This weekend marks a significant anniversary in the memory of one Donald Campbell.

An eccentric Surrey boy, Donald spent much of his life trying to break land and water speed records, trying to surpass the achievements of his father who set 13 records himself.

In 1967, while on Coniston Water in Cumbria, Donald tried to set a new water record in his trusty speed boat, Bluebird K7.

Hitting speeds of 328mph, Donald crashed and died. It took until March, 2001 for his body and the bulk of his speedboat to be pulled from Coniston, meaning that this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the Bluebird recovery.

CumbriaLive takes a look at the life of Donald Campbell and that fateful day in Cumbria that led to his demise more than 50 years ago.

Following in his father's record-setting footsteps

Donald's father, Malcolm was the son of a diamond seller, and a privately educated Uppingham graduate, and was something of a rich eccentric.

He was supposedly inspired by the popular Victorian novel, King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard, a story which instilled in Malcolm a desire for adventure.

His father's wealth meant he never really needed to work and he famously spent time employed for free at a bank in London before working for just a £1 a week during the 1900s.

Strike the pose - Sir Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm would develop a love for motorbikes and cars, and won all three London to Lancs End Trials between 1906 and 1908, before turning his hand to car racing in 1910.

That same year, the iconic Blue Bird car was born, an eye catching blue vehicle (inspired by the play by Maurice Maeterlinck) which his son Donald later inherited. It was the Blue Bird, and its many subsequent iterations, that broke dozens of speed records throughout the 20th century.

Malcolm also won two Grand Prix de Boulogne events in 1927 and 1928, driving a Bugatti Type 37A, which was, incidentally, blue.

21st July 1928: Rally driver Malcolm Campbell at the wheel of his 1927 1500cc supercharged Grand Prix Delage at the Junior Car Club's 200-mile race at Brooklands, which he won with an average time of 78.34 mph. (Photo by London Express/Getty Images)

He later went on to attempt several land speed record attempts, he broke the record for the first time in 1924, travelling at an astonishing 146.16mph in a Sunbeam car fitted with a V12 engine.

By 1935 Malcolm had broken nine land speed records, still in a Sunbeam vehicle. He was also knighted by King George V and gained international fame.

During the 1930s, the speed demon became something of a celebrity. He endorsed Rolex watches by wearing the time piece during some of record attempts and he was known internationally for his record-breaking.

1912 Lorraine Dietrich Blue Bird at Brooklands with Malcolm Campbell. Creator: Unknown. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

The design of his iconic blue cars even influenced the new sleek racing vehicles which rose to prominence in the 1930s and he was dubbed "the speed king" by fans.

His last, and most impressive, record, saw Malcolm break the 300 mile per hour barrier in the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah on September 3, 1935.

Not content with just holding the land record, Malcolm also clinched the water speed record four times, developing his own special Blue Bird K series, vehicles that could be used like speed boats on the water.

In 1939, Malcolm hit speeds of 141.740mph on Coniston Water in 1939.

He couldn't have known that his son, Donald, would die on the very same lake, not 30 years later, trying to surpass his father's achievements.

Malcolm died from a series of strokes in 1948. He was one of the few land speed record holders of his era to die of natural causes, as so many had died in crashes.

Donald Campbell's relationship with his father

Captain Malcolm Campbell, stands by his plane the ,Bluebird, on the start of his flight to the Sahara in search of a new track to record a new land speed record, pictured with his wife, daughter and son, Donald, 1928 (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Malcolm's only son, Donald, was born on March 23, 1921.

He had a complicated and often strained relationship with his father. Like many upper class boys, he was raised by a nanny and then sent to boarding school at an early age, spending little time with his father.

Even then, it appeared that, from the outside looking in, Sir Malcolm was more interested in his own career and ambitions, than spending time with Donald.

With this in mind, it was clear that Donald still idolised his father who had fast become a national hero, idolised by international motor fans and respected by world leaders.

A well recorded incident perfectly surmised the tragedy that existed between Donald and his father.

Sir Malcolm Campbell at Southport in 1924 with 'Bluebird' (Atkinson Museum)

In 1928, for his seventh birthday, Donald received a toy motorcar with a small and complete tool kit as a gift by his dad.

Within hours Donald had dismantled the toy car into small pieces and dispersed the nuts and bolts throughout the house and garden.

Malcolm was not amused by his son's actions and refused to speak to Donald for several days, until his seven-year-old offspring had re- assembled the car.

Whether Donald's childhood instilled in him a desire to gain his father's plaudits, or to prove him wrong, the young boy who had once dismantled his toy racing car would grow up to surpass any records Malcolm had set.

Record-breaking mania

Donald dogged his fathers footsteps, not only attempting to beat records set by Malcolm but to do it in the same place. He made a land speed attempt at the same salt flats in Utah where he father hit speeds surpassing 300mph and also made many water speed attempts on Coniston Water.

Donald began his adventures in contradiction to his father but taking on speedboat racing first.

Using Malcolm's famous, and trusty, Blue Bird K4 (renamed Bluebird K4), Donald set about trying to emulate his father's achievements. His early efforts, which began in 1949, were unsuccessful.

World land speed record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell (1885 - 1948) looks on as his young son Donald (1921 - 1967) sits proudly in the new 'Bluebird', which is to be shipped to Daytona for an attempt to beat his own world record of 253.9 mph. Original Publication: People Disc - HF0506 (Photo by Chas Sime/Getty Images)

Donald even crashed on Coniston Water in 1951, after reaching speeds of 170mph.

