David Campbell (British Army officer)

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Sir David Campbell
General Sir David Campbell
Nickname(s) Soarer, Barbara
Born (1869-01-28)28 January 1869
Died 12 March 1936(1936-03-12) (aged 67)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank General
Unit 9th Queen's Royal Lancers
Commands held 21st Division
Baluchistan District in India
Aldershot Command
Battles/wars Second Boer War
First World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

General Sir David Graham Muschet "Soarer" Campbell GCB (28 January 1869 – 12 March 1936) was a cavalry officer of the British Army, amateur sportsman, and later Governor of Malta.

After home service in Britain and Ireland his regiment, 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, was posted to South Africa in 1896, and on to India in 1898, though Campbell seems to have spent some of this period in the United Kingdom. The regiment returned to South Africa following the outbreak of the Second Boer War, during which he saw his first action. By the outbreak of the First World War he was in command of the regiment. He led them in two cavalry charges in the first months of the war; the second of these saw him receive multiple wounds, one of them from a lance, making him one of the last British casualties of that weapon. In November 1914 he was promoted to command 6th Cavalry Brigade, then in May 1916 came further promotion to command 21st Division. He retained that command for the rest of the war.

Post-war, he was knighted in 1919, and went on to hold further command and administrative positions in the army. He was General Officer Commanding (GOC) Baluchistan, 1920–24; Military Secretary, 1926–27; and GOC Aldershot Command 1927–31, when he argued for the increased mechanisation of the army. He was then appointed Governor of Malta, and died shortly after resigning that office in 1936.

During the early years of his military career Campbell was also a successful amateur National Hunt jockey, winning a number of major races; foremost amongst these was the Grand National of 1896, on The Soarer, which gave him his nickname in subsequent years (though his divisional staff referred to him as Barbara, for reasons now lost). He continued riding in military meets until the end of his army service. He was also a keen cricketer and polo player.

Early life and career[edit]

Campbell was born on 28 January 1869, the son of Major H. Wooton Campbell, Cameron Highlanders.[1] He was educated at Clifton College where he was a noted sportsman, in particular playing cricket for the First XI.[1] He then proceeded to Royal Military College, Sandhurst, also representing them at cricket, before he was gazetted a second lieutenant in the 9th Lancers on 15 March 1889.[1][2] Joining the cavalry was an expensive business. A junior officer's pay was just £95 a year, but the expenses of regimental living—such as mess bills—meant that a private income of at least £500 a year was required, in addition to a similar amount when first commissioned to buy horses, uniform and other equipment.[3] At the time the regiment was based in Manchester, with a detachment at Seaforth Barracks, Liverpool.[4] In April 1890 there was a major reorganisation of British Army cavalry regiments, with the establishment being increased from 488 Other Ranks and 300 horses to 628 OR and 350 horses, followed in August by a further increase to 706 OR and 424 horses.[4] August also saw the regiment move to Ireland, initially to the Curragh, and then Dundalk; due to the reorganisation, the regiment was now seriously understrength, so a recruitment campaign was started.[4] Campbell was promoted lieutenant on 9 December 1890.[5] Cavalry regiments, in addition to their increase in size, also had their structure reorganised, with the main sub-unit becoming the squadron rather than the troop, each squadron being formed by the merger of two troops.[4] The remainder of their time in Ireland was split between the Curragh and Newbridge. In addition to the restructuring, the regiment was issued with new-style equipment in August 1893.[6]

The regiment's tour in Ireland lasted until August 1894 when it was posted to Aldershot; the regimental history describes the period as "one of the most peaceful and undisturbed in that country before or since".[6] Over this time, Campbell had begun to make a name for himself as an amateur jockey,[1] and on 9 March 1894 at the Grand Military Meeting at Sandown Park he won the Maiden Steeplechase on The Soarer,[7] a horse he had acquired on the toss of a coin.[8] Later in the year, on 27 November he won the Middlesex Steeplechase and 28 November he won the Uxbridge Handicap Steeplechase Plate, both at Kempton Park, followed by third in the Handicap Steeplechase back at Sandown Park on 7 December 1894, and back at Kempton Park, another win in the Hampton Steeplechase Handicap on Boxing Day; all these races were also on Soarer.[9][10][11][12] 1895 began rather less successfully, with a fourth on Soarer in the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown Park on 8 March,[13] and the next day he failed to finish in the Grand Military Handicap Steeplechase, riding Seaside, which belonged to a fellow 9th Lancers officer.[14] Then on 30 March, at the Liverpool Spring Meeting at Aintree, he won the Champion Steeplechase, again on Soarer.[15] A single day in 1895 also saw him win both the Irish National Hunt Cup (on Dakota) and the Irish Grand Military (on Balbrigan).[1][16]

