the team returned to the crash site several times to look for additional sections of Bluebird. Inevitably, during one of these visits, the body of Donald Campbell was located, a short distance away from where the wreck had been found. Gina Campbell, Donald's only daughter, had especially requested then to look out for him. "Find my dad" she had asked, "I want to put him somewhere warm".



Agfa Bluebird outboard powered hydroplane


Gina Campbell in the ABB II 1984 Womans World Water Speed Record boat 'Agfa Bluebird II'


Soon after the body was located it was recovered with great dignity and with the full co-operation of the coroner and police. A casket was lowered onto the lake bed and the remains were placed in it. On Bank Holiday Monday the casket was lifted onto the team's boat and covered with the union flag. It was then brought to Pier Cottage. While still out on the lake a short impromptu service was carried out by the salvage team as they waited for the coroner to arrive.

News of the location and recovery of the body again shattered the village. However most people quickly came round to the opinion that, whereas recovery of the boat was questionable, recovery of the body was a legitimate act which would allow a proper burial to take place in Coniston at a later date.

There was one final act of recovery that was carried out by the team. Gina Campbell was aware that her father would have been wearing a small gold medallion round his neck during the record attempt. It had been given to him many years earlier by his father. The team was asked to see if they could find it. The outcome of this is best left to the writings of Bill Smith, on the project web site:



Tonia Bern Campbell    Bill Smith


         Tonia Berne                             Bill Smith raises the K7     



Donald Campbell's body


Donald Campbells body



On the 28th May 2001 A body was recoverd from Coniston Water by the Bluebird Project Team. Gina Campbell, Donalds Daughter asked if the team could locate and recover her fathers body. There seems no doubt that the body is that of Donald Campbell. DNA tests are being carried out to confirm this.

The team recovered from the body a St Christopher, which Sir Malcolm gave to Donald, and which has now been passed on to Gina. Unfortunately, Gina later lost this (not so) lucky charm.




Sir Malcolm and Lady Campbell had a son and a daughter. Donald is well known for his speed records. Jean Dorothy Wales (nee Campbell) is lesser known, save for her son Donald, better known as Don Wales of course. Jean and Donald (sister and brother) are pictured above together at Lake Coniston. Jean is Gina's auntie.





A coroner has confirmed that human remains found in Coniston Water are those of powerboating legend Donald Campbell.  An inquest heard tests on DNA samples taken from the body and from members of Campbell's family proved the remains were 1.9 million times more likely to be those of the speed hero's than anyone else.


Campbell was trying to break his own water speed record of 276mph when his boat somersaulted before crashing.  Divers found the remains in May - 34 years after Campbell's attempt ended in his death.  Furness coroner Ian Smith said there was "absolutely no doubt" the body was that of Donald Campbell.  After the hearing in Barrow Town Hall, Cumbria, Campbell's daughter Gina, 51, said she felt "totally relieved".  She said: "There was always a little bit of doubt. Now there is no doubt.

"The mystery of the lake now becomes a reality."


Cumbria Police scenes-of-crime officer Carl Langhorn told the hearing that DNA expert Dr Tim Clayton carried out tests on the remains and on samples from Ms Campbell and Donald Campbell's sister Jean Wales.  Mr Langhorn said: "Dr Clayton holds a strong view that the remains are from a person related to Gina and Jean.  "He believes it is 1.9 million times more likely that they have originated from the father of Gina than anyone else."  Ms Campbell confirmed to Mr Smith her father's name, date of birth and that he was born in Kingston, Surrey.



MCHT the Malcolm Campbell Heritage Trust set up in October 2001





It appears that as soon as the K7 had been raised, the prospect of funding via the Heritage Lottery Fund triggered the relatives of Donald Campbell, such as to be able to make an application for funding that may stand a chance. In the end the HLF decided that the crashed Bluebird represented more to archaeologists and the nation as it was recovered.


You can see from the above scan of what is the lead of a 'Declaration of Trust' dated the 16th of October 2001, that the original Trustees of the MCHT were: 


1. Peter John Hulme, New Barn, Tokens Farm, Loxwood, West Sussex. 

2. Malcolm Brian Hulme, 17 Norman Avenue, Twickenham, Middlesex. 

3. Donald Charles Wales, 11 Weston Avenue, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 1UW. 

4. Georgina Campbell, Birkby Grange Farm, Carr Lane, Thorner, Leeds, LS14 3HG. 

5. Jean Dorothy Wales, Orchard Lodge, Oakhurst Lane, Loxwood, West Sussex


Since that time Jean Wales has passed away.





Gina Campbell in red sailing outfit
Gina Campbell - Not a particularly flattering picture for which we apologise
but then then press rarely consider that side of things.








News Reports of the confirmation of Donald being recovered.
IC Newcastle   BBC good article this one   ANANOVA good site


News Report of the discovery of Donalds body.
BBC report.


Link to News Websites after Bluebird had been raised:
BBC Video News Report of the raise.
Pictures from the BBC news site
CNN News site
Guardian website


Link to News Websites after it was disclosed that it had been located:
BBC News Report on the find    Guardian News Report


29 May 01 | UK  DNA tests on Bluebird body

08 Mar 01 | UK  Divers salvage the Bluebird

04 Feb 01 | UK  Divers find Bluebird wreck

18 Jun 00 | UK   Bluebird breaks speed record

08 Mar 01 | UK   Picture gallery: Raising Bluebird




Gina Campbell with a model of Bluebird Agfa


Gina with a model of her racing catamaran




"Of records and record breakers, I would remind you that speed is relative to time.  What we consider slow now, was unthinkable in years gone by.  However, each time a contender goes out onto the field of battle, he or she faces the same hurdles, the same fears and financial challenges as those before us, and most importantly of all, has to muster themselves to boiling point to make it all happen.  In the end, players will either triumph or fail, but in doing so, show others where and where not to tread.  All too often players pay the ultimate price.  Whether they raise Man's technical mastery up another notch or not, history should remember every last one of them - for they were players."  (Nelson Kruschandl December 2005)




Nelson Kruschandl - Is a conceptual design engineer and patentee who was inspired by the deeds of Donald Campbell and his father, Sir Malcolm. In particular, the work of Reid Railton (who he never met) and Ken Norris, who he had several meetings with as to design issues, spurred him on to create the Bluebird Electric BE1 and BE2 designs. These vehicles were also built to demonstrate his patented recharging system for EVs. Nelson also met Gina while she was at her Cafe in the south of England. Nelson regrets that they never got a chance to speak about his solar powered boat project.





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