Jock Campbell (British Army officer)
|John Charles Campbell|
Photograph taken after being presented with the VC by the Commander-in-Chief General Sir Claude Auchinleck
10 January 1894|
|Died||26 February 1942
Killed in Action near Halfaya, North Africa
|Buried at||Cairo War Memorial Cemetery|
|Years of service||1915 - 1942|
|Unit||Royal Horse Artillery|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Campbell was born in Thurso and educated at Sedbergh School. In 1915, he was commissioned to the Royal Horse Artillery, becoming a first class horseman (in the top flight at both polo and hunting) and also a first class artillery officer; as well as being awarded the Military Cross 
When World War II started, Campbell was 45 years old and a major commanding a battery in the 4th Regiment Royal Horse Artillery in Egypt. When Italy declared war in June 1940, Campbell, by then a lieutenant-colonel, was commanding the artillery component of 7th Armoured Division's Support Group under Brigadier William Gott. The British Army was heavily outnumbered by the Italians, so General Archibald Wavell formulated a plan with his senior commanders to retain the initiative by harassing the enemy using mobile all-arms flying columns. Campbell's brilliant command of one of these columns led to them being given the generic name "Jock columns" (although it is unclear if the idea originated with Campbell or not).
During Operation Compass Campbell's guns played an important role in 7th Support Group's involvement in the decisive battle at Beda Fomm in February 1941 which led to the surrender of the Italian Tenth Army. In April 1941 Campbell was awarded the DSO.
In September 1941 Gott was promoted to command 7th Armoured Division and Campbell took over command 7th Support Group as an acting brigadier. In November 1941 during Operation Crusader, 7th Support Group was occupying the airfield at Sidi Rezegh, south of Tobruk, together with 7th Armoured Brigade. On 21 November 1941 they were attacked by the two armoured division's of the Afrika Korps. The British tanks suffered heavy losses but prevented the Germans taking the airfield. Brigadier Campbell's small force, holding important ground, was repeatedly attacked and wherever the fighting was hardest he was to be seen either on foot, in his open car or astride a tank. According to Alan Moorehead,
He led his tanks into action riding in an open armoured car, and as he stood there, hanging on to its windscreen, a huge well-built man with the English officer's stiff good looks, he shouted, 'There they come, let them have it.' When the car began to fall behind, he leapt on to the side of a tank as it went forward and directed the battle from there ... They say that Campbell won the VC half a dozen times that day. The men loved this Elizabethan figure. He was the reality of all the pirate yarns and tales of high adventure, and in the extremes of fear and courage of the battle he had only courage. He went laughing into the fighting.
The following day he was again at the forefront, encouraging his troops through continued enemy attacks. He personally directed the fire of his batteries, and twice manned a gun himself to replace casualties. Though wounded, he refused to be evacuated during the final German attack. His leadership did much to maintain the fighting spirit of his men, and resulted in heavy casualties being inflicted upon the enemy. The fighting continued on 23 November, but with 7th Armoured Brigade destroyed and the 5th South African Infantry Brigade being decimated, Campbell withdrew the remains of his support group to the south. For his actions during the battle Campbell was awarded the Victoria Cross.
He purportedly received a letter of congratulation from General Johann von Ravenstein, commander of the 21st Panzer Division, one of armoured formations which Campbell had faced at Sidi Rezegh. When interviewed later as a prsoner of war, Ravenstein freely expressed his "greatest admiration" for Campbell's skill on "those hot days" and recalled "all the many iron that flew near the aerodrome around our ears".
Three weeks after his promotion Campbell was killed when his jeep overturned on a newly laid clay road. The driver of the jeep, Major Roy Farran, and the other passengers were thrown clear from the wreck and knocked unconscious. Farran had been Campbell's Aide-de-Camp, and later admitted considering suicide while waiting for medical help.
During the Western Desert Campaign Campbell was considered one of finest commanders in the Eighth Army, an old desert hand who had been in North Africa from the start of the war. His loss was deeply felt.
A memorial to Campbell stands in his old school, Sedbergh, commemorating his brave deeds.
There is a plaque and bench on a seaside walk in his home town in his honour. Major-General Campbell is also recorded on the War memorial in the village of Flore, 7 miles West of Northampton.
- Buzzell, Nora (1997). The Register of the Victoria Cross. Cheltenham: This England. ISBN 0-906324-27-0.
- "Letters to the Daily Telegraph". London. 12 June 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Harvey, David (1999). Monuments to courage : victoria cross headstones and memorials. Vol.2, 1917-1982. K & K Patience. OCLC 59437300.
- Laffin, John (1997). British VCs of World War 2: a study in heroism. Stroud, Gloucs.: Sutton. ISBN 978-0-7509-1026-2.
- Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. p. 544 pages. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
- Omand, Donald (1989). The New Caithness Book. Wick (UK): North of Scotland Newspapers Limited. p. 289 pages. ISBN 1-871704-00-6.
- Ross, Graham (1995). Scotland's Forgotten Valour. Isle of Skye: MacLean. ISBN 1-899272-00-3.
- "The Times – Obituary for Major Roy Farran". London. 6 June 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jock Campbell (VC).|
- "Campbell, John Charles (Jock)". CWGC. Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
|GOC 7th Armoured Division
6 February 1942–23 February 1942