People on board
CAMPBELL, George Richard Colin
George Richard Colin Campbell, known as Colin, was born on the 9th October 1886 in Ballyeglish, Co Derry to Edward Fitzhardinge Campbell and Lydia Morris. He was the second youngest of eight children, the eldest of whom died at the age of one. It was a strongly Unionist, clerical and military family, with Edward, a clergyman, also Grand Chaplain of the Loyal Orange Institution in Ireland. All of Colin’s siblings served in WW1; his eldest and youngest brothers were in Holy Orders and served in the Church Army as Chaplains, two other brothers served with distinction in Italy and Palestine, and both his two sisters had nursing service.
Having been educated at the Royal School, Dungannon, Colin Campbell joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1902, at the age of sixteen, and made rapid progress through the ranks. In 1911 he had married Eileen Hester Louisa Knox Browne of Aughentaine, Co Tyrone and in March 1914 a child, Eileen Elizabeth Augusta, was born in Dublin. By 1916 he had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was attached to the Admiralty Compass Department, based in Slough.
He became Superintendent of the Magnetic Compass Branch and, with Dr G T Bennett, invented the Campbell Bennett Aperiodic Compass which delivered greater accuracy in aircraft navigation. This compass had vanes which prevented the oscillation of the compass so that it settled rapidly. This was vital for the use of compasses in aircraft.
In 1918 the family were living in Langley, close to Colin’s work in Slough. One newspaper report said that he had travelled to Belfast on Admiralty business concerning the setting of compasses on warships being built there. His wife and child presumably accompanied him so that they could visit their family in Ireland. They were returning to England on RMS Leinster on the 10th October when the ship was torpedoed and none of the three survived. Eileen’s body was recovered with her four-year old child tightly clutched in her arms, and Colin’s body was also recovered and taken to the King George V Hospital, where it was identified. All three were buried on the 14th in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin. He and his family are commemorated in St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Kilyman, Co. Tyrone.
Photograph: from De Burgh Estate, courtesy Liam Kenny