b. 18/03/1916 Carluke, Scotland. d. 10/04/1961 Portsmouth, Hampshire.
Donald Cameron (1916-1961) was born on 18th March 1916 in Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland, one of three recipients of the Victoria Cross from the small town. The Rotary Club of Carluke have erected a millennium stone in the town market place to commemorate this. Following his schooling, Donald joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 17 in 1933. He was then commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve.
The Royal Navy had dealt with the Bismarck in 1941 but since 1942 her sister ship, the Tirpitz, had continued to threaten the sea lanes. The experience of dealing with the Bismarck had demonstrated that a combination of capital ships and aircraft would be needed to deal with her if she put to sea. The mere existence of the Tirpitz in the Norwegian fjords where she was hidden meant that substantial forces were tied up, ready to respond should she be sent out to attack the convoys.
Operation Source was an audacious attempt to attack her, and the two other German battleships, Scharnhorst and Lutzow, by unconventional means. The midget submarine X craft were developed to evade the anti submarine nets and drop huge explosive charges underneath the hull of ships they were attacking. This would give their crews the slim prospect of being able to get away from the scene.
Of the six X craft that departed from Scotland on 11th September 1943, two had already been lost as they were towed across the North Sea. On 22nd September 1943, the remaining craft were ready to attempt the run into the closely guarded fjords.
On 22nd September 1943 at Kåfjord on the Altafjord, North Norway, Lieutenant Cameron, commanding Midget Submarine X.6, and another lieutenant (Basil Charles Godfrey Place) commanding Midget Submarine X.7, carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz. The small submarines had to travel at least 1,000 miles from base, negotiate minefield, dodge nets, gun defences and enemy listening posts. Having eluded all these hazards they finally placed the charges underneath the ship where they went off an hour later, doing so much damage that the Tirpitz was out of action for months.
To reach the anchorage necessitated the penetration of an enemy minefield and a passage of fifty miles up the fiord, known to be vigilantly patrolled by the enemy and to be guarded by nets, gun defences and listening posts, this after a passage of at least a thousand miles from base. Having successfully eluded all these hazards and entered the fleet anchorage, Lieutenants Place and Cameron, with a complete disregard for danger, worked their small craft past the close anti-submarine and torpedo nets surrounding the Tirpitz, and from a position inside these nets, carried out a cool and determined attack.
Whilst they were still inside the nets a fierce enemy counter attack by guns and depth charges developed which made their withdrawal impossible. Lieutenants Place and Cameron therefore scuttled their craft to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy. Before doing so they took every measure to ensure the safety of their crews, the majority of whom, together with themselves, were subsequently taken prisoner.
He achieved the rank of commander in 1955, and was in charge of HMS Dolphin, the submarine base at Fort Blockhouse. Cameron married WRNS’s member Eve Kilpatrick in 1940 and they had four children. Cameron’s health deteriorated in the last years of his life and he was eventually admitted to Royal Hospital Haslar, Portsmouth, where he died on 10th April 1961. His remains were cremated at Portchester Crematorium and buried at sea from submarine HMS Thule on 13th April 1961. His medal group is not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: PORTCHESTER CREMATORIUM, HAMPSHIRE.
(ASHES SCATTERED AT SEA OFF NUB TOWER, HAMPSHIRE.).
Thomas Stewart – images of the Carluke VC Memorial and the VC Memorial Arch, Hamilton, Lanarkshire.