Grand National success[edit]

1896 was his most successful year in sport.[17] On 3 March he also represented the 9th Lancers at Racquets in the Grand Military Championship Challenge Cup.[18] On 7 March he was fourth in the Grand Military Handicap Steeplechase, according to a contemporary report in The Times, this time riding Nelly Gray, a horse belonging to an officer from the 16th Lancers.[19] However, some later sources, such as his obituary in The Times, state that he won the Grand Military that year,[1][17] probably based on his own entry in Who's Who.[16] Though he had actually sold Soarer to Hall Walker a few weeks earlier, that was still the horse he rode to his greatest victory, in the Grand National at Aintree on 27 March.[1][20] The Times the following day described how he "drew to the front two fences from home and won by a length and half".[20] It was at this point that "Soarer" became his own nickname.[17] He also repeated his victory in the Irish National Hunt Cup (this time on Lord Arravale);[16] and in polo, 1896 saw him on the winning side in both the Subalterns' and the Inter-Regimental tournaments, a record still unmatched at his death.[1] In 1897, Campbell tried to repeat his Grand National triumph, once more on Soarer, but he fell on the second lap of the course at the fence after Becher's Brook, breaking his collar bone.[1][21] He is also reported to have won the Grand Military in 1897 (on Parapluie).[1][16]

The 9th Lancers had actually been posted to South Africa in August 1896, arriving at Durban in September, before travelling on to Pietermaritzburg and later, the then little known town of Ladysmith.[22] A regimental depot had been established at Canterbury, comprising two officers and 106 OR; it's not clear if Campbell was one of these officers, or if he availed himself of what the regimental history calls the "large allowance of annual leave" to further his sporting career.[23] The regiment returned to Durban in March 1898 to embark for India. They landed at Bombay (now Mumbai), and travelled from there to a base at Muttra, arriving on 10 October 1898; the remainder of the year was spent in exercises around Delhi and Aligarh.[24] Campbell was promoted captain on 3 May 1899.[25]

Boer War[edit]

Campbell married Janet Mary Aikman, daughter of Sir Robert Aikman in Kensington in the quarter ending June 1899, and was still on leave until his recall as the regiment was being mobilised for the Boer War.[8][16][26][27]

On 6 September 1902 he was appointed the regimental adjutant,[28] and promoted to Major on 16 March 1904.[29] Eight years later, on 15 March 1912, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and took command of the regiment.[30]

First World War[edit]

In the early days of the First World War he led his regiment, with two squadrons of the 4th Dragoon Guards, in a charge at Elouges on 24 August 1914, as part of the Battle of Mons. He later participated in the final "lance on lance" action of the war on 7 September 1914 at Moncel when he led a charge of two troops of B Squadron of his Regiment and overthrew a squadron of the 1st Guard Dragoons.[8][31] In this second charge, Campbell was wounded several times; the medical officer of the 4th Dragoon Guards, Captain Arthur Osburn, found him sprawled in a field of clover and treated him for "a revolver wound in his leg, a lance wound in his shoulder, and a sword wound in his arm".[32] Despite this, Campbell told the doctor "I've just had the best quarter of an hour I've ever had in my life!"[32] In November 1914 Campbell was promoted to command 6th Cavalry Brigade, then in May 1916 came further promotion to command 21st Division. He retained that command for the rest of the war.[1][33] His divisional staff gave him the further nickname of "Barbara", the reason for which is no longer known.[17]