After numerous modifications to his father's boat, spawning the now famous Bluebird K7, Donald gained his first record in 1955. Hitting 202mph on Ullswater in the Lake District, he went on to break seven more speed records on water in nine years.

Most of those records were broken on Coniston Water where Donald and his various Bluebird model became an annual fixture. He was even sponsored to make his attempts with BP and Mobil Oil throwing money at his ventures.

Donald Campbell at Coniston, Cumbria, 1956. Campbell was the first person to complete an officially timed run with a jet-propelled hydroplane, on 23rd July 1955, at Lake Ullswater, achieving a speed of 202.32 mph (325 kmph). On 31st December 1964, he beat this record at Dumbleyung Lake, Australia, with a speed of 276.33 mph (444.6 kmph). On 17th July 1964 he set a speed record on land with a jet-powered Class A land vehicle, with a speed of 403.1 mph (649 kmph), at Lake Eyre Salt Flats, Australia. He is the first and thus far only person to hold both Water and Land Speed Records. He died on 4th January 1967 on Coniston Water, Cumbria whilst attempting to beat his own world record of 276 mph at a speed close to 320 mph on his return run. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Campbell was awarded the CBE in January 1957 for his water speed record breaking, and in particular a record he set on Lake Mead, Nevada, in the USA.

The attempt earned him and Britain positive worldwide acclaim, moving Donald ever closer to mirroring the grandeur of his father.

It was after the Lake Mead water speed record success in 1955 that the seeds of Campbell's ambition to hold the land speed record as well were planted.

By 1956 Donald had begun planning to build a car which could break the land speed record, a car that could hit speeds of 500mph. The Bluebird Proteus CN7 was going to smash the record set by John Cobb in 1947 which fell just shy of 400mph.

ITALY - CIRCA 1900: Italy, Lake Garda, Donald Campbell In His Bluebird (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

After years of planning, test runs and modifications, Donald finally broke the land speed record in July 1964, hitting speeds of 403mph.

"We've made it, we got the b*****d at last," was his reaction to the success as he finally clinched the record in Australia.

Donald followed up his land success with another water speed record in Perth. He is still the only person to break both records in a single year.

Rocket car, Bluebird K7 and death

After the success of 1964, Campbell set his mind on creating a car that could push the speed boundaries even further.

He envisioned a supersonic rocket car with a potential maximum speed of 840mph, which, in other words is Mach 1.1, above the speed of sound.

British speed record breaker Donald Campbell (1921-1967) posed with a folder of technical documents at his house 'Abbotts' in the village of Leigh in Surrey, England in March 1956. (Photo by Whittington/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Campbell announced his plans at a press conference at the Charing Cross Hotel in July 1965 to announce his future record breaking plans:

"...In terms of speed on the Earth's surface, my next logical step must be to construct a Bluebird car that can reach Mach 1.1... The nation whose technologies are first to seize the 'faster than sound' record on land will be the nation whose industry will be seen to leapfrog into the '70s or '80s. We can have the car on the track within three years."

Bluebird Mach 1.1 was to be the car of the future.

Donald Campbell launches Bluebird K7 on Ullswater for tests, 8th February 1955. He set a record of 202.15 mph (324 km/h), beating the previous record by some 24 mph (39 km/h) held by Stanley Sayres. (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

To increase publicity for his rocket car venture, in the spring of 1966, Campbell decided to try once more for a water speed record.

This time the target was 300mph in his Bluebird K7.

The trials, which took place in November 1966, did not go well. The weather was dismal, and Campbell's vehicle suffered an engine failure when her air intakes collapsed and debris was drawn into the engine.

By the end of December, after further modifications to her fuel system, and the replacement of a fuel pump, the fuel starvation problem was fixed on Bluebird. Campbell awaited better weather to mount an attempt.

Sport, Motor Racing, pic: 1960, Donald Campbell's new Bluebird car at Goodwood (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

On January 3, 1967, while playing cards as he awaited another record attempt at Coniston, Campbell drew the queen and the ace of spades.

He later reflected that Mary, Queen of Scots, had drawn the same two cards the night before she was beheaded. Donald jokingly told his mechanics, who were playing cards with him, that he had a fearful premonition that he was going to "get the chop."

On January 4, 1967, with the Cumbrian weather finally holding up, Campbell made, what was to be, his last record attempt.

Halfway through its second run Bluebird began to experience bouncy episodes which caused mass deceleration, the biggest drop being from 328 to 296mph.

The force of that drop caused Bluebird to somersault forward, the cartwheel across the water before sinking.

Donald was likely to have been decapitated by the force of the crash, in fact, his skull has not been recovered, even to this day. His card-related premonition about "getting the chop" did, after all, came true.

Mr Whoppit, a teddy bear mascot Donald always brought on his record attempts, was found among the floating debris. His helmet was also recovered.

Although Royal Navy divers made efforts to find and recover the body the search was called off after two weeks.

It took until 2001 for Campbell's body and the rest of K7, to be dragged.

The Bluebird Project recovered the wreckage of Campbell's boat between October 2000, when the first sections were raised, and May 2001, when Campbell's body was recovered.

The largest section, which included the bulk of Bluebird's central hull, was raised on March 8, 2001, 20 years to the day on Monday.

Campbell was buried in Coniston Cemetery September 12, 2001. His grave, and a memorial to the adventurer, can still be found in the village today.

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