b. 22/07/1902 Airds, Scotland. d. 25/05/1991 Edinburgh, Scotland.
Lorne Maclaine Campbell (1902-1991) was born on 22nd July 1902 in Airds, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, the eldest of three sons of Colonel Ian Maxwell Campbell, CBE and Hilda Mary Wade. His brothers were called Alan Fitzroy and John Hunter McNeill. He was schooled at the Dulwich College Preparatory School, and then at Dulwich College in South London between 1915 and 1921 (as was his uncle and fellow recipient of the Victoria Cross, Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell VC). Between 1921 and 1925 he attended Merton College, Oxford, where he was President of the Junior Common Room and of the Myrmidon Club and graduated with a second class degree in Literae Humaniores. Campbell was commissioned into The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Territorial Army) on 23rd September 1921. On 27th December 1935, he married Amy Muriel Jordan.
In August 1939, his unit, 8th (The Argyllshire) Battalion was mobilised for war service. In France in 1940 he was awarded the DSO for gallant leadership during the 51st Highland Division’s entrapment at Saint-Valery-en-Caux, where two battalions and the divisional commander were captured. At El Alamein, he received a bar to his DSO for his part in the capture of important objectives. In 1942 and 1943, he commanded 7th Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in north Africa, during which time he would earn his Victoria Cross.
On the 6th April, 1943, in the attack upon the Wadi Akarit position, the task of breaking through the enemy minefield and anti-tank ditch to the East of the Roumana feature and of forming the initial bridgehead for a Brigade of the 51st Highland Division was allotted to the Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell. The attack had to form up in complete darkness and had to traverse the main offshoot of the Wadi Akarit at an angle to the line of advance. In spite of heavy machine gun and shell fire in the early stages of the attack, Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell successfully accomplished this difficult operation, captured at least 600 prisoners and led his Battalion to its objective, having to cross an unswept portion of the enemy minefield in doing so. Later, upon reaching his objective he found that a gap which had been blown by the Royal Engineers in the anti-tank ditch did not correspond with the vehicle lane which had been cleared in the minefield. Realising the vital necessity of quickly establishing a gap for the passage of anti-tank guns, he took personal charge of this operation. It was now broad daylight and, under very heavy machine-gun fire and shell fire, he succeeded in making a personal reconnaissance and in conducting operations which led to the establishing of a vehicle gap.
Throughout the day Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell held his position with his Battalion in the face of extremely heavy and constant shell fire, which the enemy was able to bring to bear by direct observation. About 1630 hours determined enemy counter-attacks began to develop, accompanied by tanks. In this phase of the fighting Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell’s personality dominated the battle field by a display of valour and utter disregard for personal safety, which could not have been excelled. Realising that it was imperative for the future success of the Army plan to hold the bridgehead his Battalion had captured, he inspired his men by his presence in the forefront of the battle, cheering them on and rallying them as he moved to those points where the fighting was heaviest. When his left forward company was forced to give ground he went forward alone, into a hail of fire and personally reorganised their position, remaining with the company until the attack at this point was held. As reinforcements arrived upon the scene he was seen standing in the open directing the fight under close range fire of enemy infantry and he continued to do so although already painfully wounded in the neck by shell fire. It was not until the battle died down that he allowed his wound to be dressed. Even then, although in great pain, he refused to be evacuated, remaining with his Battalion and continuing to inspire them by his presence on the field.
Darkness fell with the Argylls still holding their positions, though many of its officers and men had become casualties. There is no doubt that but for Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell’s determination, splendid example of courage and disregard of pain, the bridgehead would have been lost.
He took command of 13th Infantry Brigade in May 1943, serving in Syria, Egypt, Sicily and Italy until September 1944. Within this period, for eight days in April 1944, he was acting General Officer Commanding, 5th Infantry Division in Italy. Campbell ended the war in Washington D.C. as a Brigadier with the British Army Staff. Sadly, his wife passed away in 1950, leaving him a widower with two children.
In 1968, he was awarded the OBE, and lived his retirement in Edinburgh, where he died on 25th May 1991. He was buried in Warriston Cemetery and Crematorium. His medal group is held by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARGYLL/SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS MUSEUM, STIRLING.
BURIAL PLACE: WARRISTON CEMETERY, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND. SECTION B-1.
Steve Davies – Image of the refurbished Lorne Campbell VC DSO OBE Grave August 2023.
Andy Wright – Medal Group at the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling.
Thomas Stewart – Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders VC Board, Stirling.