After the War he became General Officer Commanding Baluchistan District in India in 1920.[33] He was appointed Military Secretary in 1926 and became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Aldershot Command in 1927.[33] He went on to be Governor and Commander-in-Chief Malta from 1931 to 1936.[33] His governorship was a stressful time. Political tensions between pro-British and pro-Italian parties on the island led to him dissolving the elected assembly and returning Malta to direct rule, a situation which would last until after the Second World War.[34] Ill-health forced him to resign in 1936, and he died shortly afterwards, on 12 March 1936.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Military Correspondent (13 March 1936). "General Sir David Campbell—Soldier, Sportsman, And Administrator". Obituaries. The Times (47322). London. col B, p. 16. 
  2. ^ "From the London Gazette, Friday, 15 March". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times (32648). London. 16 March 1889. col C, p. 13. 
  3. ^ Sheppard, p. 184.
  4. ^ a b c d Sheppard, p. 180.
  5. ^ "no. 26122". The London Gazette. 6 January 1891. p. 104. Retrieved 17 February 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Sheppard, p. 181.
  7. ^ "Sandown Park Grand Military Meeting, Friday". Sport. The Times (34208). London. 10 March 1894. col F, p. 7. 
  8. ^ a b c "Sir David Graham Muschet ('Soarer') Campbell (1869–1936)". Lions led by donkeys. Centre for First World War Studies, University of Birmingham. January 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  9. ^ "Kempton Park November Meeting, Tuesday". Sport. The Times (34433). London. 28 November 1894. col A, p. 7. 
  10. ^ "Kempton Park November Meeting, Wednesday". Sport. The Times (34434). London. 29 November 1894. col A, p. 7. 
  11. ^ "Sandown Park December Meeting, Friday". Sport. The Times (34442). London. 8 December 1894. col A, p. 7. 
  12. ^ "Kempton Park Christmas Meeting, Wednesday". Sport. The Times (34458). London. 27 December 1894. col C, p. 5. 
  13. ^ "Grand Military Meeting (Sandown Park), Friday". Sport. The Times (34520). London. 9 March 1895. col C, p. 13. 
  14. ^ "Grand Military Meeting (Sandown Park), Saturday". Sport. The Times (34521). London. 11 March 1895. col A, p. 7. 
  15. ^ "Liverpool Spring Meeting, Saturday". Sport. The Times. London. 1 April 1895. col D, p. 7. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Campbell, General Sir David (Graham Muschet)". Who Was Who. A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edition, Oxford University Press. December 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c d "No.3: 'Soarer' Campbell". Generals' Nicknames. Centre for First World War Studies, University of Birmingham. January 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  18. ^ "Racquets. The Grand Military Championship Challenge Cup". Sport. The Times (34828). London. 3 March 1896. col B, p. 11. 
  19. ^ "Grand Military (Sandown Park) Meeting, Saturday". Sport. The Times (34833). London. 9 March 1896. col A, p. 11. 
  20. ^ a b "Liverpool Spring Meeting, Friday. The Grand National Steeplechase". Sport. The Times (34833). London. 28 March 1896. col A, p. 11. 
  21. ^ "Liverpool Spring Meeting, Friday.". Sport. The Times (35162). London. 27 March 1897. col A, p. 13. 
  22. ^ Sheppard, pp. 181–82.
  23. ^ Sheppard, pp. 181, 184.
  24. ^ Sheppard, p. 182.
  25. ^ "no. 27080". The London Gazette. 16 May 1899. p. 3104. Retrieved 17 February 2009. 
  26. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. Office of National Statistics. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  27. ^ Sheppard p. 190.
  28. ^ "no. 27476". The London Gazette. 23 September 1902. p. 6078. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  29. ^ "no. 27657". The London Gazette. 15 March 1904. p. 1692. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  30. ^ "no. 28590". The London Gazette. 15 March 1912. p. 1918. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  31. ^ Holmes, pp. 197, 437.
  32. ^ a b Holmes, p. 197
  33. ^ a b c d "Campbell, Sir David Graham Muschet (1869–1936), General". Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900–1975. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives. Retrieved 11 February 2009. 
  34. ^ "Malta—Crisis reached—Governor dismisses ministry—Antagonism to British policy". The Canberra Times. Online version, National Library of Australia Newspaper Archives. 4 November 1933. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 


  • Sheppard, (Major) Eric William OBE MC (1939). The Ninth Queen's Own Royal Lancers 1715–1936. Aldershot: Gale & Pollen, Ltd. 
  • Holmes, Richard (2005) [2004]. Tommy:the British soldier on the Western Front 1914–1918. London: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-00-713752-4. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Claud Jacob
General Officer Commanding the 21st Division
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir William Peyton
Military Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir Gerald Boyd
Preceded by
Sir Philip Chetwode
GOC-in-C Aldershot Command
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Harington
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir John Du Cane
Governor of Malta
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Bonham-Carter