Kenneth Campbell (1917 – 1941) Saltcoats-born soldier who would become North Ayrshire’s only Victoria Cross recipient of the Second World War. Took part in an attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisnau.

Kenneth Campbell, North Ayrshire’s only WWII Victoria Cross recipient, was born in Dockhead Street, Saltcoats (Bank of Scotland Buildings) on the 21st of April, 1917. He was the youngest of 6 children born to James Campbell and Jean Highet. He grew up at Kerelaw House in Stevenston, and his was the last family to live there. 

He was educated at Ardrossan Academy and then at Dreghorn Castle School, Edinburgh. He graduated BA from Clare College, Cambridge, where he joined the university’s RAF (Volunteer Reserve) and trained as a pilot. He became a Pilot Officer on April 12th 1939.

Campbell was a member of 22 Squadron whose mission was to attack the German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest harbour. 

When he reached his objective at dawn, he and his 3 man crew found themselves alone facing 1,000 guns of shore batteries, ships and the two battle cruisers. Despite the odds Campbell flew in at 50ft and blew a 40ft hole in the Gneisenau’s starboard side that flooded the cruiser and put it out of action for 8 months. This act of daring proved to be a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic. 

He knew that he would not survive the mission and died at the age of 23 on Sunday 6th April 1941. The Germans buried him and his 3 crew mates with full military honours and he rests at Brest Cemetery in France. 

He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for “The most conspicuous bravery.” Campbell is buried in Brest Cemetery in France plot 40, row 1 grave number 10.

Further Reading

Kenneth Campbell at

Kenneth Campbell at